3 Lessons Learned as a New Homeowner
After almost two years as a new homeowner I have come up with a short list of lessons learned from experiences in the past 6 months or so. We were very lucky in that during the first year of homeownership we had no major problems or house-related expenses – this was especially good since I was pregnant and would not have been as happy to deal with crazy issues! Going into the closing of our house we were aware that there were some big expenses that we would have to deal with in our home. We were hoping they would not be in the first year or two but knew they would be necessary in the next 5 years and/or before we tried to sell the house.
- Replace the roof
- Replace/repair the HVAC system
- Purchase a new circuit breaker box
These are some pretty big deal breakers for most homebuyers and the sellers were not willing to budge in negotiations to take care of some of these problems, because they all “passed” inspection, but we decided we loved the house too much to let it go! In the first year we had one scare with the heat going out where we thought we would have to replace the whole system but it ended up being a minor fix that was solved through some impressive googling on my part 🙂 Last summer we did have to recharge/add coolant to the AC unit, but again that was a minor expense compared to replacing the whole thing.
Then we found water in the attic.
Turns out the roof showed signs that it had been leaking for over a YEAR AND A HALF!! Which means that we are 99.9% positive it was leaking undetected when the house went through inspection. So close to $11,000 later, an extremely large hit to our savings, and a completely new roof later…we come to our first lesson learned.
Lesson Learned Number 1: Pay for a certified roof inspection on any house that has an old roof.
Did you know that existed? We sure as heck did not. Apparently for $200-300 you can get a certified roof inspector to come out and inspect your roof in addition to the general inspector. We will definitely be investing this money in our next purchase if need be.
So that was in September. While it majorly sucked to spend all that money, we were proud of ourselves for paying cash (oh and mind you I had JUST received my last paycheck from teaching, ya know, because that is always how it happens…) and we knew it would be worth it in the end. One major expense down!
Flash forward to January and it is super cold outside and we have a baby that we need to make sure is warm at night. I started to notice that the heat would not get above 67 at night. I figured it had something to do with the system being old and not being able to keep up since it was in the teens at night. Because that is normal, right? Then it was not getting above 65. Then I woke up and it was 63 in the house and getting colder! I knew we were in for our second big expense of the year. After a huge debacle with the first company that came out and “fixed” the problem only to have the heat completely shut off that evening (on a Friday) we had a second company come out and we learned our second lesson.
Lesson Learned Number 2: Learn the ins and outs of the major appliances in your house.
Apparently there is a filter on the back of our furnace. I am not sure how we were supposed to know this unless someone told us since it is not every day that I walk into my attic and lean over my furnace to look at the back of it, but I will definitely remember to check for that on every furnace I own in the future. (And no not every furnace has one, or so we were told.) Well since filters are supposed to be changed every month or so and it had been 18 months since we moved in…you can probably guess why the heat shut off. The good news is that we only had to spend $300 for this emergency filter change instead of thousands on a new system!
As you probably have guessed from my title and also with the well known fact that bad things come in threes…there is one final lesson we have learned. And yes, it has to do with the circuit breaker box. We bought the house with a Pacific Electric breaker box. If you are new to the world of breaker boxes like I was, I will let you in on a little secret. These breaker boxes apparently combust into flames with almost no warning. Of course we put off replacing it because it is human nature to not fix a problem until it needs fixing. Spoiler alert: there was not a fire in our house. However, 6 outlets between our bedroom and E’s bedroom stopped working after plugging in a space heater one evening. After a couple of weeks of Michael trying to find and fix the problem, I was tired of not having any electricity on my side of the bed and I finally called an electrician. I will save you the scary details but let’s just say that I booked a next-day appointment to replace the breaker box.
Lesson Learned Number 3: When an expert tells you to replace something that has to do with electricity and possible fire, you replace it. ASAP.
I am truly thankful that nothing worse happened with our breaker box and I don’t like to think about what could have happened, but I would say that this is something I wish we had pushed harder for at closing. It was NOT a cheap fix – $2000 not cheap. Although we do now have a pretty nifty surge protector built in that is guaranteed for the whole house, which is definitely a bonus in an old house like ours.
So while the last 6 months have been super expensive in relation to the house, I am proud to say that we paid for everything in cash and we have made our house safer and more sellable! I am still not sure about the HVAC system though. I have had multiple experts in the field tell me that it could die tomorrow OR it could last 5 more years…I guess it is a game of HVAC roulette for now 🙂
I would LOVE to hear about any lessons you have learned from home ownership! Any tips for negotiating in the closing process?