HOME OWNERSHIP 101
Home ownership is a responsibility — very different from tenancy. When a repair is required in a rental situation, a simple phone call to the Property Manager or Leasing Agent will be the next step. A maintenance person flies into the rental property, and magically the issue get resolved. Having your own house is quite different.
There are no property managers nor a leasing agents. It will be up to you to decide what is required and find the resource(s) to complete your desired task(s). Many homeowners like the control (of deciding the type of repair and timing) versus contacting a property manager or maintenance staff. The homeowner may control everything in this scenario: the schedule, cost, and level of expertise of the person(s) hired to complete the task. The homeowner may also choose the quality of materials used for the repair.
Everyone can make the successful transition from being a tenant to a homeowner! You will need some assistance in this transition. First, the most important thing is awareness. Awareness of:
- How things work in a house
- How often home areas and system require maintenance
- Types of products/ tools/system/function and their lifespan
Developing an awareness of your home and the systems / services / functions required to maintain it goes a long way. Additionally, this awareness will help you better identify issues and enhance your ability to describe them to others (i.e. contractors, handymen, helpful neighbors, etc).
The great news is, you don’t have to know how to fix most things on your own. Therefore, the second resource you will need is a strong network. Believe it or not.. your network is all around you. Chances are you already know people who can either help you (or knows someone who can)! If you don’t believe you know anyone and aren’t familiar with your neighbors, don’t worry! The internet has several sites dedicated to locating highly ranked / rated contractors, maintenance companies, home builders, plumbers, electricians… whatever you need!
A common question comes to priorities of repairs. This is a tough question, and it must be discussed. Many people will have opinions about this one, so I will offer you my opinion. If your home requires many repairs, I will suggest considering this order:
- Security – Anything that is needed to secure the property (and you/your family inside) should take the highest priority.
- Fire / water / gas – If it is a fire hazard or you smell gas or if there is a major water issue, these are the next priority. If you smell gas, you should contact the gas company immediately and follow their instructions around accessing the home.
- Sewer – sewer breaches, backups and issues causing standing water in your yard or basement is next on the list.
The above listed things can cause the most damage and can be extremely dangerous. Your safety is always the utmost priority
- HVAC/Water Heater – Furnace, Air Conditioning unit and Water heater are the next priority, as they relate to internal environmental conditions of the home. Remember, heating / cooling a home in extreme temperatures is important (for example: no heat in the winter can lead to plumbing issues if the water in your pipes freeze).
- Appliance Failure – While some may think appliance failures are more of an inconvenience and not as important, think again. Malfunctioning refrigerators and dishwashers can leak water and cause water damage. Pay attention to your appliances and ensure they stay in good condition. Be sure to price repairs. In some cases, it may be cheaper to replace than repair.
As you probably guessed, I can write an entire separate book on home ownership. There is so much to discuss here. . Until that time, I would like to briefly discuss some very important categories.
Please note: this is NOT meant to be a comprehensive guide with everything you need to know. This serves as a great starting point. Please do your research if additional details are required.
I highly encourage anyone who owns a home to create a list of contractors. The one tool I recommend is a notebook of contractors. Talk to your friends, neighbors and co-workers. Many will have stories about repairs needed on their homes. Did they have a good experience with a contractor? Grab that person’s information! Did they have a bad experience? Grab that too! Create a notebook of contractors. Include their contact information, any notes from previous experiences (personal or referral), as well as dates/times you used them. Write as much as you can about each contractor. In the back of your notebook, save some pages to record the “Who Not to Contact” list. This list is just as important, no need to repeat bad experiences! Your notebook will become increasingly valuable the more you enter into it. This notebook will also give you reference information for others you meet as well!
What type of contractors should you include into your notebook? All that you interact with! Make sure to find and include the following: plumbers, handyman, electrician, roofers, landscapers, concrete, tree trim, painters, sewer repair and exterminators. If you don’t have a recommendation of someone for each of these categories, then do some research and find a highly rated company. Once this company is used, you can record your experience!
Important Home Systems
Your new house has a number of important systems inside that give it function and make things comfortable. Some of the main systems are: garbage disposals, kitchen appliances, HVAC (furnace, air conditioning unit), the water heater.
Each of these systems, when malfunctioning, have downstream effects on other areas of the property. For example, a faulty garbage disposal can lead to plumbing issues and even sewage back-ups in your basement. A disabled dishwasher may seem like an inconvenience that you can work around, until you see the standing water (once located in the bottom of your dishwasher) leak onto your kitchen floor and creates a foul stench in the whole house. Another important example relates to your furnace. Most furnaces require filters which are designed to capture outside particles (like dust, dirt, pollen) from coming inside. These filters must be changed regularly. Furnace filters filled with dirt and debris may prevent proper air flow and could ultimately damage your furnace.
As you can see, keeping these systems functioning and properly maintained is very important, not only to your comfort but to the well-being of the entire house.
Home maintenance is probably the most talked about topic when it comes to home ownership. The old sayings are true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Proper regular maintenance will help avoid costly repairs and/or property damage.
Maintenance schedules and frequency is at the discretion of the homeowner. I strongly suggest considering reviewing and creating a maintenance schedule for the following areas: lawn care and bushes, tuck-pointing (most common for brick homes), roofs and chimneys, HVAC filters and seasonal maintenance (i.e. furnace cleaning, AC & furnace annual inspections).
Smart homes is a newer feature of property ownership. I guarantee you it is here to stay! Major developments have occurred in this area. By definition, a smart home is a home equipped with lighting, heating, and electronic devices that can be controlled remotely by phone or computer. The amount of devices within a smart home varies. Depending on your preference, you may elect to have one device (like a programmable thermostat that you can access from your smartphone), or many devices (like an online security system, Wi-Fi enabled faucets, sound equipment, doorbells, Wi-Fi light bulbs, outlets… the list goes on).
I encourage you to do your research in this area. Protecting your home network and the credentials on the device is vital to your home health and security.
Homeowners insurance is a form of property insurance that covers losses and damages to an individual’s residence, along with furnishings and other assets in the home. Homeowners insurance also provides liability coverage against accidents in the home or on the property.
An insurance agent (or website) is a great place to gain knowledge of this area. Major components of insurance are: amount of coverage (Will it replace the home and contents of a total loss?), deductibles (the amount of money you have to pay to process an insurance claim), types of coverage events (does it cover earthquake, storm, hurricane, fire damage?), and the monthly payment. Most home loans require homeowner’s insurance. Many mortgages pay for your insurance for the entire year, and collect monthly payment installments for next year in a process called “escrow”. Taxes are commonly also paid in this manner.
As your family expands or your lifestyle evolves, you could wish to add a bedroom or two, a home office, den, or playroom, extend your kitchen, or build a porch, sun room, or sauna. Pools may be beneficial for family pleasure and health, but you need consider the time, energy, and money necessary for regular upkeep in addition to the initial cost. If you want to raise the value of your house, avoid home improvements that are too eccentric or distinctive. Kitchen and bathroom upgrades, completed attics and basements, entrances, garage doors, windows, and siding are commonly the projects with the highest return on investment.