The Easy Life
As a kid, l lived with my grandmother- my mom lived in another city. My grandmother rented a house, but I wasn’t old enough to understand what it took to maintain a house. All I knew was school, homework, play, be at home before the street lights came on. When I got older, we moved into an apartment. All I had to do then was take the trash to the dumpster, and clean every now and then.
I graduated high school, went to college and stayed in the dorms. After two semesters of staying in a dorm, my mom allowed me to stay in her apartment for $25 a week. I still didn’t have to worry about bills or anything. Then my girlfriend (now wife) and I, decided to move into our own apartment.
The apartment was all utilities paid, so we didn’t worry about saving energy or water. When a problem needed fixing, all we had to do was call maintenance and the issue was fixed. All we had to do was make sure the rent was paid on time- it was great. We got married a few years later and decided that we should invest in a house. We wanted our money to go toward ownership. So, we found a house, and it’s still the same house we have today.
After buying the house, we came to the realization that we didn’t really know all it took to own a home. Okay, my wife knew a little since she grew up living in a house, but we were young and still didn’t know a lot. We had to stumble across solutions to unexpected problems as they arose. I just wished someone had given me some advice on what to expect as a new homeowner. It would have saved a lot of headache, time, and money.
If you are a new homeowner, I hope to do for you what I hoped someone had done for me. I’m going to tell you what I wished someone had told me about home ownership before buying a home. If you spent your life growing up in a house with parents who explained everything to you, this post may not be for you. But for those of you who are just getting out on their own, I hope you find this post useful. Here’re the top 9 things I wished someone had told me about home ownership.
1. You’re responsible for the repairs
Unless you’re rich, you probably can’t afford to call a repair guy every time something breaks. Make sure you have and know how to use tools when you buy a house because you will need them. It’s not a question of if- it’s when. You at least need to know how to make simple repairs. I recommend a good cordless drill, hammer, screwdrivers, and wrenches. This kit from Amazon should have everything you need. You should also learn how to make simple electrical repairs like changing a power outlet. About a year into moving into our home two power outlets went out in the living room. We couldn’t afford an electrician, so I would just an extension cord from the tv to a working outlet. Finally, I decided to learn basic home repairs and fix the problem myself.
2. Have an emergency fund for your home
No matter how much you learn about home repair, it’s not going to mean anything unless you have the money to buy the repair parts. Always have at least $1000 set aside just in case one of your appliances goes out. There’s nothing worse than having to rely on box fans because you don’t have the money to fix your ac.
3. Reevaluate your homeowner’s insurance once a year
My wife and I knew to stay away from an adjustable interest rate mortgage We got the best fixed-rate mortgage we could get with our credit. It was about $700 a month with escrow. Then we noticed the payments going up every year until it was over $1000. The insurance premiums were going up. Make sure to shop around for good homeowners insurance every year. If you don’t, you could end up paying more money for less coverage.
4. Look for ways to reduce your utility bill
Since our apartment was all utilizes paid, my wife and I were used to running the ac full blast all day without worry. Since we now owned our home, this caused our electricity bill to be over $200 a month. Make sure your home has a programmable thermostat to regulate the temperature of your home. If it doesn’t at least make sure the thermostat is set to 78 degrees for air and 72 for heat. The general rule is for every degree above or below those temperatures, your bill will go up or down by 3%. I also made sure to replace every light bulb with CFL bulbs and led when they got cheap enough. My electric bill went from $200 a month to no more than $100 after paying attention to how I use energy. My gas bill is no more than $70 during the winter months. You can find out more information about reducing your energy bill here.
5. Have the right equipment for your lawn
The average cost for a professional to mow and trim your lawn is about $30 an hour – that’s a low-ball estimate. We’re supposed to mow our lawn once a week – that’s $120 a month. You can buy yourself a good quality mower with just two of those payments. I got a good mower when I first got my house in 2006- it still works today. The only thing I didn’t think of getting was a blower for the fall and hedge clippers.
6. Know what day garbage pickup is
At the apartment, I didn’t have to worry about what day garbage pickup was. I just took bags to the big dumpster- out of sight, out of mind. If you miss pickup day as a homeowner, you’ll have to wait until next week or at least a day if you make a call. Either way, you don’t want to be stuck with a pile of stinky trash until the garbage truck comes back.
7. Know what services the city offers
I had lived at my house for years before I knew that the city picks up your old furniture and tree limbs for free. I had always rented a truck to take old furniture to the dump myself. When Arkansas had a snowstorm and tree branches fell in my yard, I thought I would have to hire a tree service to take away the branches. Imagine my surprise when I left them on the curb, and a municipal truck took the debris away while I was trying to find an inexpensive tree company.
8. Install a home security alarm
My home came hardwired with an ADT alarm system, but I never activated it. I would always receive letters from ADT about reactivating the alarm, but I would always ignore them. That is until one day, after picking my son up from daycare, came home to my front door wide open. They had kicked in the back door and only stole a game console. It wasn’t much but that event made me realize that my home did need an alarm. Started thinking about what would happen if my wife and were alone and someone broke in. I immediately activated my alarm. No one has broken into our home since, but it’s great to have peace of mind.
9. Make sure your garage has safety sensors installed
If you have an automatic garage door, make sure you have safety sensors installed and they work. I failed to validate this and six months after moving in, my wife closed the garage door down on our car. It ruined some panels on the garage door. Luckily, we met a nice repairman who gave us a discount for being new homeowners. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a garage safety sensor so I didn’t put one in. About a year later the garage door was closed on our car again. This time, the damage was worse, and we were out a lot of money. A sensor would have detected the car and would not have closed. It also would stop if someone were to walk under it as it was closing. So, go check your garage door, and if you don’t have a garage safety sensor, get one now.
Thanks for taking the time to read my list. Those were some of the things I wish someone had told me about owning a home. If you can think of anything you wish someone had told you about home ownership, please leave them down in the comments.