I'm currently certain I want to rent for the rest of my life, but I still daydream about possibly purchasing a home...and then, I get overwhelmed in my fantasy. There's so much that goes into owning a home, and I know nothing about it. Most people would ask their parents, but mine hate talking about it (and honestly, I don't blame them).
1. "You should keep a schedule of things that need to be checked and replaced on a regular basis, such as: Change ventilation intake filters every two to three months, and when you do make a change, write the date on the new filter so you know how old it is. It's also good to clean your dryer's lint trap at least every two to three loads. And your washing machine has a lint trap, too, which I didn't learn for years. Check your washing machine manual for how to do this since it's different for different models, and clean that out at least once a year. Beware: The first time might be disgusting."
2. "Learn where your waterline cutoff is, and make sure you have a tool to turn it. That way, in the event of a faucet or a hose spigot failing, you can minimize the damage while you fix it or call a plumber."
"Likewise, if you're in a place like Texas where the houses aren't built to take cold, you can cut off the water and open the taps to keep the pipes from freezing and splitting."
3. "Have a designated location for all, and I mean all, owners manuals. You might not need them, but at some time, you might need to know the make/model of your weed trimmer, or of your garbage disposal."
"I'd add that most of these are online or available in electronic format (PDF), so download it, and keep it on your phone or in the cloud."
4. "Invest in a set of tools. Even if you use them occasionally, a good set of tools (power and hand tools) will enable you to save big in simple to moderate repairs and purchase of things you can make yourself. Sometimes, there are screaming deals on midrange and better quality five-and-six piece power tool sets for sub-$200, sometimes even less. If you think you'll be regularly working on your home/building things, invest the few extra dollars on the quality brands."
5. "Buy homeowners and contents insurance. They are often separate. And when buying a home, include the property tax in your budget. It always goes up every year."
6. "Have a good credit card when looking to finance appliance purchases. Low interest purchases, and possible extension of the manufacturer's warrantee on appliances or fixtures, can help you in the long run. Keep the receipts for major appliances you purchase. They're very helpful for returns or manufacturer refunds and warrantee service work."
7. "When you paint, tile, wallpaper, or whatever, make sure you write down information about that product — brand, name of the color, pattern, what room it's in, when and where you bought it from, etc. I do this on the back of the paint chips of the color I use, and write down information on other items in a notebook that I keep with my homeowner's policy and manuals."
8. "Experts who can bang out repairs and make bookcases from scrap lumber found in the gutter make it look hard because they've done it a million times, but you can fix and build stuff, too. YouTube is a godsend to learn how. Experts hate it!"
9. "I used to work for insurance companies, and determined the value of every little thing in your house. I'd go head-to-head with those fire-truck-chasing professional loss adjusters. Our goal was to use the information you provided and give the lowest damn value we could justify for your item. If you don't want to get screwed, be more detailed with the items you're claiming. For instance, if you reported only 'toaster,' we would come up with a cheap $4.88 toaster from Walmart that toasts one side of the bread at a time. And we would do that for everything you have ever owned. If you said 'toaster — $25,' we'd have to be within 20% of that, so we'd find something pretty much dead-on $20.01. Now, if you said 'high-end toaster, stainless steel, blue glowing power button,' you might get $35-$50 instead. We had to match all features that were listed. Also, don't leave out little things like shower curtain rings. It adds up."
10. "Always maintain your roofs and gutters."
"Cleaning the gutters is easy enough on a single story — just use a ladder and a hose. As for the roof, set money aside to replace or repair it about every 10 years. They don't last forever, and leaks will destroy a home quicker than you think."
11. "Make sure you know the location of your circuit breakers, and that each breaker is properly labeled. Same with main power cutoff, too."
12. "Solid rule of thumb: If you hear running water, you should check on it. Even if you know it’s running because the washer, toilet, or anything. I’ve had three water incidents in my home: Clean supply to a tub loosened, tub overflowed, and the shower control nob breaking. Water is a lot like a gun, when it comes to home ownership — always treat it like it’s loaded."
13. "Hey, don’t be ashamed to ask someone to fix something for you. Some things, like electrical stuff, are better left to the professionals."
14. "Take some time to educate yourself on fire extinguishers and get the appropriate one for your home. Keep it somewhere easily accessible. Remember PASS: Pull the pin, Aim at the base of the fire, Squeeze firmly, and Sweep in your motions. And never ever walk away when you're cooking, especially when using oil or grease. Not even for a minute."
"Also, change the batteries in your smoke detectors every six months or so."
15. "If you have pets, pick up after them regularly. Even three minutes in the backyard will keep you from smelly aromas and dead grass."
16. "If you live somewhere where you get lots of snow, make sure you clear paths from at least two exits regularly. If you need to escape a fire, you don't want snow blocking your emergency exit."
"If you live in snow country, invest in a good snowblower. Your back will thank you later in life. You will also save money over the long run rather than paying someone."
17. "For cold-weather climates, before the first hard freeze of the season: Drain and/or blow out your sprinkler system if you have one. And make sure outside hoses are disconnected from faucets. Not doing this could result in burst water pipes (due to the expansion of freezing water) and expensive repair bills."
18. "For bathroom sinks, frequently run very hot water for an extended period to melt away the soap/toothpaste/hair product buildup that happens over time. Heating water to near boiling and then pouring it down the drain produces the same result."
20. "Either get a good home warranty that reasonably covers the big ticket items, or make sure you have a 'home repair' fund for emergencies — there's nothing like trying to hustle to pay for fixing a furnace or hot water heater in winter, or a $5,000 air conditioning unit that's given up the ghost in July. Unless your home is a basket case, a few thousand saved a year can cushion the blow, and you can roll it over to next year if nothing major happens."
22. "When buying a home, pay attention to the interest rate when you get your loan. Adjustable rate mortgages can mess you up. You'll probably have a 30-year mortgage for most of your working life. Don't get something that might explode in three years and be a nightmare for the rest of the time. Refinancing usually costs several grand. Depending on current interest rates, it could save you money in the long run or not, but be aware that it might not be possible for you in the future. So, plan for a home you can afford as it is right now."
What are some homeowner tips you wish someone would have passed on to you? And if you just bought a home or are about to, what questions do you have? Drop 'em in the comments, and let's help each other out!
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.