What No One Told Me About Owning a Home
After saving up for years, my husband and I were able to buy a small home.
We had previously lived in an apartment, and I was eager to start a garden, adopt a cat, and have neighbors who were a little further away. We were tired of blank white walls and wanted a little more space.
Our careers were secure, or as secure as they’ll ever be. Buying a home seemed ideal. I did a ton of research and understood that I was in for a lot of work. But I was blindsided by a few things.
1. You need a lot of money
I knew home ownership was going to be expensive. Closing costs for our little home were nearly $5,000. That doesn’t even include the down payment.
But then, in the first year, we had to make several improvements — some planned, some unplanned, as parts of the home hadn’t been updated in half a century. Our home inspection had missed several problems. Bye-bye $15,000.
My emergency fund was gutted and still hasn’t recovered, due to upkeep costs.
To be fair, a lot of costs are predictable. I know I’ll spend $5 each spring to change the oil in my lawn mower. But this spring, I saw that that 1/4 of my lawn was damaged by grubs. I just had to run to a home improvement store to get grub killer and grass seed. There goes $50.
Think about every area of the home where problems can happen, and expenses quickly add up.
We managed to save some money by doing a lot of maintemance work ourselves. But my weekends quickly filled up with yard work, painting, and minor fixes.
I do save time in some ways. For example, I now have my own washing machine and dryer, vs. dragging clothes to a laundromat when I lived in an apartment.
But this time savings are offset by a lot of tasks that I didn’t have to deal with in an apartment, like snow removal and raking leaves.
When a faucet handle fell off in my apartment, I called maintenance and never saw a bill. But when you own a home, all of the maintenance and repair work is on you.
There’s nothing like the stress of coming home on a snowy Friday evening to discover that your house is cold, your boiler is broken, and it will take $700 and three days to fix.
When we bought a house, I needed to learn how to do a lot of things, or quickly find someone who did.
Masonry? Actually quite simple. Painting? Takes a lot of time and prep work, but doable. Plumbing? Harder than it looks, and I now leave it to the experts.
4. It’s not just about you
When you buy a home, you become part of a community. This is something I never understood when I lived in my parents’ home or stayed in an apartment.
I now walk around the neighborhood and pick up trash off the sidewalk. I make sure my yard is tidy and presentable to neighbors, or people who drive by. I joined a local civics group.
This kind of connection pays off. When I donate to charities (admittedly not much — see #1), I donate locally and see the impact in my community.
I also know where to turn to get things done. When a neighbor had a streetlight out and couldn’t get a response from the city, I knew who to contact to get it fixed. Because it’s not just their streetlight; I park under it, too, and want to see my way at night.
It took a long time for the initial stress to wear off and for me to really love my home. Now I bake something in our own kitchen, which has a fridge we picked out. I see my cat curled up on the couch. I fall asleep without hearing neighbors’ arguments.
And I don’t have to worry about having to move out if a lease isn’t renewed. Yes, this place is expensive and hard to maintain. But it’s ours.