A New Homeowner Tells Us What the First Year is Really Like

 

Front yard of house with autumn trees

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Homeownership is a big accomplishment. You might be considering this big step, but you might not be prepared for what lies ahead. A survey by HomeAdvisor found the first year of homeownership can be full of surprises. Most of these surprises, unfortunately, can really break the bank. Top emergencies homeowners face in the first year included a blocked toilet, pipe, or drain (31%), heating or AC failure (21%) and a water leak (20%).

The Cheat Sheet spoke with first-time homeowner, Chelsea, a team member at HomeAdvisor. She shared with us some of the ups and downs of homeownership and offered advice on how to make the journey easier.

The Cheat Sheet: Overall, what was your homebuying experience like?

Chelsea: The homebuying experience was relatively quick and painless. I had a great team behind me that both educated me on the process and assisted me from start to finish. Taryn Bellevance of Fairway Independent Mortgage, my mortgage lender, specializes in working with young, first-time homebuyers. She was happy to guide me on next steps and pain points in the process. I had a realtor team, Kathy and Steve Harder, who understood what I wanted and valued and fought for my best interests during the closing process.


CS: What were some roadblocks you experienced along the way?

Chelsea: The housing market in Denver is very competitive. I had two rejected offers before going into contract on a home. I looked at about 15 homes before figuring out what I really wanted, what I could afford, and what to look for when in the home to ensure I wasn’t buying something that would incur repair expenses within a few years. My realtors were very helpful in pointing out foundational, insulation, and potential resale issues with each property that I would never have seen myself.


CS: What prompted you to buy a home?

Chelsea: A few personal factors opened the possibility of ownership. After paying off my student loans two years ago and my car last year, I finally felt as though it was a financial possibility. After two years in Denver, I felt a sense of peace and happiness that I had never felt in any other city. I was feeling the financial burden and pain points of renting someone else’s space. I really wanted to own a dog and couldn’t find a rental space that I liked and allowed pets.


CS: What surprised you most about being a new homeowner?

Chelsea: The time commitment of maintaining the home was a surprise. I love gardening, so bought a home with a garden and a yard where I could grow plants and entertain guests. Surprisingly, most of the time I spend in my yard doesn’t include hosting friends or planting but rather trying, desperately, to keep everything maintained and alive. Inside my home, I clean far more than I host or cook. My mop gets more attention than my TV. I love my home and take more care of it more than I did in past rental spaces.


CS: What was the highest cost associated with buying your home? How did you prepare for this cost?

Chelsea: The down payment was the largest expense, but one I was prepared to pay. Given the lack of available homes for sale and increase in homeowners seeking to buy in the Denver area, I wanted to begin the homebuying process with at least 10% of the total home cost for that down payment. That, I hoped, would make me more marketable to home sellers.


CS: What were some financial roadblocks you faced during the first year? How did you overcome them?

Chelsea: My monthly mortgage payment plus utilities is over double what I paid in rent. That has required a lifestyle adjustment that I wasn’t prepared for prior to my home purchase. I’ve never had to pay my own water or trash bill and those charges, while small per month, do add up.

In part two of this interview, we’ll talk to Chelsea about how she saved up enough cash to be able to afford homeownership.

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