You own a home! Now what??! Here are my top 20 survival tips for homeowners.
Being a homeowner can be exciting and fun at times, with lots of freedom to make it your own space!
As a homeowner, you’re in charge of any repairs, maintenance, finances, and improvements over the long haul.
Whether you’re a first-time homeowner or you’ve owned many, it’s important to stay informed about how you can make life as a homeowner less stressful and more rewarding.
Here are 20 fun “survival” tips that I hope will help you thrive effortlessly in your home for years to come:
1. Create a home manual JUST for your home, not for anybody else’s.
Your home manual can be an old-school binder with plastic pockets to hold documents, an iCloud folder(s) with scanned documents, or one of the many home maintenance apps out there you can download. Pick whatever system will keep you organized and stay on track!
Keep information about your home and its systems and any owner manuals (or know you can access them online or through a home maintenance app).
Keep track of service records, warranties, and the age of your roof, furnace, water heater, washer/dryer, refrigerator, and other important appliances; even include paint colors, additional decorating information, and receipts for furniture. Remember to include any landscaping work and how to care for your plants, shrubs, and flowers.
2. Maintain an updated list of phone numbers of contractors and other professional services.
Include your plumber, electrician, utility company, landscaper, HVAC, etc., so you can contact them quickly. Also, keep notes on each of their visits and get second opinions for more extensive repair or replacement recommendations.
3. Keep records and receipts of your home improvement and maintenance costs.
When you sell, it shows where you have added value and what you’ve done to keep up your home. Several types of improvements can also qualify for tax incentives come tax time, so be sure to share the receipts yearly with your CPA.
4. Keep a realistic pace and budget for buying things you need for your home.
Having a home means there’s always a long list of big and little things you need to purchase or upgrade, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. The list could go on and on — from window treatments, lawn mowers, rakes, cleaning supplies, vacuum, a sectional couch, deck furniture, lamps, etc.
You will grow with this home, so make a plan and a budget. If you need to buy, shop for sales, bargains, and flea markets. Buy off-season or at the end of a season for major savings.
5. Have an emergency fund for any unexpected costs.
No matter how well your home has been taken care of by you or the previous owner, there will be surprises, so prepare yourself. Something will break, and you won’t be able to delay fixing it – a cold winter night and your furnace stop working, a tree falls on your house, or a baseball goes through one of your windows. Expect the unexpected!!
6. Cut the costs of utility bills by conserving how much heat, electricity, A/C, and water you use in your home.
You’ll save the planet and your wallet! Turn down your heat and wear sweaters in the winter, and set an automatic thermostat at an efficient temperature in the summer and winter months. First-time homeowners can contact their utility companies for an estimate on rates for each month of the year.
7. Hire an accountant so you know how to prepare your taxes correctly, maximize your refund, and get the deductions you deserve.
Even getting them done by a professional one year so you have a template for future years is a good idea. You may learn you’ll get tax credits on energy-efficient appliances etc.
8. Make sure you have enough homeowner’s insurance, and it doesn’t miss anything like flood and fire protection.
Also, take out life insurance so you have coverage so your family won’t lose their home. Ditto on having disability-income insurance so you can stay in your home.
9. You never want to ignore any problems or damage you see in your home.
A minor issue can become a big, more costly one before you know it! Consistent, regular home maintenance is essential to combat the usual wear and tear and any severe weather conditions such as flooding, snow, ice, and heat.
10. Create an inspection list and go through your home twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, to check on the condition of each item.
We aren’t suggesting you hire a home inspector every year! Instead, you should go through your home, just as your inspector did before you bought it, with a keen eye once per year.
Your list should include inside and outside items: roof, windows, foundation, gutters, attic, insulation, HVAC, chimney, driveway, etc. Look for damage from water leaks, mold, and pests such as termites, mice, squirrels, and rats.
Flag any key life expectancies when you conduct these inspections so you inspect even more carefully near that time. For example, your roof can last 15-20 years if it has asphalt shingles or up to 50+ if it has slates.
11. Know your major appliances
– such as fridge, stove/oven, dishwasher, washer/dryer — and how they work, how to maintain them (like changing your filter), who to call for repairs, and how old they are now and their life expectancies. How long they last depends greatly on your care for them and your specific product.
For example, a fridge lasts 9-13 years, an air conditioning unit lasts 8-15 years, and a water heater lasts 10-11 years. Again, refer to owner manuals and keep necessary receipts in whatever home organization system you have chosen.
12. Buy tools you’ll regularly use to maintain your home and to make minor repairs.
Every homeowner should have a toolbox but don’t go out and buy something you may only need once; you can sometimes rent that or share the cost with friends or neighbors.
Experts say you should buy a tape measurer, utility knife, four-in-one screwdriver, hammer, putty knife, saw, wrench, pliers, and drill/driver. Every homeowner should also go through a tube of caulk about once per year.
13. Learn basic DIY skills to save time and money on repairs.
There’s lots of information out there on YouTube and other online resources. You can learn basic how-tos on almost everything, from unclogging a drain or patching a hole in the wall.
Consider taking some classes at your local hardware store. You can save so much per year by doing basic repairs and upkeep yourself.
14. Hiring a qualified, professional contractor or recommended handyman for more extensive or complex jobs.
For example, if it’s something more complicated than a clogged drain, that’s where you draw the line on the DIY. Plus, you want your larger or more complex repairs to get a higher level of expertise to maintain your home’s value. When you sell your home, shoddy work is something you can’t hide from buyers!
15. Be patient, and don’t expect your home to look like an HGTV makeover overnight.
That’s not reality TV at all! However, those shows are worth watching since they can inspire you with ideas for all the rooms in your home and even your yard. You probably won’t feel like your home is ever “done,” but you can continue to make it more “yours” in a way that matches your budget.
16. Live in your home for a while to get a feel for its ebb and flow, which can help you decide what furniture you need and what will function best.
There’s no harm in some empty rooms or a drafty corner for a while! And if you plan to remodel eventually, this time is well spent learning how your family moves about your home. And again, budget and pace yourself with your furniture purchases, window treatments, and accessories.
17. Paint is a cheap, quick fix-up.
A fresh coat of paint will completely transform a room. Enough said!
18. Having neighbors as a homeowner can be very different than when renting — you want to forge a good relationship with them since you may live near them for a long time.
You don’t have to be over-friendly if that’s not your style. Still, neighbors can be a good source of information about the community and help you when needed (borrow that shovel you never bought in time or onion for that chili recipe!).
19. Do what you can to help to create a positive community feel to your condo, street, or neighborhood and make it a place you will love to live in.
Get involved and attend your HOA meetings, help host an annual block party on your street, or hold regular summer happy hours. Plus, having a great community feel can be a good selling point when the time comes.
20. Sign up for a neighborhood listserv or community blog to get all the inside information.
You’ll know what’s happening in your neighborhood (someone just spotted a fox!) and get recommendations for a handyman, plumber, mother’s group, or even a piano teacher. Plus, they may be a source of entertainment at times!
Phew! Keep all of these tips in mind so your home will run smoothly, and you hopefully will avoid any mishaps! If you have any questions, need any recommendations for contractors, or want to run a project you are thinking about by me to know how much value it may add to your home, I’m here for you. I am your go-to resource to help you thrive as a homeowner, and I’d love to hear from you anytime.
I'm Lauren Haug! I'm a teacher-turned-real estate agent, and I teach people how to build wealth through real estate in Northern Colorado.
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