First Time Owning a House

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#1 Posted by Bobbyr (138 posts) -

Hello duders, so my family and I are moving into our first house in a couple of weeks and I began to reflect on what little stuff I do have that I would need to upkeep a house due to me renting apartments for about 6 years. Like a lawnmower, for example, since I never cut my own grass in my adult life. I was curious if y’all had any tips on what I might need or just homeowner tips in general would be cool too. Thanks!

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#2 Posted by Sargus (790 posts) -

Like you said, a lawnmower (unless you hire someone else to do it) is important if you have a yard.

At some point, like it or not, you'll need a plunger.

The rest, honestly, you'll likely pick up as you go -- and it's probably better that way. A lot of little stuff will come up that you may not have thought about before (for example, you'll need to change the air filter in your central AC unit every few months, assuming you've got one), but it can be good to learn that stuff one by one, as they come up, so you're not overwhelmed with a million new things.

A lot of the nitty gritty things are, honestly, not as tricky as they might seem from afar. Some time on Google can help with the bigger stuff, when needed. I personally like being a homeowner a lot, even when things get rough and I need to worry about things like repairs. It's always been worth it to me.

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#3 Posted by BladedEdge (1319 posts) -

Its not hard to find someone to mow the lawn. Check the local paper. Ask people in your area who have yard work done to suggest someone. Go to your local tool-store or some other local place where your likely to find business cards, etc. Average price for lawns mowed, at least here, is in the 40-60$ range once every 2 weeks or so, possible more if you sign up for a retail-style tru-green or etc style company. Depends on the size of your property who you get, and what they are willing to do it for.

Basic things you might not need as many of before but might now. Baskets for clothes, houses tend to get a lot more laundry. Same with Hangers, bath-mats tooth-brushes and all the other things your suddenly bigger abode might need that an apartment didn't. Plungers in every bathroom is important, I highly suggest the accordion kind (The classic design I've always found just turns inside out, the acordian works better). You really don't wanna leave the bathroom to track down the plunger if your mid buisness.

You might want to think about putting an in-window AC in a bed-room if your in a hotter part of the country. Keeping the entire house at sleeping temperature is a lot more $$$ then keeping it at a decent tempature and super-cooling the bedroom.

You might wanna consider fencing in the back-yard if it isn't already, because it gives your pets/kids a safe place to roam and play etc. Most houses I suspect come with this, but not all. Likewise if anyone living with you has a green thumb, houses are a great place to do gardening. If your house has flower-beds and etc already you might already know if thats for you or not, but you own the home and land now. If you want to, say, build a barrier around a tree in your yard and fill it with high-quality dirt/sod and plant flowers in it..(and its legal in your area, see what people around your house do) go for it!

Really $$$ BBQs are not worth it unless you like cooking and live in a place with plenty of good sunny weather over the course of a year. A simple 100-200$ is all you really need otherwise if you only plan to do it 2-3 times a year.

If you have a fire-place, learn how to use it, how the flue works and etc before you use it. Also realize that the smell of wood smoke will linger on your clothes/sheets/the room depending on what kind of wood/fuel you burn. Having a nice fire going in your home can be great, but get a fire-proof rug to put infront of it if you go for that. Know that you can let it burn down at night, at least with real wood, but the embars will survive to re-ignite new wood/kindling.

Figure out when your trash-pick up is, and start figuring out whoses gonna do all that work. Remember too put it out, somewhere the truck can get too it easy.

If you have friendly neighbors, be friendly back. Don't be rude but don't feel you have to put up with bad behavior.

If you have kids, be sure to meet the families of the kids they end up playing with. Obvious stuff but kids will just play with whoever lives within easy walking distance, and don't care much for what the kids parents are like. That's on you.

Try to clean house a bit every day. Houses can pile up clutter like no-ones buisness, especially if you've got hording tendency. If your not yet with kids, that extra room might look great as a catch-all storage, but you'll hate yourself when you've only got 9 (or less) months to clean it up and get it ready for the baby! On the other hand if you don't have kids/don't ever plan too. Make sure everyone has a say in what rooms are used for what. If one or both people living together are introverted, having a private 'just for me' space can be great. This might be a work-area in the garage, a office, a man cave, a gaming area. Whatever you like.

