A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

The Flood of New Bills for the Homeowner

For new homeowners, the bills can be overwhelming. I use to hear that living in a house was cheaper, and I cannot figure out how someone came up with that notion. I was also told that it is the American dream, but at times I felt as if I might have a nightmare. Do not worry; your decision to own a home will work out for you.

If you came to owning from renting, you will find that there will be utility bills that you have not had to deal with before. Many of these providers will ask for some money as security, when you are still dealing with all of the costs of having moved in. This money will come back to you. If you have not bought your home yet, you may want to hold some money in reserve to deal with these bills. These reserves will be a great aid to you, and let you sleep easier. The security money is generally returned within a year or two if you have been paying well.

You may find that your expenses are simply down to your own desires. Decorating the house, updating the garden, new furnishings are all part of the package when you are in your new home. I would suggest that you slow down here. My wife and I did not furnish two rooms when we first moved in, and we did not place a breakfast table in the space allocated for it. We waited till we were ready. Sure, it might have looked unusual, but we did not need those spaces yet, so the rooms became play areas for the time being. Our money was geared toward some immediate needs like a washing machine and dryer. For decorating we started with paint, which is an affordable way to make a statement. We did not have so many of our prints framed, since there was no space in the apartment, but there was no hurry to do this now. We took our time getting each room just right. After four and a half years in this house, we still have not finished. The venetian blinds or the carpeted floors will be next on our list to replace, I think.

Our society desires instant gratification, but this can cause your debt to increase quickly. The perfect example to demonstrate this idea is your garden. If you inherited a wasteland as I did, you may be tempted to fill in the beds to create what you desire. Ask an experienced gardener about how long it takes for a garden to mature, and he will say five years. By buying smaller plants, and letting them fill in, you save money, and you get the time to play with it to make your garden they way you really want it. Why not apply that idea to the interior too. If you have no need of a room or space, decide to be a minimalist by leaving it blank. Make the furniture you have stretch, until you can do the room in the design that you want. There are more immediate financial needs, so let the Jonses run ahead for now.

Another consideration for your new home is that you are now your own landlord. You will be responsible for all the repairs. To be prepared for this, I recommend setting up an account that you will not touch. Use it as a home repair fund. Start off with a couple of thousand dollars in it. Maybe work you way up to five thousand. If you do not have any additional funds for it, start an account with the bare minimum, then add a set amount each month. Did you get a raise? Take the extra money into that account, before you come to rely on it.

Do not let people tell you that you need to instantly have your house done after moving in, because this can be a big financial mistake. Did the turtle not win the race?

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