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.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I will earn a commission if you click through and buy something, at no additional cost to you!
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.