After countless showings and probably a few rejected offers, you finally bought a house. The hard part of your housing journey is done and you can relax — or so you thought.
As a first-time homeowner, there’s still plenty of things to take care of: moving, decorating and protecting your investment. During your house hunt, you probably realized that a lot of the conventional wisdom about home buying isn’t quite right. In this next stage of your homeownership journey, you might find that some of the advice for new homeowners is equally suspect.
Here are some of the most common myths you’ll hear as a new homeowner and why you shouldn’t believe them.
Myth #1: You can worry about maintenance costs later
Make room in your budget for home maintenance — even if you bought a sparkly new construction.
Every home is going to require some TLC to get it move-in ready. According to listing site Zillow and home repair marketplace Thumbtack, the average home for sale needs about $27,000 worth of work.
Beyond the costs to get in the door, assume you’ll spend between 1% and 4% of the home’s value on maintenance each year. In general, people will spend more if their home is older and less if it was built more recently, but that’s not a hard fast rule. As soon as you move into your new home, wear and tear are going to start taking their toll.
Taking the steps to keep your home in top shape can help prevent expensive repairs down the line. Gutters get clogged, paint can start peeling and concrete can start cracking. It won’t hurt to routinely walk around the home to make sure the exterior is in good shape. Small paint touch-ups, for example, are easier to take care of than redoing the whole exterior.
Other items may not be as obvious. Change the filters on your HVAC system every 30 days to six months (depending on your system), clean out your septic tank every three to five years and clean the swimming pool at least once a quarter. If your home has a fireplace, it needs to be cleaned routinely — how often will depend on the amount of use you give it. Other items you’ll need to check on include smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure the batteries are in place and that the systems work properly.
Myth #2: It’s best to decorate and buy everything before move-in
New home, new start, new furniture, right?
Not necessarily. You just made the biggest purchase of your life, it’s understandable if you don’t feel financially (or emotionally) ready to spend even more.
You don’t necessarily have to go out and furnish the whole house at once, especially if you’re up-sizing or downsizing. In fact, sometimes it’s better to wait.
When Amy Herman Schechter, an agent with real estate brokerage Serhant in New York, was buying her home, an interior designer friend recommended that she actually live in the house for a little while before decorating. That way she could see how she uses the space before spending lots of money on stuff that might not ultimately fit her lifestyle.
One caveat: Due to current supply chain shortages, order early if you want a place to sleep or sit.
Myth #3: It’s not a big deal that you skipped the inspection
To compete in today’s red hot housing market, some homebuyers are opting to waive their home inspections — or at least waiving the right to back out of the deal if an inspector finds major problems.
This may have helped you win the home, but now it’s time to learn the truth. An inspection can catch things like drainage problems in the yard, uneven flooring or improperly installed plumbing fixtures.
If you skipped the inspection contingency, it’s not too late to get an assessment of the homes — though now that you’re the owner you’ll be responsible for paying for any repairs. Inspections cost between $300 and $500, which is a small price to pay for the peace of mind they provide.
Some insurance companies are now offering ‘Inspection Protection.’ You’ll still need to get an inspection, but the plan will cover the cost of repairs on things the inspector missed during the first year after closing.
Myth #4: Home warranties are the same as home insurance
You almost certainly have home insurance, since mortgage lenders require it. You may also have something called a home warranty, which is more common for newly built homes but is also available for existing properties. These sound similar, but they provide fairly different protections.
Home warranties are service contracts designed to cover the repair or replacement cost of items like appliances, heating and air conditioning systems, electrical and plumbing systems, water heaters and ductwork. Additional coverages for items like pools and hot tubs can be added at an additional cost.
Items covered by a home warranty vary by provider, so it’s best if you shop around to compare what’s in different plans and pick the one that best suits your needs and budget. In general, a home warranty can cost between $300 and $600 per year on average.
A homeowners insurance policy, on the other hand, covers repairs and replacement costs if your property is damaged or lost due to fire, natural disasters or theft. It also covers your personal liability if someone is injured on your property. You can purchase additional coverage for damages caused by natural disasters not covered by your main policy, like flood insurance and earthquake damage.
There are different home insurance policies offering different types of coverage, so consulting with an insurance broker is a good idea to learn what coverage you need. Policy costs vary depending on the company, type of coverage and the value of your home and its content. The average annual cost is over $1,000.
Myth #5: All home improvement projects add value
Many homeowners think of home improvement projects as adding resale value. While some projects will bring in a higher price when you go to sell, others may hurt your chances.
Adding an additional bathroom can not only make your life more comfortable but can also add value, according to Realtor.com. (Buyers with kids will be more attracted to homes with more than one bathroom just to avoid the morning fight over who gets to use it first.) A mid-range bathroom addition will cost about $57,000 and will add about $30,000 of resale value to your home, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report. However, if adding a bathroom results in a cramped or unusual floor plan, it may be a turn-off instead of an asset.
Any improvements made should be in line with the market value and location of your home. Luxury upgrades, such as top of the line kitchen appliances and exotic countertops, may add value in a high end home in an upscale neighborhood, but may not be as effective if you have a median home in a less affluent spot. The same goes for landscaping. Keeping a yard clean and well kept will add value, but water features and high end landscaping such as topiaries could just become an unwanted maintenance expense in the eyes of a future buyer.
MONEY – Leslie Cook