Expect the Unexpected When Buying Your First Home

Buying a home is complicated and definitely not something we learned about in school. Once you’ve decided to buy and found a Realtor® to work with, you’ll be making a lot of decisions, including:

  • Where do you want to live?
    • What is an acceptable commuting distance to jobs, schools, doctors and hospitals, veterinarians, public parks, relatives and neighbors?
    • Which of these factors are more important than others?
  • What does your home NEED to have?
    • Which features are nonnegotiable, which are preferred, and which are on your ‘reach’ wish list?
    • Is it more important to have a garage or a basement? A big front yard or a big backyard? An indoor/outdoor mudroom or an indoor/outdoor lounge space?
  • What budget can you afford monthly in order to determine what your mortgage payment should be?

Realtors® who use OneKey® MLS have access to a program called RatePlug, that connects you with trusted lenders and helps you understand your options, specific to each listing that catches your eye.

When it comes to choosing your new home, you need to plan for mortgage payment, taxes, and fees. But that isn’t all. Owning a house is a continuous repair and maintenance project, and you need to budget monthly and expect the unexpected before you sign on the dotted line.

Not sure what home expenses you’ll need to budget for? Here’s a quick list of the various home features that require regular maintenance, inspection or repair.

Home Features to Consider which Require Attention:

  1. HVAC, AC, Fireplace, Chimney, & Heating Units
  2. Boiler & Hot Water Heater
  3. Septic System
  4. Water Well (typically exclusive in rural areas)
  5. Smoke Detector, CO2 detector, Fire Extinguishers
  6. Windows
  7. Pest Control
  8. Interior Water
  9. Exterior Water
  10. Downspouts & Gutters
  11. Roof
  12. Driveway, Patio, & Decking
  13. Lawn, plants, & Shrubs

Before you buy, ask:

  • When was ___ replaced, repaired, maintained or inspected?
  • When should I expect to replace, repair, maintain or have ____ inspected?
  • How does ______ affect the property value as is?
  • Does ______ create a health or safety concern?
  • Is the seller willing to fix, repair, replace, or have ____ inspected?

After you buy:

Stay on top of maintenance. While costly, small repairs, maintenance, inspections, and cleanings are far less expensive than replacing equipment and making large-scale repairs, which may include extensive property damage.

How do you find the technician or specialist you need?

  1. Ask your new neighbors for recommendations! They might know someone local that worked on their house and it’s a great reason to start a conversation over the fence!
  2. Ask your Realtor® for recommendations. Yes, even after you’ve bought your home, your Realtor® can guide you to a local contractor for various repairs and renovations.
  3. Use an online search databases that vets contractors and posts real reviews. Angi and Home Advisor (powered by Angi, formerly Angie’s List) are the top databases to consider, as well as Home Depot’s Pro Referral and Porch’s Pros – each of which requires background checks for premium contractors in their database.
  4. Ask local groups on social platforms for recommendations.

You Can Never Truly Expect the Unexpected

You can prepare by being informed about your new home’s features, inspecting, maintaining, and replacing features on a set schedule, budgeting monthly for home ownership outside of your mortgage and utility costs, and fixing small problems before they become costly and unmanageable.