If you dream of buying a house, you probably imagine sipping coffee on your front porch and hosting backyard barbecues, not speed dialing the plumber as your basement floods.
Before you commit to a home, you should carefully consider the downsides of homeownership.
Here are five lessons new homeowners learned the hard way — and that you can find out before you buy:
A Shorter Mortgage Can Save a Bundle.
New homebuyers often get steered into 30-year mortgages. But interest rates are lower on 15-year mortgages, you pay less interest overall, and you pay off your house in half the time.
For example, a calculator from Chase shows a shorter mortgage can save you $25,000 in interest on a $200,000 home. On the other hand, it’s a bad idea to jump into a 15-year loan if it will be a stretch to make the higher monthly payment.
A best-of-both-worlds option: get a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage and pay extra each month, said Anthony Piccone, president and CEO of 7th Level Mortgage. That way, you pay down your loan balance quickly without locking yourself into the higher payment, he said.
Several years ago, Ali Wenzke, who runs The Art of Happy Moving, moved with her family from Chicago to Nashville, TN. They bought their “dream house” — a brick Colonial in a gated community. But they focused so much on the home they didn’t consider whether the neighborhood was a fit.
“While our kids toddled around, the neighborhood kids headed off to college,” Wenzke said. “Not only did our children not have friends in the area, but this made it difficult for my husband and I to integrate into the community.”
They put their house on the market and moved back to Chicago, where they rented first to get a better feel for their new neighborhood.
You’re Never Prepared For the Worst
Every new homeowner quickly learns that home disasters happen at the worst times. And you don’t want to frantically Google local plumbers at 2 a.m. as your hot water heater floods your hardwood floor. Ask neighbors for the trusted names and numbers of each of the following and stick them into phone:
- Appliance repair tech
- HVAC company
When New York City tour company owner Georgette Blau recently bought a house a half hour outside the city, she found not one but three good handymen.
“Emergencies arise and, unlike apartment living where we just moved from, there is no super to help you,” Blau said.
It’s a Ton of Work.
When Blau rented on New York’s Upper East Side, she reserved Sundays for going to museums and plays. Now, she spends weekends on home tasks such as, recently, shopping for a $275 leaf blower with her five-year-old son and 3-month-old daughter in tow.
“Now I’m dragging two kids to Home Depot,” she says.
For homeowners, weekends quickly fill with chores ranging from painting to pruning shrubs.
“It sounds obvious, but I did not know how much work a house would require, as far as both the interior and the exterior,” Blau said.
Neglecting Maintenance Will Cost You.
When John Bodrozic bought his first house, a 1970s ranch in a Sacramento, CA suburb, he didn’t know he needed to trim the shrubs around his outdoor air conditioning unit so air could circulate freely. When his A/C stopped working due to the strain of being choked by leafy branches, the repairman told him the unit needed a new motor, at a cost of $1,200.
“I felt like a dumb homeowner,” he said.
To help others avoid similar mistakes, Bodrozic co-founded HomeZada, a digital hub for home management where you can get reminders to perform routine maintenance tasks. For example, remembering to clean out dryer vents and to check for roof leaks are both small chores that can prevent costly damage.
“Nobody teaches you these things,” Bodrozic said.