11 Things That Surprise First Time Home Buyers

Moving into our own house was a special day for me and my wife. We looked forward to having more space in the house, entertaining friends in our big backyard and not having to deal with the landlord. We were also going to build equity in the home slowly with our mortgage payments.

A few months in, we realized owning a place is not quite the same as renting it. We ran into a few surprises.

1. Time Commitment

We spent twice the time cleaning and maintaining the house. When we were renting, our apartment was small and easy to maintain. After moving into our house, not only did we have to maintain a bigger house but we also handle all the repairs. We just couldn’t call the landlord. As both us were working full time, we had to schedule time and share the workload.

2. Lawn Care

Having a big yard meant that we had to mow the lawn almost every week for better part of the year. We had to fertilize the yard a few times a year, maintain the sprinklers, and replace the mulch every year. At $30 a week, that meant an additional $120 in monthly expenses.

3. Property Taxes

Property appraisal went up every year. Property tax rates went up every couple of years. This dangerous combo meant that our property taxes were going up by 3% or so every year. Though we had the option to escrow property taxes, we decided that we will pay it ourselves when the taxes were due. This meant that we had to write a big check (3.2% of the property value) at the end of the year.

4. Home Owners Association

I understand why HOAs exist – to keep the community in good shape by enforcing rules. But I was surprised by how nitpicky they were. I would get emails for random things – not putting away the trash, basketball hoop not set up properly in the driveway, etc. HOA fees also went up every year 2-3%.

5. Home Insurance

While all my expenses went up a little bit every year, it was the home owner’s insurance that always caught me by surprise. Even though I had made no claims, my rates would go up by 10% or so every year.

6. Utility Bills

Bigger house also meant bigger utility bills. My electricity bill easily doubled, and so did my water bill. I had to water the lawn for at least an hour three times a week (15 minutes per zone, 4 zones). My water bill was over $150 dollars in the summer.

7. Neighbors

While my neighbors are nice, they can also be noisy when they have parties. They often let their pets into our property. We have had to clean up a few times. We are talking to them, but progress has not been good so far.

8. Furniture

We needed way more furniture than before. The furniture didn’t come cheap partly due to our tastes.

9. Pest control

We had to get quarterly pest control service to handle the Texas pests, both indoors and outdoors. That cost us an extra $400 per year.

10. Technology Upgrades

We had to the technology in the house every couple of years. We had to replace the old thermostat with Nest, replace CFL bulbs with LED bulbs, etc.

11. Traffic

Moving to the suburbs allowed us to buy a bigger house. But it also came with the daily one hour commute each way to work.

What did we learn?

We need to put away some money every month in a fund to take care of repairs.
We need to plan for maintenance. Routine maintenance of appliances and air conditioners saves big hassles down the road.
Get to know a good handyman. We will need him at least a few times a year.

Things To Do

Improve DIY skills. There is no way we can outsource all the work involved. As time goes on, we hope to do some on our own.
Look into getting a home warranty. I have heard the good and the bad of home warranty from friends. I need to do more research on this.

Bottom Line

We are happy to own a home. We don’t think I want to go back to renting a place. But we were surprised by the number of challenges that come with homeownership. With proper planning, saving, and better DIY skills, we hope to win the battle!

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