Buying your first home can be a frustrating, occasionally exhausting experience, but it’s one that brings a great sense of accomplishment and pride when completed. Having a home to call your own is a special milestone for many people. But, as any homeowner can tell you, the headaches don’t end once you’ve found the perfect house, secured a mortgage and finally unpacked all the boxes.
For first-time buyers, owning a home will bring some unexpected and unprecedented challenges. Luckily, with a little foresight and planning, you can easily overcome these common challenges that first-time homeowners are usually surprised by.
Many first-time homeowners are simply not prepared for the additional financial responsibilities they’ll face with a home. Coming from an apartment or a parent’s home, new buyers can easily lose control of their monthly budgets. While you can calculate your monthly mortgage, some couples forget to factor property taxes, association fees, larger utility bills and homeowner’s insurance premiums. It’s impossible to plan for every expense, but small things like calling your utility company to learn average bills by month can help you plan your finances months in advance.
Choosing the Right Insurance
Most renters don’t bother with renter’s insurance, so the addition of home insurance can be a confusing and expensive complication for even seasoned buyers. When choosing an insurer, make sure you’ve received an accurate value appraisal of your home to make sure you are covered for the cost of replacement. Making adjustments to your house to make it safer and asking for discounts are easy ways to bring down your monthly premiums, but make sure you have more than just basic coverage.
In addition to being a new homeowner, you’re now a de facto electrician, plumber and carpenter – congratulations! While apartments provide handymen to fix your problems, you’re responsible for keeping up with your home’s problems or finding trustworthy contractors. Things that you may have overlooked – like a small pool of water by an exterior wall – can now turn into larger problems overnight. While you’ll become practiced at fixing minor issues, you’ll still occasionally need contractors for larger repairs; when you’re searching avoid Craigslist in favor of sites like Angie’s List, which can help you rank service providers.
Repairs and Appliances
Many times, a seller will promise to make repairs but never follow through. If you’ve already closed escrow at your agent’s behest, you may be on the hook for the price of those repairs. Make sure the seller fulfills all their promises before you close escrow. Additionally, your home probably came with a number of essential appliances. While those are a very nice perk, especially for young homeowners, you’ll often find that those appliances will be in need of repair or replacement. Keep space in your budget to slowly replace your appliances.
In addition to increased utility bills, you’ll have a few additional responsibilities that can be new territory to many. Cosmetic maintenance like lawn care and pressure washing is easy to learn and make a habit, but preventative maintenance like cleaning the roof and gutters to prevent leaks or managing pest control can be unfamiliar tasks. Even if you don’t need regular service, you should contact your local pest control company to clear your home of nasty insects like termites.
In an apartment, you usually get security by being around so many people, but home security takes a bit more effort for homeowners. Security alarms, double deadbolts on doors and smoke detectors can be important steps to make your home safer, and they have the added benefit of helping to reduce your insurance risk and premiums.
They say you can’t choose your neighbors, and they generally don’t have a huge impact on your purchase (unless there are clear signs on the lawn), but you’ll get to know your neighbors quickly. Even in the best neighborhoods, neighbors can be a bit unpredictable. Before you buy, you never know which neighbor might like setting off fireworks at 3 a.m., or which neighbor’s son will decide to put an air horn on his truck. Work to build relationships with neighbors early on, so you can try to diffuse any complications later.
This probably is not the first thing on your mind right after buying a home, but property value will be a large concern after making the largest investment of your life. As the housing crunch continues, it can be difficult to see homes around you go for rock-bottom prices, pulling down the value of your home. Just remember that you’re in your home for 15, 20 or 30 years, and the value of your home will recover.