First-Time Home Buyer. What Am I Responsible for Now?

Congratulations! You’ve bought your first home, or you’re almost ready to take the plunge. You’ve always counted on your landlord when something went wrong, and now it’s your turn. But how much responsibility are we really looking at here? Being prepared is the best way to avoid stress when it comes to home expenses, so we’ve compiled some steps you can take to soften the blow of the unexpected, and really enjoy your new home.

Take a full inventory of your home.

How old is the furnace? The roof? Is the wiring relatively new, or a relic from the eighties? When was the exterior painted? The previous homeowner may be able to provide records of previous repairs and installations. That information will help you guess when the big stuff may need replacing.

Make a list of service people that can help.

Ask your friends who they use for plumbing, electricity, general repairs (everyone needs a decent drywaller, especially if you have kids, trust me), lawn and sprinkler maintenance, pressure washing, and more. Remember that a lot of repair people charge more during off hours, at night and on weekends. If water isn’t pouring into your living room, you may want to wait until Monday to schedule a visit.

Get a decent toolbox, and fill it with the basics.

Also? Get a really good plunger. You may be able to wait to call if you know how to make a basic repair, a stopgap until the pros arrive. You’ll be surprised at what you can find on YouTube. You may even be able to replace a breaker for just a few dollars. Find out what tools you have to have.

Start a savings account.

Yes, we know you just spent a lot of money on a house, but a small cushion for unexpected repairs will help you sleep better in your lovely new home. Commit to $100 a month and your account will grow, just in time for you to buy a new dishwasher when the old one goes kaput.

If a home warranty wasn’t included in the sale, consider getting one.

A home warranty is like an insurance policy for anything that might break, from the basement sump pump to the attic fan.  

When you’ve built some equity, consider applying for a home equity line of credit (HELOC), which can be a great way to pay for unexpected repairs.

A HELOC doesn’t have to be used immediately. It’s like a credit card; the funds are there if and when you need them. But it’s better than a credit card, because the interest rate is usually lower, and if the funds are used for home improvements, the interest is often deductible on your taxes, just like your primary mortgage interest.

New home ownership is exciting. With a little preparation, you can relax and enjoy. Do you feel ready?

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