Enjoy your new home!

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#4 Edited by soulcake (2809 posts) -

@bobbyr K Lawnmower tip buy a Honda there expensive but you will never need to buy a other lawnmower in your life, And don't buy a electric one !

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#5 Posted by Bane (913 posts) -

If you're moving to a city or the suburbs I suggest browsing around your city's website. There's probably a lot of good info there:

  • what trash collection day is for your street
  • what size trash can is allowed to be put on the curb
  • when yard waste collection starts and ends, and how much they'll collect
  • when they hold events for the collection of hazardous (paint, oil) and electronic waste
  • what the local noise ordinances are
  • what the local fire ordinances are (for bonfires or burning trash)
  • how to read your water bill
  • get the latest water quality report
  • who to contact if you have problems with your water or sewer
  • contact information for the local police and fire departments
  • sign up for their newsletter

Probably most important: sign up for text alerts if they offer it. My city will text me whenever there's a change to trash collection day (like due to a holiday or the weather), if there's a boil water advisory (we had a water main break recently), and when you need to move your vehicles off the street for the snow plows.

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#6 Posted by FrodoBaggins (2083 posts) -

A set of tools, hammer, screwdrivers, spanners etc and a toolbox to keep them in will most assuredly come into play.

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#7 Posted by nutter (2187 posts) -

Get in there and learn. You’re probably not going to blow your house up.

Demo something that isn’t load bearing. Put up some drywall. Maybe get your hands dirty with some electrical work. I, personally, don’t touch my plumbing.

Depending on region, you’ll probably need to deter crabgrass and grubs from your lawn. You’ll need to treat it somewhat regularly, seed in the fall and fertilize at least in the spring.

A house is a lot of work, but if it’s in decent shape, you really can just kinda coast for a few years.

Oh, buy a toolbox and have a place to store the sea of tools coming your way. Maybe not this year, maybe not by 2020, but if you’re not going to move every 3-5 years, you’ll collect a lot of tools.

I’ve been in my place...15 years? Got it at 23 or so and I’m pretty much planning to just keep the place, at least until I own it outright.

We’ve done deck work, landscaping, tiled some floors, ripped-up wall-to-wall carpeting and refinished our hardwoods, torn down a wall, revamped multiple bedrooms, refinished two bathrooms, and demoed my kitchen to plywood and drywall before building it back gutters, new roof, new front door...planning on finishing the basement, replacing our deck slider with french doors, and hiring to have some electrical work done (I’m tired and would rather pay someone right now, though I could probably do it myself).

We hired to our countertops cut and installed, as they were granite. We hired to have the hardwoods refinished twice. We hired to have the load-bearing wall removed and replaced with a beam. We hited to have our roof and gutters replaced. We’ve done most of the rest ourselves.

A house is what you make of it. We bought small, so each project is smaller. I don’t want a ton of space to heat, cool, pay taxes on. I don’t want to clean more than I need. I don’t want my possessions owning me...they’re here to serve me. Enjoy your house. Treat it well and bend it to what you want it to be. Don’t hire for everything, get your hands dirty.

Oh, I started hiring a lawn service in recent years. The lawn was killing my daylight free time. My kids will only be this young once, so I figure I can mow if pros treat the lawn. It saves me time every weekend to relax with the kids, so it’s worth every penny.

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#8 Posted by Morning_BR (19 posts) -

@bladededge: Im gonna disagree on the BBQ. I cursed my grill every time I used it until I spent the money and got myself a Weber. It'll be $400-500, but it will last you 20+ years. My cheap grills got me through 2 or 3 seasons at most before they fell apart.

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#9 Edited by BladedEdge (1319 posts) -

@morning_br: My family on the other hand growing up back in the late 80s and 90s owned the most basic of basic grills. Size and basic shape of a bar stool. Lid lifts to reveal grill surface, cupped surface underneath for coal, lid had some basic venting for 'yes we want the smoke too build up or no we don't. Lasted through wind and rain outside 24/7 for a good 2 decades before it finally rusted and got tossed.

