Home Owning Hacks

If you are looking to buy a home and have sought out the advice of someone who owns or has owned a home, you may be attuned to the typical advice. Comments like, “just make sure you’re ready because it’s a lot of work” or “be careful, houses are a money pit.” While this may be true in some cases, it isn’t all doom and gloom. There are ways that we can be prepared and proactively alleviate some of the burdens that come with home ownership. Life happens, and we can’t avoid everything but for what it’s worth I’d like to share a few hacks that I’ve found useful during my own two-year stint of home ownership. I’m particularly excited to share this with you because I’ve unfortunately had to learn most of this via trial by fire, so if I can spare at least one person of at least one unnecessary headache I’d like to think this blog post was well worth it!

1.Be sure to purchase a home warranty. This is basically a service agreement that will cover most repairs of home systems and appliances. You can pay via lump sum once per year or in smaller increments throughout the year like any other bill. The week after I moved into my house, my guest bathroom toilet started leaking water all over the bathroom. There was a crack in the porcelain at the bottom (long sigh…FML). Imagine my horror! Luckily, I purchased a home warranty prior to closing. I called them to report the leak, they sent a plumbing contractor out to fix it and clean everything up. I had to pay a $30 deductible, but it was all well worth it.

Looking back, I would’ve been much more engaged during the inspection process. This is your chance to make sure that everything is on ‘the up and up’ with the home before committing to purchase it. You also may have the leverage to get the seller to fix anything that is defective. Be sure to ask the inspector any questions that may come to mind, ask to see pictures, request a second and third walk through of the home if you want. How is the foundation? Have the pipes or roof ever been replaced? Does the wood on the deck need treating? You’re spending your money so you deserve to know every little detail.

2.Try to have at least 1.5% of your down payment and closing costs in your bank account before making the decision to buy. For example, if you end up having to pay $15,000 at closing, you should have at least $22,500 readily available. Your lender should be able to ‘guestimate’ the costs for you based on your loan type and price point. This may sound intimidating to some, but there is nothing more horrifying than not having liquid funds to take care of unforeseen issues. In these moments, we may be tempted to run up our credit and that is a slippery slope. If you end up having to spend the money from your safety account, try to replenish it as soon as possible and continue to grow this savings account over time. Also work out what your monthly payments will be before you purchase and budget accordingly. Refer to my previous post, ‘All About the Benjamins,’ to learn about the 28/36 rule and how to decipher if your mortgage and other house related costs are affordable based on your income. Being house poor is an awful feeling that takes the fun out of home ownership. Do the math beforehand and only commit to what you can confidently afford.

3.Get to know your neighbors and take advantage of their neighborly ways. One of the things I loved about my home was the lofted ceilings. One of the things I didn’t proactively think about was what would happen when a light bulb blew out on those lofted ceilings. When it happened I reluctantly stared up at my upcoming 15-foot feat. Being the sometimes unnecessarily independent woman that I am, I trucked it up to the home depot to see if I could rent a 15-foot ladder. They had one that I clearly couldn’t transport in my car and one that was kind of like something out of Transformers. It started at 5 feet and somehow extended to 15 feet. Intimidated by that, I went home and sat in my living room (in the dark) to think it over. Something told me to refer to my handy dandy neighbor phone book and reach out to a few people via email asking if they owned a ladder. My neighbor Michael not only owned a ladder that would do the job (it was the Transformer-type ladder) but he also apparently found pride in being able to help his neighbors out with handy work around the house. Long story short, he not only changed the bulb for me (I used LED this time…this could be a hack in and of itself), but he also cleaned my dirty vents while he was up there. In return he felt comfortable asking me to keep an eye out on the house when he was gone, which I was more than willing to do for a free bulb change! Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.

4.Find a handyman and engage in routine preventative maintenance. I admit I am a stereotypical woman when it comes to some things. I won’t change the oil in my car until it’s screaming at me and I don’t get gas until I’m damn near on empty. Same held true for my home. Something had to break before I tended to it and even then, it just fell onto my never-ending list of “to-do’s.” Shameful, yes, but let she who is without sin cast the first stone. Looking back, I would’ve saved myself a few headaches if I took a couple of weekends to execute a Maintenance Checklist. For reference here is one crafted byBetter Homes & Gardens for each season. I ended up having to have my handyman do a number of these things right before I moved out to make my home more marketable. Having a handyman was key, because I had no clue what I was doing. To find a handyman, I recommend going through a third party (like Home Advisors) at first to find someone legitimate and then seeing if they’d like to work directly with you in the future to make it more affordable.

Home ownership isn’t a cake walk, but it’s well worth it. It forced me to be an actual adult adult. I trust that these tips will give you a good starting point and make you feel more confident about your ability to take care of your home. Take it from someone who used to call the apartment complex office for every little thing, if I can do it you most certainly can. If you have any questions about any of the content or would like to discuss anything further with me, as always shoot me a DM or email.

With respect, love and well wishes always,

Stephanie Renee

Stephanie Brown