12 Essential Tips for New Homeowners

The decision to purchase a new house is not one that you should take lightly. Whether you already own a residence or you’ve only ever lived with family and rented, purchasing a home requires careful consideration and research. For new homeowners, there is a lot that you should know about maintaining and living in your first house that you won’t find in a magical guidebook that comes with a new home. Most homeowners need to figure everything out by trial and error, but reading an article like this can make you better prepared for when you do decide to buy a house of your own.

One of the most common issues for new homeowners is feeling underprepared for homeownership financially, emotionally, and in other ways. The dream of owning a home is as American as apple pie or fireworks on Independence Day but the reality of owning a home can be different than the fantasy that might have prompted a person to purchase the house. Reconciling what you would like homeownership to be like with what it is can save you a lot of headaches, heartaches, and financial woes down the road.

1. Know When It’s Time to Buy a New Home

It can be tough for potential new homeowners to decide if they want to take a leap of faith into buying a house. If you’ve owned a home before, it might be easier to determine if you’re ready for that responsibility or in a good financial spot to take it on. When you’ve never owned a house before, you might feel like it’s time to buy a property because everyone else in your social circle is purchasing one or because your family is growing to the point that rentals aren’t able to accommodate the size of your household.

No matter what prompts you to consider putting your name on a mortgage and property deed, you’re the only one who will know when it’s a good time to purchase a house. Sometimes, things change in the middle of the house-hunting process and you may decide to put it off for a few more years if your job lays you off or you don’t see any houses that tickle your fancy. You shouldn’t be ashamed if you need to delay buying a house or if your plans for home buying pivot from the original timeline. Postponing house hunting for a time when you’re more prepared is a sign that you’ll make a responsible homeowner when the time is right!

2. Owning vs. Renting

Although it can be confusing for new homeowners to figure out what the differences are between owning and renting a house, these are two very distinct experiences of occupying a living space. When you own a house, you have free reigns to do whatever you want to the house in terms of repairs and remodels as long as it fits with the local laws and homeowner’s association regulations if you’re a part of one of those. As a renter, you can’t install a shelf or even change the color of the paint on your walls if your landlord and lease forbid these modifications.

Although it can feel stifling to rent and essentially live in someone else’s house, the grass isn’t always greener on the homeownership side. For many homeowners, the weight of the responsibility of maintaining a home up to code and making modifications that will up the resale value if they decide to sell it in the future can feel like too much at times. Additionally, even if a mortgage is technically cheaper than the price of renting an apartment, homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and maintenance costs can make owning a home more expensive than renting over a year.

3. Prepare Your Finances

When you’re hoping to buy a house, getting your finances ready for this endeavor doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years to build credit for new homeowners to become eligible for favorable mortgage rates. Some folks never get their credit into the shape it needs to be to get a desirable mortgage rate for a house, so you can’t start preparing to buy a home too early by building credit with proven methods such as purchasing a secured credit card that you can pay off every cycle.

In addition to improving your credit, you’ll want to beef up your savings account well before you start house hunting seriously. You can first work on building a dedicated savings account to cover a down payment, closing costs, application fees, and more. From there, you may want to think about increasing that savings account to include costs such as furnishing the home and making initial repairs so you don’t end up going broke in your first month of homeownership.

A common misconception about buying your first home is that you’ll move into the place as soon as you sign the deed. Unfortunately, there may be some overlap between when your home is ready to inhabit and when a lease ends, so you should also prepare to pay for that overlap and expect that the cost of moving into a house will exceed your initial budget. Since you don’t want to end up draining your bank account while paying the closing costs, down payment, and other fees, it’s a good idea to look into what buying a house will cost before you start going down this road.

4. Protect Your Property

When you buy a new home, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in the process of signing the deed, getting the keys, and decorating the new place that you might forget that you now have an asset in your name that requires protection. One of the first things that should be done for new homeowners is securing homeowner’s insurance coverage. This will protect your home from liability if someone gets injured in it and it can also cover valuables up to a certain limit.

