If you’ve never owned a house before, there are some things you need to know. Here is my take on the skills every homeowner or landlord needs to have. Skills that will save you big bucks over time.
Know When to Get Help.
It’s pretty standard advice to new homeowners that they should have a lawyer present at closing, yet we didn’t. Knowing when to get help is sometimes difficult (will the help be worth the money?), but if you get it right, you can save yourself from a bad purchase contract, a liability lawsuit or an erroneous insurance judgment.
This is a must have life skill that I found difficult to develop. Everything is negotiable. To get the best deal when buying your house, you have to negotiate. To get the best contractor to re-roof your house, you have to negotiate. To get the best buy on new furniture to fill your house, you have to negotiate. Heck, even to make an offer on your dream home, you have to negotiate with your spouse and family!
My daughter-in-law knew the power of negotiation. They wanted all new furniture for their home so they shopped around to find the store they wanted to use. She walked in, requested the store manager and laid it on the line. “I’m going to spend a boat load of money today in a furniture store,” she said to him, “if you give us x% discount it will be in your store, otherwise someone else will get our business”. She got her discount!
Keeping costs under control can require persistent and recurrent contact and negotiation with the service providers. Crystal (owner of Budgeting in the Fun Stuff) wrote about how she annually contacts her cable/internet supplier to get reductions in her bill – step by step.
Dealing With Government Entities.
Any number of reasons may require that you interact with your city, county state or national government in regards to your property.
Perhaps the county appraiser raised the appraised value of your home, thereby raising the taxes. You will want to know how to challenge the new appraisal and avoid spending more tax money. We have successfully challenged appraisals twice with our county.
Perhaps the city wants to use your land for some public work and invokes eminent domain laws to take an easement. You may want to fight the easement as we did when the city tried to take an 80 foot on in our front yard to put in a main sewer line.
Perhaps there are city rules that your home falls under and the city comes after you for not abiding by them.
Dealing With People.
Repairmen, neighbors, lawyers, realtors, and etc will all be in your life when you own property (and in fact may even be there if you don’t). Knowing when to be friendly, when to be firm and when to be demanding or conciliatory will ease your stress, help you develop good relationships and possibly save you money.
Home Maintenance – Keeping Things Up to Snuff.
If, right away, you learn how to do things such as painting, cleaning (filters, dryer vents, refrigerator coils, carpets) refinishing (floors, furniture and etc) and lawn equipment care (cleaning air filters, changing spark plugs, sharpening blades, etc) – you can save yourself a bundle really fast.
As an example, last year I learned the importance of keeping our AC filters clean. We lost cooling power in the hot of the summer and called the repairman. Most of what he did was to hose down the outdoor filter – and write us a bill for upwards of $100.
You’ll also want to learn how to de-bug your home – and ward off the other critters, like mice, that want to share it with you. This has to be done multiple times a year and calling an exterminator can be bothersome and expensive – even if each visit is cheap, it adds up to a lot over time.
With the internet, you can get practical how to information, illustration and even movies on almost any maintenance or repair topic you might need. Develop a relationship with the local hardware store owner and you have another great source.
Home Repair – Fix It When It Breaks.
Although we are not what I would call handymen, even we have learned how to do jobs that continually pop up as repairs in our home. Jobs like toilet repair, faucet replacement, leaks, hot water loss, dishwasher stinks, sewage smells, HVAC issues, and appliance problems – when investigated can all turn out to be simply repaired at a fraction of the cost of bringing in outside help. Since these things tend to happen periodically – learning common repair techniques early in the home ownership game can save you lots of money.
Most of us don’t hire interior decorators to buff up our homes, but having a basic knowledge on how to properly hang a picture, coordinate colors and set a style or theme for your rooms makes your house more of a home. Although these things sound simple and commonsense-ical, the first time you try to locate a stud to set the nail for the picture might be challenging!
Landscaping and Lawn Maintenance.
Most homes have yards. If you don’t want to spend a bundle on yard care, learning how to plant bushes, trees and gardens as well as being able to do your own mowing, trimming, leaf raking and fertilizing is pretty much a required skill set.
You can’t just keep accumulating stuff if you intend to stay in the same house. Trust me, your’e going to have to figure out how to part with stuff. Conversations with your spouse and other family members and agreements that each of you will de-clutter on a set schedule can be helpful. Otherwise, one party feels like they never get to keep any of their neat stuff while the other party gets to save it all! Once you decide to de-clutter, you have to figure out how you want to get rid of it. Sometimes the most financially rewarding scenario is to donate it to a tax deductible charity!
When you sell your home, you will want to know what it cost you and this will include any improvement costs you had along the way. So if you put in a new bathroom or re-model the kitchen or any number of other improvement projects, you need to keep records. This will save you money on any capital gains tax that might be in effect when you sell.
If you have a loss due to fire, tornado, flood or other hazard, you will want to be able to tell the insurance company what you lost. You will need a home inventory of your stuff. This is not an easy record keeping chore, but a video camera will help. If you prefer lists, get started when you don’t have much stuff – it will be a lot easier to get it all on paper and then just add the new stuff as it comes in.
So take the advice of a long time home owner who didn’t necessarily learn how to do all this stuff up front – and develop your important home owner skills now, early in the home owner game!
What skills do you consider must haves for homeowners? Why?