Before we bought our first house, people told my husband and I that owning a home was a marathon, not a sprint.
They were right.
Eighteen months after diving into homeownership, we now know that slow and steady wins the race. Here are five important lessons we’ve learned from owning a home:
Build Your Emergency Fund. If you spend all your financial resources on buying a home, you won’t have the resources for upkeep and modifications. Remember to keep enough money in the bank to cover the unavoidable emergency. If you don’t, you will inevitably end up with no air conditioning in August, a broken water heater in January, or a maxed out credit card from dealing with both.
Prioritize Needs Over Wants. I told my husband days after closing that we had to replace our less-than-attractive kitchen countertops. I soon realized that we had a finite amount of funds. My husband and I agreed that the countertop money would be better spent repairing our wobbly deck. Though I wanted granite in my kitchen, I needed to make sure no one got hurt in my backyard.
Pace Yourself. As I write this, we still have outdated countertops. We also haven’t torn down the wallpaper in our half bathroom or replaced the previous owners’ basement window treatments. Rather than dwell on our “To Do” list, we put our personal touches on the house one project at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a house doesn’t become a home overnight.
Become a Pro. We recently wanted to replace a few light fixtures in our home. We also noticed that the temperature in two of our showers wouldn’t rise above lukewarm. We did not have the money to hire an electrician or a plumber, so we decided to consult the internet. YouTube contains hundreds of DIY tutorials and videos, and we quickly resolved both issues at zero cost by doing it ourselves. Who needs a handyman when you can become a pro in your living room?
Tackle Projects Together. Aside from saving money, DIY projects can also boost family morale. After some early missteps, my husband and I laughed our way through dripping stain on our bathroom floor and standing on ladders in the shower. The memories made through trials and errors became a more important part of the home as the improvements themselves.
More From Marie:
Three Tips for First Time Homebuyers (That No One Told Us)
Budgeting 101: How One Couple Graduated from the Financial School of Hard Knocks