Buying your first home and real estate property is a huge move for most people. It’s probably the biggest purchase they’ll ever make. The large amount of debt they’ll have, along with the monthly mortgage payments, will lock them in to a home, neighborhood, and city in a way an apartment never could.
While your realtor may be helpful, there are always things a first time homebuyer will end up wishing they had known. Here are a few of the biggest surprises I’ve found in our first four years of home ownership.
Inspections make or break everything
While it may not be common, it’s still quite possible for an inspection to tank your hopes of buying a specific home. When we first began the process, it never really occurred to me that people could hide so much damage quite so well.
We were well on the way to closing on TWO separate homes, both of which were stopped cold by inspection reports that were just DISASTERS. There are a lot of unscrupulous people out there who will throw a coat of paint on the walls and hope you don’t discover the termites, foundation problems, or bad electrical work. Your inspector is your best friend.
Losing each home cost of several months in the process, and our apartment lease actually ran out. We ended up living with friends temporarily while we tried to find a place. It was incredibly inconvenient, but a good inspector is worth his weight in gold. You never want to move in and found you’ve bought a money pit.
Things Break and YOU pay to fix them
You don’t realize how much a few major expenses can add to your annual living expenses budget. Our home is older (1960’s) and I promise you will underestimate the cost of the little (and big) things that come up. In the first year we had to replace the roof ($6,500), a pool pump ($500), and our new fridge broke ($250).
You also forget the small things like pest control, tree trimming, old windows and the many small things that can break. In an apartment all of these things get handled magically and you never see the time or cost. All of these things will add up, in addition to the cost of the house.
It’s a ton of work
After years of living in an apartment, I forgot how much you spend just keeping a home presentable. It’s larger, so there’s a heck of a lot more to clean (and clean and clean). Mowing and edging a yard is a solid 3-4 hour weekly or bi-weekly project, and cleaning the pool is frequent task in a place like Houston.
In the middle of a Sunday where I’m busy catching up on all the work, rather than enjoying the pool, I often think how nice it would be to be back at the apartment with its maintenance free grounds and nice pool.
This doesn’t even include all the DIY projects, like the 3 day weekend we spent painting the kitchen and downstairs or the many weekends spent on the yard and garden.
Utilities can be shocking
Depending on where you live, this may not be as much of an issue; but here on the Gulf Coast, utilities can run high. In a smaller apartment, as a part of a much larger structure, utilities tend to run low even in the dead of summer.
Our first set of summer utility bills almost gave me a heart attack! It’s not uncommon for our 2,300 square foot home to run a $400 electric bill, June through August. It’s definitely a budget buster that I never accounted for when determining what type of home and the cost associated with it.
It’s never perfect
If you want perfect, I suggest you buy high-end and new; or better yet, build your dream home. Otherwise, all the little things that you noticed when you moved in are going to be there a whole lot longer than you think. I remember doing the walk-through of the home and thinking, “This works, but there are a lot of things I’ll change.” Famous last words.
If you are on the financial independence journey, you will be living with those things for a long time to come. 4 years in to owning our home, we’ve improved a few things. We painted, landscaped, decorated, but that wall I want gone? I still haven’t been able to justify the expense of removing it. The bathrooms I wanted to remodel? Still looking 60’s chic. Buy as close to exactly what you want day 1, or be prepared to live with it.