We’ve been living in our new house for seven months now, so I’m pretty sure that makes me an expert on being a new homeowner. And whether or not that’s actually true doesn’t matter, because everyday I learn more and more about what it means to own a house. Sure, we can make it our own so much more than any apartment, but there are also tons of pieces we never even thought about. Here are the top five things I’ve learned as a new homeowner, so far.

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1. Mortgages are confusing… until they aren’t

I’ll admit it, most of my dealings with financial institutions before this were completely online, and fairly simple: checking accounts, saving accounts, cash back rewards credit cards. Those things are easy. But it turns out when you want to borrow a large sum of money from a bank, it gets a little more complex.

I struggled at first with understanding some of the major concepts. What’s the difference between the interest rate and APR? How in the world does an escrow account work? And why do I need to pay so much money in closing costs?

I think someone explained escrow to me four times before it clicked, but now I fully get it. By the time we chose a lender and signed any paperwork, we were major mortgage experts. Seriously, ask me your questions. I got this now. At least in New York.

2. The previous owners are the worst

“How did they even live here before?” is a question that’s come out of my mouth multiple times in the first few months of homeownership. We’ll probably never know the gritty details of our home’s past life, but we were left with some evidence that just didn’t make any sense.

I’ve started reading the /r/homeowners subreddit, and I’ve learned that it’s not just us. Everyone seems to think the previous owners of their homes were just the worst. They broke things, left other things unfinished, did horrible DIY jobs, and had the worst taste in paint colors.

But it starts to feel less like their home and more like our home each day. So now it doesn’t matter that the HVAC was full of cat hair, or they improperly installed a faucet so it never got hot water. We fixed those details, touched up the paint, and are slowly unraveling their rough legacy.

3. Find a good, local hardware store

Speaking of fixing up those details, Home Depot felt a little bit like our second home for the first few weeks. I am happy to say that has slowed down quite a bit. However, we still find ourselves there way more often than when we were apartment dwellers.

It’s amazing how we can always need something, whether it’s a paint sample for a fun room makeover, soil for our healthy growing plant children, or hardware to fix the next thing that breaks. There is always something. That’s another phrase that apparently all homeowners say a lot, and we are finding it true.

4. Find the balance between ideas and flexibility

I moved in with all these big ideas. We’re painting the sitting room, we’re buying a king size bed, we’re adding a porch. But the house had other plans for these first few months. Instead of getting right into the fun stuff, we were stuck fixing a few things that really needed our attention.

But that doesn’t mean abandoning all the big dreams. Instead, I’ve learned that it’s all about adjusting timelines. So we didn’t have a porch for this summer, maybe we’ll start it next year instead. And we put off painting and buying furniture, but that doesn’t mean it will never happen.

We did accomplish plenty of small goals, like buying a new fridge, setting up a functional guest room, acquiring a kitchen table, and unpacking enough to host a housewarming party. Reevaluating and little victories are the new big dreams around here.

5. The little surprises make everything worth it

Sure, it’s hard but it’s also amazing that we own this beautiful thing that we can pour our love and lives into. And we didn’t even expect some of the things that are now our favorite parts of our new home. Here are just a couple of the little surprises I love:

  • We discovered berry bushes in the yard, raspberries in the back and blackberries in the front. Now we have a few jars of the most local blackberry jam ever canned in the pantry.
  • The windows on the first floor are the perfect height for our dog, Tessa (she’s the white one), to place her front paws on the sills and peek out. She loves watching the neighbors, and keeping watch for any danger! Our newest pup Oscar (the black one) can reach too, but he’s still getting used to everything.
  • My mom calls it “the menagerie,” but essentially we have some typical suburban wildlife that we’ve grown to love seeing: bunnies, birds, deer, a groundhog named Gus. It’s fun to watch the animals every day. Now that it’s winter we see less of them, but they make appearances every once in awhile.

So four months in, and that’s where we are. I’ve only had one major moment of panic (when we had to ozone the basement for cat odors, thanks previous owners) but otherwise, it’s great! I’m sure the next seven months, and all the years to come will bring plenty of new surprises and lessons – and we can’t wait.

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20 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned as a New Homeowner

  1. We’re hoping to buy our first house in the next year and these are things that I totally never thought of! I also have no idea how mortgages work, I learned in a business class one time but I can’t remember. Hopefully, I get it fast when we do have one.

    1. It’s good to have a really great realtor that you can ask questions to, but we also found that we asked mortgage providers a lot as well, before we selected one. It’s all so different depending on where you live and your own credit situation, so make sure you build a good team that can help you!

  2. I married into being a homeowner lol and quickly realized that there is a lot to it! So many little things pop up each month and Home Depot is now a new best friend (; These are great tips I enjoyed reading!

    1. Haha, there’s always some new fun surprise that needs to be fixed! Our house is fairly young, so we have been pretty lucky so far, but I think they might be starting to recognize at Home Depot. Thank you!

    1. It was a lot to handle for sure, and we are very lucky that we had a great team that was able to talk things through with us.

  3. Congrats on your new home! I love that you shared your thoughts about small goals. It can seem so overwhelming when moving into a new home. I think I just need to make a list to make it seem more doable.

    1. I have a spreadsheet! I have all my projects listed out my room, and there’s space to budget and determine timelines. It definitely helps to have things organized.

  4. I love reading about your experience. My husband and I hope to purchase a home in the next few years, but we’re kinda clueless about the process, so it’s great to hear from others what they learned during the home-buying process. Your sweet home (and your doggos) is so cute!

    1. Thank you! We had a lot of fun learning about everything, and it’s definitely an adventure. We were totally clueless when we started too, but we didn plenty of research and found a really knowledgeable realtor to help us out. One tip is to get a realtor that really knows the area and can recommend any of the other people you’ll need to hire, like inspectors and lawyers.

    1. It’s true! In an apartment we would just call maintenance when something broke, now we go to YouTube tutorials and Home Depot to fix everything!

  5. We’re not homeowners yet, but when you were talking about mortgages being confusing until they aren’t, I just kept thinking about how I feel the same way about insurance. I no longer dread talking insurance or switching things to fit our needs, I actually enjoy it a bit.

    Happy homeownership!

    1. Yep, it’s just like that. It can be a complicated process, but something just clicked and we felt like we suddenly understood everything. It was good timing too, because we needed to put in an offer!

  6. Gotta love number 5! Little surprises are so wonderful. I built the current house that I live in now so there were none of those. But tell me about the local hardware store being your second home! Oh, the fun ?

    1. Thank you! The little surprises make some of the unexpected repairs worth it. Luckily, you won’t have to deal with those either building your own home!

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