So you've made the leap - you're now a homeowner. Congratulations, salutations, hosannas - let's break out the champagne! Not to be a buzz kill, but after the front door shuts behind you for the first time, there's a lot of new worries that will suddenly join the party known as your life. As you'll soon discover, owning your own home definitely has advantages over apartment life or living in mom's basement, but it also brings up a different set of problems. Fortunately, if you're aware of the issues that may arise, you can plan to avoid them.
1. Taking Out Second Mortgages
One of the happy discoveries of new homeownership is that suddenly, everyone in the world wants to lend you money. But like that loan you took out from Tony down at the docks, easy funding comes with a price. Your house is now encumbered by a second big lender and if you're using their money as a piggy bank for your lifestyle, you'll find that the dinner you had with the gang last Saturday is something you'll be paying off for ten years.
Solution: Unless you have a major reason for taking out a second loan (a needed addition to the home, a degree that will increase earning power, etc.), it's best to avoid the temptation. If you need extra money, speak to your bank. They may refinance your first mortgage with a cash-out option. Just make sure that the re-fi isn't loaded up with junk fees.
2. Ignoring The Neighbors
Community wise, living in a house you own is different from renter's living. Anonymous neighbors are suddenly replaced by a real feeling of community and ignoring your neighbors could not only lead to awkward animosity, but it could also lead to missed opportunities. After all, you and your next-doors have a common stake in maintaining your mutual slice of civilization.
Solution: Take time to get to know your community, either through your local community center or through community-run programs. Another great resource is Nextdoor, which is a great way to learn about your neighborhood and introduce yourself, without having to knock on every single door. Don't be too shy to introduce yourself and offer to help them in some small way. The gesture will be appreciated and often reciprocated. And when it comes to home repairs, neighbors often have valuable advice on tradespeople or work-arounds.
3. Smells Can Be Permanent
Yes, you own your home, and the freedom to walk around naked and do whatever you want is your privilege. But cigarette smoke, exotic cooking odors, and pet smells from litter boxes or animals themselves implant themselves into carpeting, walls, and furniture. The next thing you know, you're living in a house that reminds people of a roadside inn near Katmandu, and that's not a good thing. Many people living in these situations become nose blind (yes, that's a thing) to the odors that are causing friends and relatives to find excuses to not come over.
Solution: If you must smoke, take it outdoors. If you love potent cooking, limit your home experiments and keep the area well ventilated while doing so. You can also leave a bowl of white vinegar or an open container of baking soda in strategic spots. Both are a homeowner's secret weapon that absorb stubborn food odors. Just make sure to change it occasionally.
4. Doing Big Home Repairs Yourself
You can't call the super or the landlord anymore. It's now up to you to monitor and maintain your home before it springs a major leak and sends you plummeting into the briny deep. There are subscription services that can repair appliances, and if you're not Jill or Joe Handyman, this kind of service may just wind up paying for itself.
If you are interested in saving a few bucks, there are several online resources, plus YouTube or local hardware chains, which often run free clinics. These resources are great for minor projects such as fixing a hole in your drywall or correcting a sagging door. However, here's a hint: as Clint Eastwood said in the film Magnum Force, "A man's (or woman's) got to know their limitations." A major project like installing kitchen cabinets, knocking out a wall, or (heavens forbid) remodeling the kitchen or bathroom, could wind up a costing more if you try to do it yourself.
Solution: Let a professional handle it. Tearing down bad work can add to the costs of your eventual capitulation on a project, and poor jobs can detract from the value of your home. Of course, there are also bad contractors, so ask your trusted friends and family for recommendations, do your Google homework on a firm, and carefully read your contract to include a timeline for completion.
5. Homeowner's Insurance Fine Print
Most people would rather read their obituary than spend time going over an insurance policy. Understandable, but here's the thing - unless you ask, you may find yourself in dire straits if something happens that isn't covered. Many policies only cover the cost of rebuilding your home, and not its full market price, which can include fancy extra decorations in the home (crown molding), your expensive furniture, and the costs of living elsewhere while you're rebuilding.
Solution: There are professional home replacement experts who can assess your homeowner insurance needs for a fee. There are also internet sites like HM Facts which can help you estimate what you may be missing. Better to find out now than when disaster strikes. Read carefully, ask a lot of questions, and get more than one evaluation of your actual needs.
These are just some of the issues lurking in the new homeowner universe. Just use common sense, avoid stupid mistakes, and certainly keep in mind that some good champagne can make almost anything better.