Homeownership is a big, new, and exciting stage of many people’s lives. Along with this milestone comes many responsibilities that don’t cross many new homeowners minds. We are here to help clear the air and start with the basics that come after all the boxes are unpacked and you’re finally settled in.
- Create a maintenance calendar. A home requires upkeep. The convenience of apartment maintenance staff and landlords are a thing of the past once you buy your own house. This means you have to keep track of routine maintenance. Not keeping up with maintenance can lead to much larger problems down the road that will break the bank a lot more than if you had just kept up with the maintenance in the first place. Mundane tasks like changing air filters or cleaning the gutters can be so easy to forget, so keeping a spreadsheet is one way to easily keep track. If Excel just isn’t your thing, setting reminders on your phone’s calendar app is another way to make certain that you are staying up-to-date. Your home’s inspection report is another good starting point. If you got an inspection done before moving in, then you should have the equivalent of a checklist of projects. These projects will more than likely require you to hire contractors to complete the work. When doing this, make sure to do thorough research before picking a contractor. Get several quotes, read reviews, references, and make sure they are actually licensed. Nobody wants to get scammed!
- Have a record of your belongings. Nobody ever hopes or plans for an accident to happen, hence why they are called accidents! Most people would be devastated if their new flatscreen broke because their house got struck by lightning, or the new dining table was burned in a fire. While these occurrences are so rare, they still do happen and we need to be prepared. Take pictures of your more valuable belongings and make a file or spreadsheet of them so you have a record. Make sure to keep this file on some sort of cloud database, like Google Drive just in the unfortunate case your laptop or phone is one of the items lost in an accident. Also, make sure the homeowner’s insurance you purchased has sufficient replacement coverage for what you own.
- File your homestead exemption (if it’s your primary home). You should file this in the January following the purchase of your home. Homestead exemptions are beneficial because they remove part of your home’s value from taxation, therefore lowering your taxes. Who wouldn’t want that?
- Look over home warranties. An alternative way to deal with maintenance issues is to purchase a home warranty, which is essentially a service contractor that will replace or fix anything in your house that stops working, for example, if your AC or microwave starts malfunctioning or breaks. Typically you will pay a quarterly or annual fee to cover any of these problems that might arise. When you purchase a home, warranties are sometimes included as part of the transaction. However, make sure you read the fine print because oftentimes these included-warranties do not cover certain things or pre-existing issues. This can be tricky because, for instance, it can be difficult to prove that your dishwasher that broke down did not already have that issue before you purchased coverage for it.
- Have an emergency money supply. If you don’t want to purchase a home warranty, having a stash of money saved to pay for any sudden issues is extremely helpful. This can oftentimes even give you more flexibility than when purchasing a warranty because if nothing malfunctions or breaks in your home, you still have the emergency supply of money to spend on other housing necessities rather than on the warranty. Experts claim that in order to be prepared economically in an emergency, homeowners should set aside 1% of the price of their home for maintenance and repairs. Who knows if you will need this money, but it is good to have in any case.
- Be careful accumulating debt. After buying a new home, it can be so easy to go on a spending spree on new furniture or overuse credit cards that come in the mail. However, it is essential to plan out your spending and budget yourself because debt is a slippery slope that is very hard to recover from. Make sure to prioritize your new expenses before adding in the unnecessary ones!