Homeowners share what they’ve learned in first year of ownership

The first year in a new home can be both exciting and daunting. Stress levels rise with interest rates, finding the right fit seems almost impossible, bidding wars and navigation of closing costs can tear at heartstrings. But once those keys are in hand, first-time homeowners should be ready to stop worrying, move in and throw a housewarming party.

But there may be potential pitfalls lurking in the closets that will require attention. Two local couples shared their experiences in their first year of homeownership.

Audrey and Cole Smith began their home search online looking for a rental. They decided to try for a loan once they realized a home would be a better financial investment.

“We started looking online but quickly reached out to a family friend who was a realtor,” Audrey Smith said. “We did max our budget but we’d both recently received promotions after applying for our loans and felt like we could handle it.”

After sitting down and budgeting all their expenses, the couple said they felt confident in their decision. However, like many, certain things tend to sneak up when they were least expected.

“The expenses people forget about is the cost to move, turning on the water, electric, cable, and internet,” Audrey Smith said. “We definitely had to plan for those.”

She said when looking they made sure they searched for a house that was solid and had newer big-ticket items like a roof, air conditioning and a hot water heater.

“So far we haven’t had any large ticketed emergencies, but we’re learning to be more frugal just in case,” she said.

Everything the couple has had to fix has been small do-it-yourself projects.

When Aaron Haecker purchased his new home with his wife they knew beforehand they wanted one thing: a blank canvas to do whatever they wanted.

“I know that sounds odd,” Haecker said. “But since we’ve only ever rented there has always been an unspoken limit for how much personality we could add. Certain changes require approval from our landlord or other things didn’t make sense to change because we weren’t going to live there permanently.”

Haecker said they had always wanted to have a garden but never had enough room to do it.

“We now have a freshly planted vegetable garden outside our back door and we didn’t have to ask to do it.”

When it came to some of the first decisions the couple had to make, Haecker said it was a little bit intimidating because he and his wife had never had that kind of responsibility.

“Now that we’re making them, we’re having fun with it,” Haecker said. “This whole experience has been exciting, primarily because we know that we own this house and get to make it our own.”

The Smiths both said they agreed.

“The most fun was shopping for the space,” Audrey Smith said. “And now that we own and won’t be moving for awhile, we got rid of all our cheap Walmart shelves and invested in pieces we love.”

Something she said that was the most beneficial was having a list of to-dos in order of importance.

“It’s so easy to want to do everything right away but it’s just not practical,” Audrey Smith said. “Our very first thing was painting the ugly red dining room a more neutral color.”

From there the couple moved into the living room, master bedroom, added shelving in the bathroom and they are now working on their front gardens and adding a fence for their dog Tank.

“Altogether my advice is to save, save, save,” she said. “And be prepared to spend more than expected especially up front and be honest about your budget. Find a good real estate agent that is willing to take the time to answer those ‘silly questions’ and is willing to ask the seller for more, like curtains, a washer and dryer and fixes from the inspections.”

Her biggest tip: “Be willing to compromise. And make a list of your projects and cross them off one by one.”