20 Survival Tips for Homeowners
Being a homeowner can be exciting and fun at times, with lots of freedom to make it your own space!
As a homeowner, though, you’re the one in charge of any repairs, maintenance, finances, and improvements over the long haul. Whether you’re a first time homeowner or you’ve owned many, it’s important to stay informed about how you can make life as a homeowner less stressful and more rewarding.
Here are 20 fun “survival” tips that I hope will help you thrive effortlessly in your home for years to come:
1. Create a home manual JUST for your home, not for anybody else’s. This can be an old-school binder with plastic pockets to hold documents, or an iCloud folder(s) with scanned documents, or one of the many home maintenance apps out there you can download. Pick whatever system will keep you organized and stay on track!
Keep information about your home and its systems, and any owner manuals (or know you can access them online or through a home maintenance app).
Keep track of service records; warranties; the age of your roof, furnace, water heater, washer/dryer, refrigerator and other important appliances; even include paint colors and other decorating information; receipts for furniture. Don’t forget to include any landscaping work and how to care for your plants, shrubs, and flowers.
2. Maintain an updated list of phone numbers of contractors and other professional services. Include yourplumber, electrician, utility company, landscaper, HVAC, etc., so you can contact them quickly when you need to. Also keep notes on each of their visits and get second opinions for larger repair or replacement recommendations.
3. Keep records and receipts of your home improvement and maintenance costs. When you sell, it shows where you have added value and what you’ve done to keep up your home. Several types of improvements also can qualify for tax incentives come tax time so be sure to share the receipts on a yearly basis with your CPA.
4. Keep a realistic pace and budget for buying things you need for your home. Having a home means there’s always a long list of big and little things you need to buy or want to upgrade, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. The list could go on and on — from window treatments, lawn mower, rakes, cleaning supplies, vacuum, a sectional couch, deck furniture, lamps, etc.
You’re going to grow with this home so make a plan and a budget. If you do need to buy, then shop for sales, bargains, flea markets. Buy off season or at the end of a season for major savings.
5. Have an emergency fund for any unexpected costs. No matter how well your home has been taken care of by you or the previous owner, there are going to be some unexpectedsurprises, so be prepared. Something will break and you won’t be able to delay fixing it – a cold winter night and your furnace stops working, a tree falls on your house, or a baseball goes through one of your windows. Most experts recommend have 3-6 months of living expenses saved. Expect the unexpected!!
6. Cut the costs of utility bills by conserving how much heat, electricity, A/C, and water you use in your home. You’ll your wallet! Turn down your heat and wear sweaters in the winter; and set an automatic thermostat at an efficient temperature in the summer and winter months. First-time homeowners can contact their utility companies for an estimate on rates for each month of the year.
7. Hire an accountant so you know how to prepare your taxes correctly and can maximize your refund and get the deductions you deserve. Even getting them done by a professional one year so you have a template for future years is a good idea. You may learn you’ll get tax credits on energy efficient appliances etc.
8. Make sure you have enough homeowner’s insurance and it doesn’t miss anything like flood and fire protection. Also take out life insurance so you have coverage so your family won’t lose their home. Ditto on having disability-income insurance so you can stay in your home.
9. You never want to ignore any problems or damage you see in your home. A minor problem can turn into a big, more costly one before you know it! Consistent, regular maintenance of your home is important to combat the usual wear and tear and also any severe weather conditions such as flooding, snow, ice, and heat.
10. Create an inspection list and go through your home twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, to check on the condition of each item. We aren’t suggesting you hire a home inspector every year! Instead, you should go through your home, just as your inspector did before you bought it with a keen eye once per year.
Your list should include both inside and outside items: roof, windows, foundation, gutters, attic, insulation, HVAC, chimney, driveway, etc. Look for damage from water leaks, mold, and pests such as termites, mice, squirrels, rats.
Flag any key life expectancies when you conduct these inspections, so you inspect even more carefully near that time. For example, your roof can last 15-20 years if it has asphalt shingles, or up to 50+ if it has slates.
11. Know your major appliances – such as fridge, stove/oven, dish washer, washer/dryer — and how they work, how to maintain them (like changing your filter), who to call for repairs, and how old they are now and their life expectancies. How long they last depends a lot on your care of them and also your specific product.
For example, a fridge can last from 9-13 years; air conditioning unit from 8-15 years, a water heater 10-11 years. Again, refer to owner manuals and keep necessary receipts in whatever home organization system you have chosen.
12. Buy tools you’ll use regularly to maintain your home and to make minor repairs. Every homeowner should have a toolbox but don’t go out and buy something you may only need once; you can sometimes rent that or share the cost with friends or neighbors.
Experts say you should buy tape measurer, utility knife, four-in-one screwdriver, hammer, putty knife, saw, wrench, pliers, drill/driver. Every homeowner should also go through a tube of caulk about once per year.
13. Learn some basic DIY skills that can save you time and money on repairs. There’s lots of information out there on YouTube and other online resources. You can learn basic how-to’s on just about everything from how to unclog a drain or patch a hole in the wall.
Consider taking some classes at your local hardware store. You can save so much per year if you can do some of the basic repairs and upkeep yourself.
14. Hiring a qualified, professional contractor or recommended handyman for bigger or more complex jobs. If it’s something more complicated than a clogged drain, for example, maybe that’s where you draw the line on the DIY. Plus, you want your larger or more complex repairs to get a higher level of expertise so you can maintain the value of your home. When you sell your home, shoddy work is something you can’t hide from buyers!
15. Be patient and don’t expect your home to look like a HGTV makeover overnight. That’s not reality-TV at all! However, those shows are worth watching since they can inspire you with ideas for all the rooms in your home and even your yard. You probably won’t feel like your home is ever “done” but you can continue to make it more “yours” in a way that matches your budget.
16. Live in your home for a while to get a feel for the ebb and flow of it, which can help you decide what furniture you really need and what will function best in the space. There’s no harm in some empty rooms or a drafty corner for a while! And if you plan to eventually remodel, this time is well spent on learning how your family actually moves about your home. And again, budget and pace yourself with your purchases of furniture, window treatments, and accessories.
17. Paint is a cheap, quick fix-up. A fresh coat of paint will completely transform a room.
18. Having neighbors as a homeowner can be very different than when renting — you want to forge a good relationship with them since you may live near them for a long time. You don’t have to be overfriendly if that’s not your style, but neighbors can be a good source of information about the community and help you out when needed (borrow that shovel you never bought in time or an onion for that chili recipe!).
19. Do what you can to help to create a positive community feel to your condo, street or neighborhood and make it a place you will love to live in. Get involved and attend your condo meetings, help host an annual block party on your street, or hold regular summer happy hours, etc. Plus, having a great community feel can be a good selling point when the time comes.
20. Sign up for a neighborhood listserv or community blog to get all the inside information. You’ll know what’s going on in your neighborhood (someone just spotted a fox!) and get recommendations for a handyman, plumber, mother’s group, or even a piano teacher. If you are on social media, join the local Facebook community group. Plus, they may be a source of entertainment at times!
Phew! Keep all of these tips in mind so your home will run smoothly, and you hopefully will avoid any mishaps! If you have any questions, need any recommendations for contractors or just want to run a project you are thinking about by me to know how much value it may add to your home, I’m here for you. I am your go-to resource to help you thrive as a homeowner and I’d love to hear from you anytime.
I'm Carmen Cotto-Rivera and I love helping first time home buyers, including Spanish speakers, buyer their first home. I also love helping sellers looking to move up or downsize to their next home. Let me know how I can help you make your real estate goals come true.
921 Pleasant Valley Av
Mt. Laurel, NJ 08054
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