What I've Learned in 10 Years of Home Ownership
Ten years ago I fulfilled a promise I made to myself right before graduating from law school: "I will not live with my parents for longer than 6 months." I made a plan, saved for a down payment and other expenses, and got the keys six months to the day that I started my big girl job. This house has a lot of history. From eating macaroni and fish sticks while sitting on my bicycle seat in the living room (before I had real furniture) to broken air conditioners to epic house parties, this house has seen it all. My relationship with this house has evolved over time. There are days when the best way to describe it is 'tortured' and on other days it's 'charmed'. I've marked many milestones in this home (turning 30, marriage, new jobs), and I've had some setbacks (end of relationships, a flood, foundation issues). Overall, it's been a whirlwind of an experience, and I've learned many lessons from this very grown-up undertaking:
Being well-insured is critical: Five months before our wedding I was standing in 13 inches of water all over my home in tears. By chance, our neighborhood had been placed in a floodplain a mere three years beforehand, so my bank required that I purchase flood insurance. I cannot say enough about how much of a life saver that was. It was a headache, but I was made whole in the end. Over the years other things have broken down, and knowing that a good home warranty or insurance policy was in place I was able to breathe a little easier.
Things are going to break; be cool: I bought an older home which meant that I inherited older home problems. Over time, I've replaced in-wall pipes and an AC unit, repaired the roof, fixed the foundation THREE times, and replaced under-slab plumbing just to highlight a few things. Oh - and then the house flooded, so there's also drywall, water heaters, appliances, furniture, etc. At the beginning of this process, I had full on meltdowns about the cost and hassle of the whole thing. As I've matured as a homeowner, I take it as it comes. No matter what I do, things are still going to break down. It's my job as a homeowner to just be cool about it and be prepared which brings me to....
Having an "oh s%$#" fund is a must: My financial adviser suggested that I maintain an emergency fund to handle unexpected life issues. We jokingly named it the "oh s%$#" fund but that's truly what it has become. When my insurance company refused to cover the cost of fixing my foundation or underslab plumbing (a complete joke which I am still pissed about), I had the "oh s%$#" moment when I was facing the tremendous expense involved with fixing these items. Luckily, I had the emergency fund that allowed me the flexibility to get things fixed the right way.
There is importance in making a house a home: Before the flood, the home that my husband and I were going to live in was very much "my house". I decorated it, picked the colors, chose the furniture, and generally controlled the flow of the space. In regrouping after the flood, we were able to agree on furniture, appliances, bedding, decor, paint and more. This made the house less about me and all about "us". Let's face it - a house is a structure; a home is made up of the memories and experiences had in a space. This house has become a different version of a home because of our collaboration and work to make it so.
Have a contractor on speed dial: Because things are going to break, it's important to know how you're going to fix them. I'm blessed that my husband is very handy and good with tools and that my father is a contractor. I'm happy to have a husband that can fix little things that break, but when big things break down, I don't have to think about who to call to get things fixed - I call Daddy!
No one can clean your home the way you can: I've hired many cleaning services over the years, but I always notice the dust that should have been cleaned, or the vacuum cleaner that gets broken, or the wine glass that shattered when someone tried to clean around it instead of picking it up to wipe underneath it. When I clean my own home, I make sure to clean the things that irritate me in my own way.
Every home needs a plunger: There are some things that you'll buy that seem like luxuries, and then there are things that are necessities. A plunger is a necessity. It is not merely decor for the bathroom. You don't need one until you need one, but trust me - there will be a panic-induced moment when you will say "where is the plunger?" And not having one will create an awful (and stinky) memory. And speaking of plungers...
Buy good toilet paper: Owning a home is an expensive undertaking. Beyond the mortgage, there are the everyday expenses like groceries and cleaning supplies that can add up but are essential to maintaining a functioning home. It's easy to try to cut costs where you can, but my mother always said, "don't cut your toilet paper budget." I took it as a joke until that one time I bought toilet paper from the Dollar Store and paid for it when I tore up the inside of my ass upon first use. Never again have I purchased cheap toilet paper...
What lessons have you learned in owning a home? Share in the comments below.
Photo Credit: Redd Angelo