Buying your first home is exciting, but it creates a whole new set of responsibilities as well. Your home is a complex set of interconnected systems working together to keep you warm, safe, and dry. Many first time home owners start out happy but soon find themselves wondering if they own their home or if their home owns them. Below are the ten mistakes we think new home owners make and how to avoid them.
1. Thinking a New Home Doesn’t Need Maintenance
Buying a newly constructed home with the thought that you don’t need to pay any attention to it is asking for trouble. While it is unlikely you will need to replace any major components like your roof or furnace in that time, you still need to pay attention. By keeping ahead of the maintenance requirements and performing regular inspections on your home, you will catch problems before they become serious, expensive headaches, and you will extend the life of components in your home.
2. Not Factoring Maintenance and Repair Costs into Your Budget
You’ve probably already considered mortgage payments, insurance, taxes, and utility bills in your budget, but what about maintenance? Expect to spend between 3% and 5% of the value of your home annually on maintenance. This includes the little things like furnace filters or eavestrough cleaning, to replacement of major components like your roof or furnace. If you bought a new home, these costs will be lower (but not zero!) for the first ten years.
3. Not Inspecting the Properly Thoroughly
You have big dreams about a new kitchen or tearing out a wall and making your master suite a sanctuary from the world. You know exactly what countertop you want and even the paint color, but have you considered what you’ll find when you start tearing things out? What about the systems that keep your home dry, safe, and livable?
Home improvements often add to the value of your home, but you are wasting time and money if you don’t also look after the stuff you can’t see. You are asking for trouble if you replace the kitchen cabinets but neglect to correct plumbing or electrical issues behind the wall. It doesn’t make sense to redo the kitchen if you desperately need a roof replacement. Even without all the upgrades you dream of, your home will maintain value if well maintained.
4. Tackling Projects Beyond Your Skill Level
It’s almost always the case that the things you do first and last are often the easiest parts of the job. Things often get sticky in the middle, and this is where having experience helps. Just knowing what all the steps are for your project can go a long way to making the road smoother. Here are some facts you need to be aware of before you start:
- You may need a permit and drawings for your project
- There’s always a right or best way to do things…and a hundred wrong ways
- The job will take longer, and cost more than you plan for, so plan for it.
- Know your limits both in tolerance for living in a construction zone and ability to complete all the tasks required. If you aren’t confident about any task, get a professional to do the work.
5. Neglecting to Create a Safety Plan
No professional contractor starts work without a site assessment and the required personal protective equipment. Follow their lead and take the time to make sure you are working safe. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for any materials you plan to use. They will list safety requirements like the use of glasses or a particular respirator or gloves. Look for site hazards like places you might trip or fall or things you might accidentally stand on that could hurt you. Make sure everyone working with you has the proper protective gear and knows how to use it. ALWAYS keep the guards on cutting tools.
6. Making Poor Material Choices
There is almost no end to the variety of materials available to finish your space, but some come with baggage; they need regular attention. You may fall in love with a tile at the store and become disillusioned when you discover stains showing up in it after the reno is finished. Sometimes, the marketing isn’t exactly accurate, and that flooring is not as resilient as you thought. You may encounter a product with very specific installation requirements that are beyond your skill level or require specialized tools. Finally, some products have better after install support than others or parts that are more common and easy to source.
When choosing materials for your renovation or new build, get the manufacturer’s installation and care instructions and carefully read them. Make sure you are comfortable with the requirements including special tools, fasteners, adhesion products, sealing products, and general care. Search for problems other homeowners have had with the product or type of material and determine if this applies to you.
7. Listening to the Wrong Advice
There is no shortage of advice available. Whether you ask a neighbour, visit the local hardware store, or simply search the internet you are likely to have multiple, sometimes competing answers to your questions. The challenge is in knowing which recommendation to take. Taking the wrong advice could end up costing you, so how can you reduce this risk without becoming an expert yourself? Consider the source:
- Are they experts in their field with demonstrated certification or knowledge? For example, are they the manufacturer of the product you are interested in, or a qualified professional in the subject area
- Are they local? The question of where vapor barrier should be installed is different depending on where you live. Asking even an expert in the wrong location could result in the wrong advice.
- Do other experts agree? Look for additional expert, local sources who agree with the advice you found. Get a second opinion from an equally trustworthy source
8. Waiting Until Later to Fix Things
If something is starting to fail in your home, waiting until later will only increase your risk of a much more expensive problem. If a small component has failed in your furnace, deal with it right away before more parts begin to break otherwise you could be dealing with a broken blower motor which means no heat in your home.
9. Not Thinking Ahead
When my Dad pulled the fridge or stove out to do some repairs, my Mom took the opportunity to clean behind the appliances. This is the approach you should take with home improvements. If you are finishing your basement, leaving problems behind the walls will only cost you later on. Deal with issues like old plumbing and electrical while you have the chance.
10. Ignoring the Big Picture
Most homeowners have a fuzzy big picture in their heads for how they would like their home to look…eventually. But the reality is most of us don’t have the budget to make all those changes at once, so we break it up into chunks. If those chunks are not carefully thought out, it will cost more to complete your dreams.
Have a complete plan for all the work you want or hope to complete and share this with your contractors so that they can recommend the most efficient path to completion. You may have to accept smaller changes on the surface, but it will save you money in the long run.