9 Things I Wish I Had Known About Owning My First Home (Before I Bought It)

Years before I ever dreamed of homeownership for myself, I was an HGTV connoisseur. In college, I double majored in “Property Virgins” and “House Hunters” and spent hours glued to the TV with my roommate, ogling other people’s granite countertops.

Fast forward nearly a decade, and the time had arrived for me to purchase my own home. (No granite countertops here—my house was more like the “before” scene in an episode of “Fixer Upper”).

Not surprisingly, TV homeownership didn’t prepare me for the real thing. There are lots of lessons I’ve had to learn the hard way.

If you’re gearing up for your own journey into homeownership, turn off the TV and gather ’round. I’ll fill you in on a few things I wish I had known beforehand, and a few surprises (some happy, some frustrating) that I encountered along the way.

1. A beautiful yard takes work

That lawn's not going ti cut itself
That lawn’s not going ti cut itself

mustafagull/iStock

I never met a succulent that I didn’t kill. Even my fake plants are looking a little wilted right now. But even though I don’t have a green thumb, landscaping and yard maintenance are forever on my to-do list.

Each spring, I spray Roundup with impunity, attempting (and failing) to conquer the weeds. My husband handles mowing and edging.

I’ve slowly started to learn which plants can endure abuse, neglect, and a volatile Midwestern climate. I still have a long way to go in my landscaping journey, but all this work has given me a new appreciation for other people’s lush, beautiful lawns.

When you’re house hunting, keep in mind that those beautiful lawns you see—and that outdoor space you covet—come at a steep price. Either your time and frustration, or a hefty bill for professional landscapers, will be necessary to keep things presentable.

2. You might get a bill for neighborhood improvements

Your property taxes should pay for every improvement to the neighborhood, right? Not necessarily.

When my neighbors came together to petition the city for a speed bump on our busy street, the cost was passed on to us homeowners. It wasn’t covered by property taxes, so we got a bill in the mail a few months later. Surprise!

When you’re preparing to buy a house, make sure you budget for homeownership expenses—not just repair and HOA costs, but those pesky fees that crop up when you least expect them.

3. Brush/trash removal? It works differently in every city

You might not be able to just leave your leaves on the curb...
You might not be able to just leave your leaves on the curb…

Instants/iStock

As a kid, I spent many fall weekends scooping leaves into yard waste bags that we left on the curb for pickup. But when I became a homeowner, I realized that my early brush with brush removal was unique to the suburb where I grew up. Every city handles it differently, if the city handles it at all.

In Milwaukee, where I live, homeowners can put leaves on the curb for pickup on designated days. For big branches, you need to request a pickup, or potentially dispose of them yourself. Check with your city to find the ordinances and regulations where you live.

4. You’ll want to clean (or hire someone to clean) your nasty windows

Window maintenance was never on my radar as a renter, probably because I never had more than a few windows in an apartment. But then I became the proud owner of many, many windows—and all of them were coated in a thick film of gunk after years of neglect.

After we moved in, I started to tackle the cleaning on my own. But I quickly realized I was getting nowhere fast, and there was no way I could safely clean the exterior windows up in the finished attic.

So, I swallowed my pride and hired window washers. It was some of the best money I’ve ever spent.

5. You may feel a sudden urge to stock up on seasonal decorations

I never looked twice at a $50 wreath or decorative gourd before becoming a homeowner. Now, I have a burgeoning collection of lawn ornaments in the shape of snowmen and spooky cats. Sometimes I don’t even know who I am anymore.

6. You’ll need to create a budget for Halloween candy

Stock up...
Stock up…

leekris/iStock

At least I did in my Halloween-loving neighborhood, where the trick-or-treaters come out in droves.

I spent upward of $100 on candy my first year as a homeowner, and most of it was purchased in a panic at the Dollar Store after I noticed that our supply was dangerously low just halfway through the evening.

Now, I stock up in advance and shop with coupons to save a few bucks.

