Happy Homeowner-iversary to me! I closed on my house June 14, 2019. I didn’t officially move in until later in the month, but it has officially been mine for one year now. Honestly, this is about the time when I’d start looking for a new apartment or getting restless, and I’m just not. I’ve learned a lot as a first time homeowner.
I promised I would use this platform to share my experience with you. To the world, I’m somewhat in the minority as a young (under 30), single, millennial homeowner. Now, my parents were there with me every step of the way helping me logically and emotionally, but, financially, I did this all on my own.
Catch up on my home buying journey:
From Offer to Front Door: Your Homebuying Timeline
Writing Your House Wishlist
House Hunters: Single Millennial Edition
There is a lot that I’ve learned in my first year as a homeowner, some before walking in the front door and a whole lot since I moved in.
1. Live within your means.
We all want Pinterest-worthy homes. The issue with social media is that we look around and always want more. You’ll be likely to max out your credit cards trying to purchase the best decor and everything you can get your hands on, but don’t. There are some things that will need to be purchased before you move or right when you move, so just be aware of that.
For me, those “needs” were a refrigerator and a lawn mower. Big items that I needed as a bare minimum for my house. You may need furniture or other appliances. just be sure you build these bigger needs into your budget for all of the money that goes down in the beginning.
2. Make your list.
I did an entire post about making your wishlist for your future home. Think about the things you need to have, want to have, and absolutely can’t have. Then, prioritize these items. If a house has 90% of your must haves, but something on your can’t have list, what are you going to do? Unless you are building a house from the ground up, chances are that you will need to make some concessions.
3. Down payments are rarely 20%.
The purpose of a 20% down payment is to avoid mortgage insurance which is an added cost to your monthly payment.
For me, I had a dollar amount in my head that I wanted to contribute to a down payment. In all of my calculations, that was how much I would put down and then I’d still be able to afford closing costs and everything on top of that. Guess what: Closing costs are expensive! I was able to take that dollar amount I had in mind, combine with closing costs and all of those extra fees, and it resulted in approximately 3-4% down. As a first time homeowner (or home buyer in this case), it was a tough pill to swallow.
4. Clean out while you pack.
I cannot even begin to tell you how many trips I made with donations to various places. From clothes to extra pans to books…don’t move it! I made the mistake of moving clothing donations between apartments when I lived in Athens, and it was a terrible idea.
You want a fresh start in your new home. If it is no longer serving you, let someone else get the chance to use it (or get rid of it).
5. An HOA can be a pain.
Living in apartments, there were rules, but nothing out of the ordinary. The goal of a Homeowner’s Association is to keep the entire neighborhood within certain parameters. This can mean painting restrictions, parking rules, party or event approval, etc.
My most recent “run in” with the HOA was a “violation” that one side of my house was dirty. Granted, it could use a cleaning, but just that one side. They set the parameters that required the whole neighborhood to keep the outside of their homes clean or face fines.
However, my HOA also covers the lawn care in the front of my house. I also have amenities like the pool, playground, and dog poop trash stations. There are pros and cons.
6. You don’t have to do everything at once.
It’s so easy to walk into a house and think of all of the things you want to do or buy to spruce it up and really make it yours. However, you don’t have to do everything at once. Ideally, if possible, allow for 2-4 weeks between your closing date and your move-in date, depending on how much you want to do.
When I bought my house, the closets had sliding mirror doors. To me, that had to go, which also meant that I had to find doors to replace them. Lucky for me, my dad is super handy and was able to install them. (I paid my movers an extra $20 to take the old doors with them after I moved in. Great investment.) It just made sense to deal with the doors before I filled my closets or moved too much in. Additionally, there were a couple of “holes” in the fence that needed fixing before I could move in and let Olivia roam.
If you want to paint, that’s a good thing to do before you move in. Obviously, if you want to do floors, that’s another thing to do before you move in.
Remember, this is your HOME so you can make adjustments over time. Any project you do is an investment into your investment. Take your time. Do it right.
7. Do it when it needs doing.
This seems counterintuitive with my last section, but it makes sense. This is more for maintenance tasks. If something needs to be done to keep your house moving, do it! That air filter that you don’t feel like changing? Too bad. The leaky sink? Take care of it. When you’re a homeowner, there is no maintenance department included in your mortgage (like there used to be with your rent). Remember, anything you do to your house is an investment into your investment.
One of the first things I had to pay for when I moved in was a plumber to re-install my guest toilet and fix a leaky sink. It’s not that fun, but it saved me from a lot more potential problems in the long run.
8. Avoid clutter.
Apparently there’s a group of people in the world who have a “chair” where they throw everything…bags, clothes, etc. Don’t do that! Put things away. You’re a homeowner now which means it might be time to start acting a bit more like an adult.
Note: There are plenty of exceptions, especially when it comes to families and young children. For me…I have no excuse to have clutter.
9. Love it or don’t.
No, this is not my audition for Love It or List It. This is how you deal with whether you “need” something for your house. Do you love it? If the answer is no or you have any sort of hesitation, don’t spend your money on it.
I made the mistake of rushing in to purchase a lamp for my reading corner. My original idea was to have pretty Edison bulbs or twinkly lights, but I conceded in the effort to be done with the project. TERRIBLE IDEA. I am now the ashamed owner of a lamp that I never use. I did end up purchasing the lights I wanted a couple of weeks ago, but I still have the stupid lamp.
10. Get real tools.
My dad had given me a cute little pink tool set when I moved into my first apartment. Just the basics should I need them. Functional but all hand powered.
When you’re a first time homeowner, it is 100% worth it to purchase some real tools. Get a drill and a full size hammer. Purchase a real-size level. It will pay off in the long run.
11. Keep paint on hand.
If you can, ask the previous owners what color paint they used around your house (pending you aren’t painting it yourself). I was able to find out and keep a gallon on hand in my garage. That, and white for all of my trim. Unfortunately, it has come in handy!
There was a very crooked line in my bedroom from where the painters painted around those sliding mirror doors. I also took the other doors off my other closet and painted the closet to “enlarge” my office.
12. Being a homeowner is a lot of work.
Whether you’re a first time homeowner or you’ve owned many homes, it’s a lot of work (or a lot of money if you hire someone to do all of the work). From lawn care to cleaning to maintenance to decorating and everything in-between, it’s a lot of work. I’ve been lucky and I live close to my parents so they have helped me a lot.
In the end, take the leap to be a first time homeowner. There’s about a $150 difference between what I was paying in rent and what I pay on my mortgage now. That’s at least $1800 per year that I’m saving, and I own my home. Every dollar is an investment. I don’t understand stocks or trading or any of that, so this is the major extent of my investment knowledge.
Note: This post contains affiliate links, so I may receive a small commission from sales generated (at no extra cost to you!).