In the famous words of Bruce Buffer: "Iiiit's Tiiiime"! No, I'm not planning to step into the octagon with anyone — ever. It's time to finally throw my proverbial hat in the ring and join the world of the homeowners once again. It's been too long. I really enjoy my roommate and could not have asked for a better friend for the last couple years, but it is time to have my own space. As I type this, I am celebrating (mourning?) turning 50-years-old today. I'm sure I'll co-habitate with my honey eventually, but that's not in the cards right now. Let's take a peek at some things to be aware of (or to remind myself of) when joining this new group.
I've been the one behind the wheel when it comes to our lawn maintenance. I mow the lawn, trim the bushes and do (most of) the raking in the fall. This reminder is not for me, but mostly for those who are coming straight out of an apartment into a single family home. Your lawn/landscaping doesn't just happen auto-magically. It takes work.
Every year we have taken steps to eliminate sections of the lawn that were either trouble-spots (hard areas to grow) or simply impractical (better for parking spots). I have often encouraged you, my dear reader, to follow suit. Replacing maintenance-demanding sections of your yard with rocks, shrubs, or other "no-fuss" features is a great way to reclaim your weekends and save you money on the various chemicals used to keep that lawn looking like Fenway. You will appreciate the clean look as you head out on a bike ride instead of being stuck trying to get that hand-me-down lawnmower to run.
While this is something you should be aware of during the buying process, you may still incur fees for "improvements" to the neighborhood. Friends of mine live in Fort Collins, CO and even though they live in a single family home, they still pay HOA fees. I had no idea that was a "thing." If a petition passes to have a speed bump or radar sign installed, the cost is passed on to the homeowners. Property and city taxes are not utilized for these extra items. As someone who does not live in a neighborhood with an HOA, I think this is a great way to keep our taxes down and apply the costs to those who are going to benefit from the improvement.
Another thing that works differently everywhere is trash removal. Having lived in some rural areas in my life, when I first lived in a place that included trash pickup (for a fee, obviously) I felt I had died and gone to heaven. What a treat! We even pay a little extra to have brush/lawn clippings picked up during the summer months as well. Once you get settled into your new place, do some digging and find out how it will work where you now live. If you're lucky, those weekly trips to the dump may be a thing of the past (Although I did enjoy visiting with our boys at the dump in Lincoln!).
Renovations, while enticing, can prove to be a bit of a struggle. I am a huge fan of upgrading a space or renovating it to be more useful for me, the homeowner. We have covered, at length, the benefits of DIY as well as some of the pitfalls. "The primary piece of advice I give to new homeowners is to simply be aware of your limitations and temper your enthusiasm during the 'destruction' phase," notes Badger Realty agent, Kathleen Sullivan Head. "The gremlins often found behind a small section of sheetrock can railroad a quick upgrade into a full-blown room remodel with a single swing of the hammer," she continued.
Kathleen is spot-on with this one. Especially for those of us living in or buying older homes, you never really know what the previous owner may have hidden with some paint or sheetrock. If you prepare for the worst (but hope for the best), you will be slightly more ready when the project creep rears its ugly head. Don't just go tackling a wall like a linebacker or ripping off all the trim. Consider what additional steps you'll have to take to bring the job to the finish line. A quick conversation with a construction or remodeling professional will likely raise your awareness and give you some thoughts to consider before you start swinging that hammer.
The final little nugget I'll share is a side-benefit and/or maybe a bit of a curse. Once you have experienced the joy of homeownership, you will never want to go back to sharing walls again. Once you are able to stop listening to and smelling your neighbors through a shared wall, you will never want to go back. You can listen to your music as loud as you want and cook all the crazy, smelly things you want without having to worry about your building-mate. The freedom and independence provided with home ownership actually has me more excited than when I first started typing. Enough of this work stuff though, it's time to go find some birthday cake!