In addition to purchasing homeowner’s insurance, you might want to think about adding your home to your will so that if you pass away, it will be clear who will be the new owner of your house. Every time you want to add upgrades to your home, you should ensure that they don’t violate the terms of your home insurance. As a rule, you should know what your home insurance policy covers, what it does not cover, what the limits of the policy are, and who your insurance agent is if you’re assigned to one specifically through your agency so you don’t have any confusion about how your home is being protected from risks such as liability and damage through qualifying events.

5. Building a Custom Home

If you haven’t found your dream home on the housing market, it might be time to consider having a custom home built. For some folks, this may be out of their budget but there are still ways to have a unique house without breaking the bank by opting for a tiny home or renovating a house with “good bones” to your liking. When you want to buy new homes, you should be prepared for them to be more expensive than houses that have been around for decades. Still, for new homeowners, the cost is justified if it means that they can inhabit the home that they’ve been seeing in their dreams for years.

6. Navigate Zoning Laws

In some areas, you might not be able to build a property on certain kinds of land or you might only be able to use a property for specific purposes thanks to zoning laws. If you don’t know anything about zoning laws, you’ll want to contact a local attorney who specializes in real estate laws so you’ll know if you’re abiding by local regulations when you build or renovate your home. While it can feel daunting for new homeowners to navigate these laws, it’s much easier to do when you have a professional on your side who understands the legal end of homeownership.

If your path to homeownership involves inheriting a house, it can be especially helpful to contact an estate attorney and real estate attorney to discuss the legal and financial aspects of this situation. Even if you have a good idea of what your rights are as someone who owns an inherited house, it’s never a bad idea to consult with legal counsel so you can be sure. A skilled attorney will be able to advocate for your rights if it gets messy and present alternatives if homeownership becomes too overwhelming for you.

7. Learn about Specialty Maintenance

Although you may think that you can call any maintenance professional to maintain your home, experienced homeowners will know that you can’t always rely on generalized contractors to know how to properly fix something in your home. If your AC system is unique or has a problem that general HVAC contractors can’t resolve, you may need to contact special refrigeration services to get your home cooling properly again. Even if you prefer the rates of general AC services, that doesn’t mean they’re always the right ones to work on your HVAC system. Unfortunately, they can do more damage than good if they don’t know what they are doing for new homeowners.

8. Demand Excellent Exteriors and Interiors

For new homeowners and seasoned ones, there’s no reason why you have to settle for less. Even if you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford luxury restrooms, you still may be able to swing quality craftsmanship or expect better-looking materials at lower price points. Some items like luxury vinyl planks can look as good as luxury options like hardwood floors without breaking the bank. In other cases, you may be able to spruce up humble materials by learning how to DIY home projects.

9. Keep Your Cool

Usually, maintaining a comfortable climate for new homeowners should be as simple as turning on the AC. Depending on how the HVAC is set up, using your air conditioning system for the first time may be more complicated than that. If you’re not sure how to use the AC and you can contact the previous owner of the home, it may be beneficial to contact them before you try to turn it on so you don’t risk breaking anything.

10. Collaborate with Contractors

When you want to build your own home, you don’t have to do it alone. You can enlist architects, and interior designers, home builders, and more to help bring your vision to life. For new homeowners who have some experience with building, it can still be helpful to have outside perspectives pulled into the home-building process.

Even if you can do all the construction planning yourself, you’ll still need extra manpower. To install siding, you can hire local siding contractors. For jobs that may require heavy lifting like installing a roof, you’ll probably also need at least one other person to help with the task.

11. Maintain Your Dream House

Once you’ve bought your dream house, you’ll need to learn how to maintain it. You can do this yourself through DIY projects or you can enlist a home maintenance company to help. Whether you maintain your home yourself or you get outside help, it will still cost money for the materials so you shouldn’t let costt be the only determining factor.

12. Consider Cleaning Services

Keeping the interior and exterior of a house clean can be a chore. If you’re struggling to keep up with the cleaning needs of your home, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes, it can be especially helpful to get help with cleaning the outside of the house through a window cleaning company or powerwasher.

Maintaining a clean home starts with having the right supplies. For new homeowners, it can be a good idea to make a list of all of the cleaners and equipment you may need. From there, you can put those items on a housewarming gift registry so that your friends and family can support you in making your home spotless.

Buying a house is a dream for many people. If you’re ready to take on homeownership, you should follow our steps above. Even if you’ve bought a home before, they’re helpful to review.

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