a year now

This past August 28th, we celebrated a year as homeowners. In honor of this first anniversary, we've compiled lists of the most important things we now know that, without looking for, buying, and caring for a home, we would never have known. Today's list covers the search, the jump, and the first few things we learned about home care.

  1. Never by the first house you like. This one was very difficult for us because we fell for a home we still refer to as the Riverview House. Great house, great yard, great price--but because it was in a river plain, we would have had a mandated $2-3k on flood insurance bill each year. That would add up pretty fast in a way we would never recoup. We have a few friends who did take the plunge without looking around and comparing their investment, and now they're stressed out with either payments or home repair or both. And some will admit that there were better homes for the same price point that they should have considered.
  2. See every home within your price range even if it doesn't have the outside "look" you're going for. We thought we wanted a bungalow or cape cod. We though Mickelsons were boxy and boring. After talking with friends who owned them and looking through a number of them in our 8+ month search, we were sold on their efficiency, open floor plan, and quality of craftsmanship. We love our Mickey! 
  3. Take someone who is more experienced in home ownership, not emotionally attached to physical spaces, and knows how to work on a house with his or her own hands. We cannot say enough about the positive influence Mom Hawk had in our home-buying. She's a jack-of-all-trades and knows the ins-and-outs of house structure the way Tim Allen never could. She would walk us through each house and point out problems we would have to care for immediately or with great expense over time. While we started out misty-eyed at all the things we could do in each house, she planted our feet on the ground without being judgmental or too persuasive.
  4. Know what you won't settle for, what you must have. We're not talking jacuzzis here. We think home-buying needs to stay more practical (and you can always put a jacuzzi in if that's your thing). We wanted hard-wood floors, but we would settle for ripping up carpet if there were quality hardwood floors beneath and if the present condition did not warrant health concerns (think old carpet, cat allergies, smoking residue, etc.). We knew we needed 3 bedrooms or more if we could afford it. We started out thinking that 2 would be fine, but now we know we can fit 4 kids into this Mickey before things get so crazy we have to either expand or move on. (Our neighbor grew up with her 5 siblings in the 3 BR Mickey she now owns, and she said they are happy, content, & close because of it). We knew the house couldn't require any major repairs from us for 10 years. While that can't be guaranteed of course, symptoms of chimney decay, basement issues, old windows, etc. are big triggers that more moola would be shelled out pretty fast.
  5. Get the home inspection. Worth. Every. Penny.
  6. Paint the rooms. Just paint them. At first, we were only going to paint one room, but we saw pretty quickly that although the house was very well-cared for, it would never feel like ours without a face lift, and as we began the lift, we realized how important it is to bring the whole house together. And the cheapest, most effective way to give a whole face lift is to paint. Our total paint cost for the entire house came under $300, and that includes primer and the 3 coats of paint we put on everything. For those of you with us the whole journey, you know we painted every inch of ceiling, trim, doors, walls and cabinets. If it was metal or under our feet, we let it be. Not to mention that working on the house almost every day for the first 3 months and every weekend for the first 5 really gave us a sense of pride, attention, and care for our investment and home. Blood, sweat, and tears all go a long way in ensuring our future care.
  7. Take a month to make any decisions that will cost money and/or require time to undo. We did this for our window treatments (10 windows with new wood blinds), kitchen hardware, dining room buffets (more on that coming soon), and paint colors.
  8. Take care of the front lawn. Hawk mows regularly. We trim the bushes along the driveway and under the front windows. We haven't added anything new because we don't know what we want yet, but these little trimmings go a long way in conveying care for our home. On the downside, we've just got to tell you about our yard soon. Don't let us forget!
  9. Do anything yourself that you can--with appropriate guidance. Whenever possible, we repaired or replaced or maintain things ourselves. Saves money, teaches us about home care, and reinforces pride in and accountability to our home and each other. Not to mention it helps us figure out just how quickly we resort to cussing when things go downhill. 
We could keep going, but we think these are the most important thus far. 
    Tune in tomorrow for Etsy Friday! We'll be back with more lists next week.

    ~j & Hawk

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