Not the best thing in the world, but since we only ever used it once or twice a year, for that purpose it was fine. If people wanna use a BBQ 5+ times a year, spending for high quality is worth it. If, as a new home owner, you just wanna give it a try and are not sure its for you, the cheap options are fine and, in my own experience, can last.

Might be cause it was basically just a hunk of metal, maybe the propane variants are more complex. I dunno, I didn't buy it (I was between 0-15 when we used it decades ago), but I do remember it lasting a very long time and being very simple. Also thinking back in this edit, I realize we might well have been eating some burgers with rust flaking in them from that lid. But, you know, if you don't let it rust like I seem to recall we did, not an issue.

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#10 Posted by alwaysbebombing (2713 posts) -

There has to be a podcast about this, right? In another life I'm sure Vinny would be the host.

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#11 Posted by splodge (2775 posts) -

Stuff that I wish I knew in the past and had to find out the hard way :

Make sure you locate Your water mains cut off valve. It is probably outside the house somewhere. Sometimes it is near the road. You may need it if you have any issues with leaks, clogged pipes, electrical issues etc.

At some point you will need to unclog your drains. It happens. An errant sanitary towel, too much toilet paper, any number of things can cause it. You dont have to worry about it too much now but it may be a good idea to purchase some plumbers snakes just in case. They are long flexible tubes that can be joined together. There are usually grates outside covering the pipes that lead to your main sewerage point, be it a connection to mains sewerage or your own tank.

If your bathrooms don't have proper ventilation or working fans, get them fixed. Or at least make sure a window is cracked when people are showering. Any build up of damp will lead to mould and its a pain in the butt.

I don't know what kind of climate you are in, but if it gets cold make sure you do a draught check around the house and seal up any obvious places, while still being mindful of central ventilation (Don want the old monoxide build up).

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#12 Posted by AdamALC (291 posts) -

If you don't already have one, open a savings account and put like 50 bucks a check, or whatever you can spare into it. The most random things can go wrong at the worst times. Congratulations all the same, home ownership is great for the most part. Oh and get a prybar.

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#13 Posted by Skullbuggery (34 posts) -

I'm trying to paint my walls white after a few years with crazy colours, wish I just stuck to light colours as I'm redoing 3 or 4 coats over it all.

Security is worthwhile even if its a cheap dummy cctv, now its yours you can bury some steel devices to lock bikes to etc.

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#14 Edited by Bobbyr (138 posts) -

Great advice y’all! Some points I’d like to point out:

I’d like to mow my own grass as it isn’t a whole lot and I did it all throughout my middle and high school days. It was therapeutic for me but lost the habit when I went off for college. Just need to research about fertilizer and things of that nature.

I am a little concerned about cooling in the summer. I live in the Southeast where it gets pretty damn hot and humid. Might look more into the window unit route like someone said earlier in the thread.

We do plan on remodeling areas of the house, especially for our backyard as it’s pretty barren. Which gives me a good reason to stock up on tools!

Also, I’ve been looking into home security stuff. What do y’all suggest?

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#15 Posted by csl316 (14977 posts) -

I found it handy to have an air purifier, more space may result in more dust and allergens. I like this GermGuardian a whole lot.

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#16 Posted by wollywoo (281 posts) -

@sargus: You need a plunger in an apartment too don't you? I mean, unless you want to call your manager to come look at your poop if you ever get a clog.

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#17 Edited by Marcsman (3823 posts) -

Welcome to the world of the MONEYPIT. Here are some thing I've had to purchase throughout the years of living in the MONEYPIT.

2 lawn mowers. ( both broke, fuck that I just pay somebody to do it)

Leaf blower ( still have to blow the leaves out of the gutters)

2 chainsaws ( broke the electric so I bought a gas powered beast)

Wheelbarrow ( this thing is invaluable trust me)

Every kind of tool imaginable

Shovels, rakes all kinds of garden crap including hoses

Leaf mulcher cause my neighbors leaves get everywhere. I hate fucking leaves by the way.

