You did it: You reviewed your credit report, worked on your credit score, determined how much house you can afford, got pre-approved, and became a first-time homeowner. We’re exhausted just listing all you’ve accomplished! You should be proud of yourself—very proud of yourself.
Pat yourself on the back, but don’t throw away the good, responsible habits that you used to buy a home. You want to protect the real estate you’ve worked so hard for by avoiding common home ownership mistakes … particularly within the first year.
Though this list isn’t exhaustive, it does contain the most common mistakes that seem to befall first-time homebuyers.
1. Purchasing Too Much Too Soon
Your expenses don’t stop once escrow closes. This is especially true if you’re transitioning from an apartment to your first single-family home.
It’s easy—and understandable—to get overwhelmed with the options for personalizing, modernizing, and redecorating. Oh, and furniture: That $3,500 leather sofa would look so good in the living room, wouldn’t it?
Maybe it would, but that money would also look really good in your bank account. Jumping into too many purchases or renovations too soon can be a costly mistake. When you buy a house, you shouldn’t just determine how much you can afford, but also your budget for furnishings, upgrades, and repairs.
And we know what you’re thinking: “But I’ve got a credit card for that!” A credit card can certainly help when money is tight, but you don’t want to get into debt as a first-time homebuyer. Especially if the faux-leather version of the sofa is one-third the price.
2. Not Expecting Supplemental Property Taxes
You know you have to factor in property taxes when determining how much house you can afford.
This notion sometimes goes out the window, though, when you receive the first bill for your property taxes and it looks a lot lower than you anticipated. You just got a windfall, right? Wrong.
APM’s trusted Loan Advisors always mention that there may be some additional supplemental property taxes after your home purchase. These taxes typically come from the county and cover the difference between the newly assessed value of the house and what it used to appraise for.
This tax is normally prorated for the remaining number of months in the year. When you buy a house, you should expect this notice during your first year of homeownership.
3. Having Inadequate Insurance
Your mortgage lender will require proof of homeowners insurance, but that doesn’t mean the minimum coverage suffices. Review your homeowners insurance policy with your provider, and ask questions. This includes worst-case-scenario questions about natural disasters and what the policy covers.
We know it’s a bummer to think about having to rebuild a home when you’ve just bought it, but it’s a good idea—especially if it turns out you’re underinsured. You’ll want to consider your risk tolerance, monthly premiums, deductible, and whether a personal liability umbrella policy may be a good idea for you.
4. Underestimating Home Improvement Costs
A leather couch may sound like a good use of money, but that leaky sink? Pssssh. You can fix that yourself … right? That depends: Are you a licensed plumber?
You don’t have to go to the professionals for every little thing, but as a first-time homeowner you should know when to call for backup. Electrical wiring, home additions or expansions, and plumbing-related issues tend to require a pro.
Here’s something else to consider: Many of these repairs or renovations may also require a permit or an HOA approval, if you have an HOA. That’s right: It may be your house, but failing to follow the protocol with major changes can be a costly homeownership mistake.
Conversely, if you’re in an HOA, some of those repairs may be included in what the HOA pays for (outdoor items in particular), so be sure you’re familiar with the details of your association.
5. Ignoring Routine Maintenance
There’s a huge difference between a flooding toilet and a faucet that drips every 30 seconds. You have to prioritize, after all. But once you’ve tackled all the “must fix ASAP” items on your list, you should still turn your attention to smaller things.
This includes both noticeable items like a leaky faucet or drafty window and those that don’t jump out at you. (Has anyone ever cleaned out that chimney?)
Create a list of recurring, preventive maintenance tasks and stay on it. Replace old light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs, check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, clean your gutters, change your filters, and winterize your pipes.
Set aside an emergency fund that not only covers big-ticket repairs like a broken refrigerator, but also smaller items like a broken sprinkler.
If ignored, these “small items” can turn into costly mistakes. It’s better to nip issues in the bud when you first notice a problem—or better yet when you’re conducting your quarterly maintenance review!
Need a Little Help?
The first year of home ownership is such an exciting time. Don’t let a costly mistake (or two) dampen the mood. The good news is your APM Loan Advisor is always here—even after you close. Contact us anytime with homeownership questions. We’re available to help!