In the season finale of my web series Awkward Money Chat, I described how my house was my best money decision. Although, as many of you know the entire experience of purchasing, renovating and owning my home has been fraught with trouble. Until recently, I was contemplating selling the home and just being done with it (more on that later.)
I like to think of the first year of homeownership akin to (what I assume to be) the first year of marriage. It’s often the most difficult, because you don’t know what to expect. You’re used to something different (renting) and the entire year is spent adjusting. It isn’t as great as you think it would be, and it often involves a lot….a lot… of hard work.
Next week it will be my one year anniversary of closing on the house. I’m celebrating in my own small way, but there are still things I would change if I could.
Here are the 5 things I would have done differently during my First Home Purchase.
I Would Have Bought a Condo
Hind-sight is always 20-20, isn’t that what they say? I did the best job I could and made a decision based on the set of circumstances that were true at the time. If I had a crystal ball to see if I would have been a single female homeowner three months after I bought the house then, yeah, I would have bought a lower maintenance condo and skipped the renovations altogether.
But I don’t know, it hasn’t been all bad. And I now know all kinds of crazy stuff, like how to hang a light fixture, troubleshoot plumbing problems, and DIY all over the place. And I do feel a sense of empowerment having weathered a major renovation on my first home-alone. That counts for something.
I Would Have Prioritized Renovation Projects Better
I renovated the downstairs bathroom instead of the “master” bath, because the green bathroom was hideous and I couldn’t stand to look at it. Yet every day when I run out of counter space or have to shower in my teeny-tiny stall, I wish I’d done it differently.
I Would Have Asked More Questions
I think there is a difference between paying attention and asking questions. You can pay attention your whole life and never get up the nerve to ask questions. I think I was afraid to ask questions during the mortgage and renovation process because I was (obviously) out of my depth and didn’t want to seem unintelligent. Particularly when fishy things began happening with my contractor, I questioned him once and took his half-assed explanation at face value.
I Would Have Done More Research
I only shopped at two places for a mortgage. I only got two bids for the renovation work (partially because it was difficult to find a contractor willing to take on 203k renovation loan.) I didn’t check references or anything. I just felt like I got a “good vibe” from my contractor and trusted my gut. Sometimes even your gut can be wrong, and there isn’t anything bad about backing up a “gut feeling” with a little hard research.
I Would Have Budgeted More
I mentioned this before in the article on HGTV Frontdoor. I had my budget for the purchase and the renovation. Even without the down-payment assistance I received from the City of Atlanta, the budget barely left any room for overages. If I’d done more research, I would have been able to make a better budget. My rule of thumb now? Whatever I think something home-related is going to cost, I double it..just in case. Better to be surprised than stressed.
Many of you have followed up with me regarding this post, and I’ve decided to stay-put for another year at least. Not because of the capital gains tax, but after consulting with a realtor, I don’t think I’d be able to sell the house and make my money back, which even though money isn’t an important thing, I can’t take a loss on the house. At least not this year. I also really tried to imagine myself moving again and the thought exhausted me, so I’m here for the time being. I’m even working on a few house projects (posts to come in the following weeks.) Thanks to everyone who weighed in with such great advice!
Want to hear more of my journey as a first-time homeowner? Click to watch the latest episode of Awkward Money Chat.