7. DIY renovation is equally rewarding and soul-crushing

Maybe just call someone next time...
Maybe just call someone next time…

neirfy/iStock

For the first few months after we closed on our house, my husband and I spent every free hour after work and on the weekends ripping out carpeting, pulling nails one by one from the hardwood floors, and scrubbing away at generations’ worth of grime in the bathrooms and kitchen. It was some seriously sick stuff.

Being frugal and ambitious means we can accomplish a lot on a small budget. But acting as our own general contractors became a full-time job on top of both of our full-time jobs.

Simple pleasures like “having a social life” or “Friday night with Netflix” became distant memories. It’s easy now to say it was all worth it, but at the time, I daydreamed about winning the lottery and hiring a team of pros to handle our rehab.

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Watch: Here’s How Low You Can Go in Making an Offer on a Home

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8. My impulse to check real estate listings lingered for a while

When I started house hunting, I obsessively searched for new home listings every day, poring over MLS descriptions and swiping through photos. Reaching for my phone to refresh the realtor.com app became muscle memory.

But after we closed on our house, my impulse to follow the market didn’t disappear overnight. Even though I was a homeowner, I also had a phantom limb where “checking the real estate listings” used to be.

A friend of mine put it best when she wrote about the sensation of loss she experienced when she “no longer had an excuse to occupy [her] free time with these real estate apps.” It’s surprisingly challenging to turn off your home-buying brain after months of being on high alert.

9. You’ll never want to go back to sharing walls

I like my neighbors. I like them even more because, for the most part, I can’t hear them. Gone are the days of people above me making bowling sounds late at night.

Now, I enjoy the sweet, sweet silence of detached living—no adjacent neighbors blasting music or loudly quarreling. All the yard work in the world is worth it for this level of quiet.

Source: realtor.com

5 winter DIY home projects

If you’re the type that loves to take on a good DIY project, the winter season can leave your options … lacking. Don’t despair, there’s still plenty that needs to be done around your home even when it’s cold outside. Here’s a list of indoor DIY projects you can start tackling today.

  • Insulate your water heater. A source of heat during the winter, you can reduce your home’s energy usage by wrapping your water heater in insulation to keep your water hot, whether you’re using it or not.
  • Add a programmable thermostat. This one just makes sense when considering energy conservation. Programmable thermostats allow you to control the temperature of your home from anywhere and set preprogrammed temperature guidelines to lower your home’s temp when you’re away and raise it when you return.
  • A fresh coat of paint. Summer is the time for painting your home’s exterior, but the winter was made for inside painting projects. This is an easy way to add vibrancy to those dreary winter months. Just try to pick a day when it isn’t raining or snowing to make your ventilation easier.
  • Clear the clutter. Increase your living space by clearing junk. If you haven’t used it in a year, say goodbye.

Source: century21.com

Home Decor Projects for When You’re Snowed In

Sometimes it’s hard to see the upside of harsh winter weather, especially when snow storms leave you stuck inside. However, you can take advantage of a snow day by using the opportunity to improve your home decor. Here are some simple DIY projects for when you’re snowed in. Ask your children to help out (safely) for family fun time that may add a bit of luxury to your living space.

Decorative Lampshade
Add some pizzazz to a lampshade by gluing an inlaid paper cutout on its inner surface. Use a blade to cut a design from paper (either freehand or from a template), making sure to place a rubber mat down first to protect the surface underneath. With a mixture of 50% glue and 50% water, decoupage the paper cutout inside of the lampshade. Once it’s dry, turn the lamp on and admire the glowing design!

Fabric Wall Art
If you have some bold print fabric, use it to create art that pops. All you’ll need to buy are wooden frames of varying sizes and a hot glue gun. Cut the fabric wide enough so that there will be two inches leftover when stretched across a frame. Cover, glue, and voila! Create a gallery wall to display your new pieces.

