- I thought my first home was a dream come true — a 1,700-square-foot white colonial with black shutters. But I quickly realized we’d bought more than we bargained for.
- Our cozy home quickly felt cramped once we brought our son home from the hospital, and the previous owners hadn’t kept up with needed repairs.
- Plus, a new $9,000 air conditioning unit wasn’t exactly in our budget. We were thrilled to sell after a year when a job transfer sent us to a new city.
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It was the perfect first home — a three-bedroom, two-bathroom white colonial with black shutters in a sought-after neighborhood. We even got a great deal on it, since it had been vacant for nearly a year and needed some serious work. We happily gutted and renovated a bathroom, refinished the floors, and painted every room of our little dream home.
But what we didn’t know was how quickly this house would need even more repairs, and how costly they would be. Here are three things I wish I’d considered before signing on the dotted line for my very first mortgage.
We needed more space than we realized
When we bought our charming colonial, I was pregnant with our first child and it was just my husband and me, plus our small French bulldog. We were also moving from a one-bedroom apartment in the city, so the house seemed huge.
What we didn’t anticipate was how quickly we would grow out of a 1,700-square-foot home once our son arrived.
For one, babies need an amazing amount of stuff. Between baby bouncers, seats, and toys, our good-sized living room was feeling overrun in just a few months.
Plus, we had a fair amount of visitors when our son was born, and I didn’t love that our guests had to tiptoe past the baby’s room to access the guest bathroom.
Past owners matter
I also wish I’d considered who owned the home before we purchased it. Think about it: These are the people who were responsible for maintenance like roof repairs, pest control, and small repairs around the home. And don’t forget about keeping the home clean.
Our home was vacant except for the former owners’ college-aged son, who stayed there temporarily before it sold. That means it was far from clean.
When we toured the home for the first time, we had to look past the stacks of old pizza boxes, empty liquor bottles, and the giant pile of laundry in the basement. But I wasn’t worried. I thought we’d hire a professional cleaning service to get the house up to par and move on without issue.
What I didn’t know was that having a house that wasn’t fully occupied and not very clean for an extended period of time can mean problems with pests down the road. We had countless issues with ants, bees, and other creepy-crawly visitors nearly the entire time we lived in the home, despite the use of a pest control service.
Also, the past owners are the ones responsible for fixing small issues before they become big issues. Case in point: The home’s master bathroom was original to the house and the toilet had been leaking into the floor and down the front of the house for nearly 20 years. The previous owners either didn’t know about it or hadn’t fixed it.
When we renovated the bathroom, we had to pay the added cost of replacing the floor joists since they were almost completely rotted. We also learned the delightful fact that the charming ivy on the front of the home was essentially being fed by toilet water. Yuck.
The age of the home makes a difference
The house was built in the 1950s. With that came a lot of charm — hardwood floors, crown molding, and a large, wooded lot. But it also came with a fair amount of issues.
The two major ones we had to deal with while living there were the roof and the air conditioning unit. When we bought the home, we knew it needed a new roof. The current one was nearly 20 years old, well past the usual lifespan of 15 years. Additionally, the air conditioning unit was on its way out, evident by its rusting frame and sporadic performance.
But both issues checked out in the inspection, so we negotiated a lower purchase price and didn’t think much of it. That was until six months into our very first year of new homeownership when we had to replace the air conditioning unit. Several professionals told us it wouldn’t last through our first summer in the house, and that wasn’t an option with a 2-month-old baby.
The one we settled on ended up being around $9,000, a big hit to our savings. Plus, we didn’t expect to have to shell out a large amount of cash quite so soon. And the few hundred dollars we saved on our mortgage each month due to the lower purchase price didn’t quite offset the upfront cost of that major repair.
Luckily, we didn’t have to replace the roof since we moved out of our first home due to a job transfer about a year after moving in. Moving so soon after buying our first house was bittersweet. It was the home we painstakingly renovated, where we brought our son home from the hospital, where we truly became a little family.
But I couldn’t help feeling like we dodged a bullet by moving out before the roof’s expiration date. Do you know how much a repair of that size costs? Ah, the joys of homeownership.
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