Eventually you'll be painting. Buy premium paint or you'll be re doing it 5 years later.

A grill. All bro's must have a grill

Outside furniture ( this shit get expensive quick)

MY latest and most expensive purchase. A generator because we lost power for 2 weeks ( I live in the Northeast)

We were going to get a home security, but when I got the dog. There is literally no need for it.

Say goodbye to having extra money for games HA HA HA

( but owning a house is seriously worth it, congrats and enjoy)

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#18 Posted by OldGuy (1687 posts) -

Echo the finding the water cutoff - there is also usually one near where the water enters the house as well as the cutoff at the street. While you're at it, find the gas cutoff (if you have gas service) as well.

One of the most useful things I made was a map of all the electrical outlets, fixtures, hardwired things in the house and what fuse/breaker they are associated with becuase, at some point of another, someone is going to plug the toaster oven and microwave into the same circuit and try to run them both at once...

Brick (or other similar materials) have a far different heating/cooling cycle than wooden houses. Ambient external temperatures will affect the inside temp between 4 and 6 hours later for brick vs. wood.

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#19 Posted by indieslaw (576 posts) -

@bobbyr: Here's my two cents on what hasn't been mentioned.

Find the facebook group for your town, and join it. Even if you're #deletefacebook, make a dummy account, because all the urban and suburbanites around you are using it, and it's invaluable for things like lawn services, neighborhood issues, all kinds of things that you wouldn't think to ask about. Maybe reddit too, but in my area the redditors just complain about the religious legislators.

Make friends with the youtube channel for This Old House. Seriously, search that channel for any project you're gonna take on. Broaden your search to all of youtube afterwards, but whatever the project is, you'll have a good understanding of what you're doing/in for after seeing it there, and can go more in depth from there.

As far as tools go, start with a good hammer, a good cordless drill, a set of drill bits, a screwdriver set, and one of those collections of hardware (nails and screws) in different sizes. That should get you going until you need something specific for a project.

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#20 Posted by Smellytunic (3 posts) -

Congrats on the new home. Lots of great info already shared here. Going to add a few more things as well.

If you are going up in living space (number of rooms, sq. footage, etc) wait a bit before buying furniture simply to fill the larger area. Wait until you have an understanding of what you need. Maybe you want more shelf space maybe it is more seating etc. When I first got a house I ended up buying a bunch of furniture simply to fill the space right away then ended up replacing a lot of it quickly because it was not exactly what we needed or wanted the new space for.

On the topic of tools, My approach has always been this. When I need a particular tool for a job I always say to myself is there another project I have planned that I will use this tool for. If the answer is no grab a serviceable cheapo one or look at possible rental. If the answer is yes do some research and spend a bit more or step up a model then your original idea. It is amazing how much a easier a quality tool can make a project.

If you don't own a pickup truck, find a friend who does :)

As stated previously, Get to know your neighbors and neighborhood

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#21 Posted by soimadeanaccount (621 posts) -

Get home security or pretend to have it, don't tell people you don't have or don't need.

I find lawn care annoying and have always been on the side of the scorch earth approach and want to pave everything, but some people like the greenery. It could also catch ire from the neighbors.

Know the garbage/recycle/compost/whatever days and how to separate them if your county has rules about it. These things differ wildly between counties.

Keep track of water/electric/gas/garbage bills. These things differ wildly between counties.

Check street cleaning days if you have it in your neighborhood.

Insulation goes a long way in keeping your house temperature somewhat in check.

You mention Southeast, Hurricane/Flood area or not? Have hurricane shutters on hand/built in if you are in the danger zone.

I never use the fireplace, but don't get rid of it without thinking either. That shit is worth resale value yo! Also check burning regulations if they exist.

Check internet options, you will likely get stuck with AT&T or Comcast, but still give it a go.

Wire the house.

HOA? if so get a lawyer ready or maybe consider moving...only half kidding.

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#22 Edited by Big_Denim (841 posts) -

New first time home owner here...don't buy too much stuff that you don't absolutely need yet.

