Things I’ve Learned During 30 + Years of Home Ownership

home ownershipI’ve been a homeowner since 1978, when we bought our fixer upper little ranch house when our second baby was 6 months old.

I thought I knew all about keeping a house. After all, both Mom and Dad had been do-it-yourselfers and had trained me up to work right alongside them. As a child and teen, I painted (inside and out), mowed and trimmed, punched holes in concrete to install decorate iron railings, worked with hand and power tools and helped my parents do everything from putting up a garage to putting up storm windows.

Yet, over the years, I kept discovering new things about home ownership. Today, I share a few of those things with you. Know what you are getting into with home ownership – it may not be cheaper than renting!

Old is sometimes better than new.

A recent discovery is that newer regulations concerning energy efficiency and ‘greenness’ are causing major appliances to wear out much faster than older ones. When the door on my super quiet dishwasher broke, the salesman informed me that its replacement only has a lifetime of around 7 years!

My hairdresser’s new washing machine broke down after just 2 years (I’m working on at least 24 years with my old washer and dryer and they are still going strong!).

Houses built in my area 10 years ago were built with inferior wallboard – causing mold and health issues for the occupants. Our current home is 25 years old and I haven’t had any issues with drywall (at least not ones I didn’t cause myself).

Moving close to work can be an exercise in futility.

When I went back to work after staying home with kids for 10 years, the drive was to a central downtown location, but after a few years, I took a higher paying job at Trans World Airlines that required an hours drive each way. To be closer to work and to the airport (for all those free airplane trips we got as a perk), we moved to a location about 10 minutes away. Just 4 years later, I once again changed jobs, increasing my drive time to 30 + minutes each way.

Work locations change over time. While being close to work can simplify life, don’t count on remaining at the same job as long as you stay in your home.

Neighborhoods change.

When we moved into our first neighborhood, it was mostly a safe, lower middle class area. Over the 10 years we lived there, it degenerated into a crime infested dangerous place.

Our current neighborhood used to be in a quiet country like setting with little to no traffic. Development in the area is now causing our road to be so busy that we have trouble getting across the road to our mailbox.

It doesn’t pay to re-decorate every few years.

When I go to garage sales, I see folks selling nearly new home decorations for a pittance. They feel they have to keep up with the times and avoid ‘outdated’ decor.

What I now know is that decor always becomes out of date. You just can’t keep up. Find what you like and keep it. You will save a lot of time and money!

You aren’t REALLY in control.

When we bought our house, I thought that we had total control over the house and yard. But over time I’ve learned that just isn’t so.

The government can claim part of your yard, or even your entire home!

Eminent domain allows governments to seize personal property if it is in the public good. It also allows agencies to force homeowners to pay for things considered ‘for the public good’. Case in point is the conversion of homes on septic tanks to sewer lines as an area develops. We had to give up a long and wide easement in our yard, lose a bunch of trees, AND pay more than $20,000 to pay the sewer bond as well as pay an ongoing charge for sewer usage.

At that, we were luckier than some, who in areas around us lost their entire property (well they were paid a pittance for it) so that a race track and shopping area could be built.

Government agencies can dictate to you what you can and cannot do on your land.

In addition to zoning regulations (in which the local government says what kinds of buildings, animals and uses you can have on your land), other agencies can make you do the things you want or need to do in a certain manner.

We have a dry run on our property which, when it rains, carries the water off to a river. The run was eroding the land next to our home, threatening the integrity of our structure so we wanted to shore it up and build a bridge over it to gain access to the rest of our land. The Corp of Engineers in our area is a government agency whose mission is to keep the waterways working. They had total say over what we could and could not do – causing us to spend $40,000 on a project which should have cost much, much less than that.

The makeup of your home’s location can change drastically.

Realtor’s have drilled into home buyers the importance of location. But the makeup of a location can be changed by governments hungry for additional tax dollars.

We chose our current neighborhood for its quiet rural like nature. Lots of open spaces, home lots of at least 5 acres, low traffic and little development. Our local government, over the persistent objections of hundreds of the neighbors in the area, have agreed to let developers build apartments and commercial buildings in the area. They are hungry for the increased ‘revenue’ they will get from the sales and ongoing property taxes the increased populations will bring.

Homes need more maintenance than you think.

Having grown up in a do it yourself family, I thought I was well prepared for home maintenance tasks, but I didn’t know:

  • Foundations can be damaged by dry weather and require watering.
  • Furnace and AC filters need multiple cleanings all year – to maintain efficiency and keep the home warm or cool.
  • Houses will settle into the ground over time, causing doors and windows to not open or close properly and wall board to crack or buckle. You have to at least, deal with fixing and patching.
  • Homes with wooded lots require that the gutters be cleaned prior to each rain. We learned that the rain can back up and run down the window and into the wallboard causing moisture damage and carpenter ants to invite themselves into our home.
  • Caulking on the exterior and baths must be done multiple times to keep the moisture out.
  • Roofs don’t last forever. We have re-done roofs on two homes so far and will no doubt need another new one on this home within a few years. Exhaust pipes and other openings need to be weather proofed once every few years in between roofing jobs. Otherwise, you end up dealing with wet ceilings, wet insulation and the possibility of breathing in unhealthy mold and mildew.
  • Even the best windows can lose their seals, causing fogging between the panes.
  • Unless you have single pane windows, at some point, if you keep your home long enough, the seals between panes will fail and the only good solution is a very expensive window replacement job.


These are just a few of the unpleasant surprises for which I was unprepared as a new homeowner.

What are some of yours?

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Things I’ve Learned During 30 + Years of Home Ownership — 3 Comments

  1. When I was younger, I used to dream of the day when I could build a house, thinking that everything would be new and work great and it would take care of all of our problems. Now that I’m past 40, I really have no desire, as I’ve learned that even new houses don’t stay new for very long. After all, every house was new once, and paying the premium often associated with a new house doesn’t really save you money in the long run.

  2. Being a homeowner definitely has its surprises. It’s not all roses (which I have to trim by the way since there are starting to get overgrown.) You mentioned a lot of potential issues that can happen inside the home, but there’s also the outside to worry about. Landscaping can be a pain, especially if you have a power hungry home owners association.

    While being a homeowner is satisfying, it’s something I probably won’t want to deal with when I get older.

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