Hanging Planters
If you have small planters in your indoor garden, consider hanging them for a fun look that will free up surface space. Simply drill two small holes close to the top edge of the planter. Make sure they’re exactly opposite from one another. Knot a thin but sturdy rope or twine inside each of the holes so you can hang them from a hook. Tip: Install the hook near a window so your plant can still get the sunlight it needs.

Memory Table
Memory tables are a great way to personalize your home. You’ll need a deep photo display and a similar sized coffee table. Using a strong wood glue, adhere the back of the photo display to the table. You can now place objects in the display to create a sentimental scene. Try using objects that are cohesive, such as trinkets and photos from a memorable family trip. You may want to glue the objects in place so they are not disturbed when the table is moved.

If you keep one (or more) of these projects in mind for your next snow day, getting snowed in might not seem so bad!

Source: century21.com

How to Remodel your Bathroom for Under $1000

Contrary to popular belief, updating your home doesn’t have to require a complete gut job. Often times just updating a few things can help change your perspective and breathe new life into your space. Bathrooms rank as one of the most important rooms in our homes, especially when you consider return on investment, but also in terms of comfort. Whether you’re looking for a spa like environment or a space that reflects your personal style, there are a lot of budget friendly ways to update your space. 

Read: 8 Signs It’s Time to Remodel Your Bathroom

spa bathroomspa bathroom
This post contains affiliate links, which cost you nothing extra, but help to bring amazing ideas your way. Read about Cribbs Style disclosure here.

Paint

It’s one of the most inexpensive, yet impactful ways to update any space, bathrooms included. If your room is smaller, paint the walls light and bright and do a fun color or focal treatment on the ceiling. It will help draw the eyes up making the room feel larger. Paint doesn’t stop just there. If you have an outdated vanity, spruce it up with a couple of coats of paint to give it a more updated look. 

Hardware

Don’t just stop with updating your vanity with paint, update the door and drawer pulls. You can go as inexpensive as spray painting the door and drawer pulls, or switching them out of a completely different style and/ or color. While you’re at it, don’t be afraid to update your tired towel bar, toilet paper holder, and don’t forget maybe giving your shower head an upgrade. 

Vanity Swap

Tired old vanities that can’t be salvaged with paint, can be swapped out for something that’s more on trend.

Before
After

What’s On Trend

Wanting to take things up a notch without breaking the bank? Peel and stick wallpaper is all the rage. Fashionable, functional, and perfect if you have no experience hanging wall paper. Best yet, peel and stick wallpaper won’t wreck your walls if you change your mind and decide later to remove it. 

If you like the look of this bathroom and want to draw some inspiration try incorporating this peel-and-stick wallpaper, my favorite shower curtain, and purchasing a floor stencil for added design.

Board and batten or shiplap can also be a great way to update your walls and you would be very surprised at how easy and inexpensive these wall treatments can actually be. Take it one step further and add these features half way up the wall, then either paint or add peel and stick wallpaper to the top of the wall. 

Update your flooring by adding some paint. Not only is it inexpensive, but you can totally change the look and colors of your flooring to better fit your space. Tile, linoleum, and wood can all be painted which is the perfect way to update without ripping out your floors. 

If this bathroom is more up your alley, you can start to update you space by using this peel-and-stick Wallpaper, this shower curtain, replacing your current hardware with this brushed gold hardware and creating a floor design with this floor stencil.

Accessorize

Bath mats, towels, and shower curtains have come a very long way. There are an array of colors and patterns out there to compliment any space. Switch it them out seasonally to keep your space fresh. 

Don’t forget that even swapping out your mirror can do a world of difference. If you’re still wanting to shine a new light on your bathroom, changing out your lighting may be a bright idea.

Freshening up the place where you freshen up can easily be done on a budget and without completely gutting your bathroom. Switching out your hardware, adding some paint or trying your hand at peel and stick wallpaper, can easily achieve a new look. Best part is, you can save yourself thousands of dollars and give yourself years of enjoyment in your new bathroom.


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Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.

Source: homes.com