Unless it's a new build, when you move into your house, things will break. I hate to say it, but it's true. Could be the dishwasher, maybe a stove, or god forbid something even more expensive. Just have some extra cash stored for the unexpected.

Also be prepared to notice things wrong with the house that you didn't initially see during walk through. Oh there's scuffs and nicks everywhere now that paintings are gone? TIme to paint! Leaky faucet? Off to Home Depot we go!

Don't get me wrong, owning a home is a very great, wise decision to make and it will bring your family years of comfort and joy. Just be ready for the unexpected.

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#23 Posted by NotAllama (30 posts) -

@bobbyr: CAT5 in every unused inch of space. Or fibre if you're fancy. Everything else is unnecessary.

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#24 Edited by Paliv (250 posts) -

@morning_br: I second the Weber recommendation. My parents gave us one as a gift, after we got my dad one years ago also as a gift, and it has been a game changer. I love grilling and it is definitely worth the premium over the cheaper grills that don’t last.

I will say my refrain is I love living in a house, but I hate being a homeowner. We have had 3 bouts of water damage in the 2 years we’ve had our house. Something is always breaking, just make sure you have a maintenance budget even if just for parts if you are fixing things yourself.

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#25 Posted by The_Greg (543 posts) -

Powerline adapter and a decent bathmat. That's all I can think of right now.

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#26 Posted by Bane (913 posts) -

To expand a little bit on what @big_denim said: just live in the house for awhile before spending a bunch of money.

First, this lets you build a bit of history with the place. Get comfortable with how all of the major players (heating and cooling, water and sewer, electrical) perform their duties under normal circumstances. Sure, the furnace worked great for two hours during the home inspection, but winter is the real test. You don't want to spend a bunch of money on new furniture just to have the furnace go out the first time it gets cold outside, know what I mean?

Second, it gives you time to make a list of projects and prioritize them. Maybe the first thing you wanted to do when you moved in was to change the window treatments, but over the summer those french doors leading to the deck out back were a real pain in the ass. Changing those french doors out for a sliding doorwall became a higher priority than window treatments.

I bought my first house in December 2016, and that was the advice I was given. It's now Spring 2018, and I know all of the major players work like they're supposed to, and I've had time to make and prioritize a list of projects. Now it's time to make some home improvements!

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#27 Posted by whitegreyblack (1967 posts) -

I was going to write up a big post but @bane really nailed it.

I will also echo @the_greg on the suggestion of a powerline ethernet adapter set, should you not have good wi-fi or wired options in your home. I run a home office for my business and powerline ethernet saved me tearing out my walls and lower level ceiling to run cables. It's great.

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#28 Posted by Zelyre (1901 posts) -

Before all your furniture is in place, I'd consider putting a lamp in each room. Then, go to the breaker and make sure each item is properly labelled now, when it's not an emergency.

Learn where the main shutoff valves are for your water and gas.

Learn to read your meters. I had a toilet leak that cost me $50-$80 a month in extra water usage. Since I was autopaying, I didn't even realize this until 6 months of $100+ water bills.

Don't be afraid to do your own work. With youtube, there's a video tutorial for everything. I've replaced two toilets, a sump pump main and backup, replaced the garbage disposal with one that's hardwired. That's probably $500+ in labor if I paid someone to do it, but about 15 minutes of research on each task and an hour's worth of my own labor.

Be wary of companies calling you up offering you fixed rate energy options. When I moved in, I was constantly getting the gas company calling up, offering a fixed $75 per month billing because their winter month pricing surges up. For four months out of the year, I pay $100 for gas, while the other months come in at around $20. Maybe if you have a large house this might make sense, but I wouldn't blindly jump in on these offers.

Consider joining Nextdoor.

If you only have a sedan or coupe, make friends with someone on the block that has a truck/suv or consider eventually getting one of your own.

If there's a basement, know where the sump pits are. I'd just replace whatever pumps are in there now and install battery powered backups. Periodically check to make sure the floats activate the pumps and that the battery is holding a charge.