BE PREPARED: The first year of owning a home can be full of surprises – good and bad – and the best way to enjoy the experience and cope with issues which will inevitably arise is to be as well prepared as possible
Buying your very own home is an exciting time but it can also be daunting, particularly for first-time buyers who are likely to feel anxious about the additional responsibilities of home ownership and the burden of a long-term financial commitment.
“It can take months to find the right property and then navigate the convoluted purchasing process and finally being able to move into their new home is often a relief but, unless new home owners are well-prepared, the first year of home ownership can be challenging,” says Claude McKirby, Co-Principal for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs, False Bay and Noordhoek.
“There are so many advantages to owning your own home but the responsibility can be overwhelming, especially for those who’ve bought older properties or fixer-uppers and are used to calling the landlord when issues arise.
And, whilst it’s impossible to anticipate everything that could happen, McKirby suggests that the first year for new home owners to bear the following in mind:
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT:
- Something’s going to break –Whether it’s a minor issue like a curtain rail or door handle or more serious like the geyser, you can be sure that something will break, even if you’ve bought a new build.
- Your big dreams are likely to doused by big realities checks – Unless you’ve designed and built your dream home, chances are there’ll be a few things you’ll want to change. It may just be the wall colour in the lounge or new bathroom and kitchen taps or you may have more ambitious changes in mind like open-planning the living area or renovating the entire kitchen. However, after the costly business of buying property and moving house, most new home owners find that there is a lot less left over in the kitty for their ambitious plans and will have to come to terms with the fact that it will take a lot longer to achieve their initial dream.
- You’ll probably have to do things you never expected to do – Gutters need to be cleared regularly, blocked drains need to be unblocked and when the pool is stubbornly green you will learn more about alkalinity and acidity than you did at school. Expect the unexpected and be prepared to learn.
- It’s likely to cost more than you thought – Over and above renovation plans, it’s inevitable that your expenses will be higher than they were before – and probably more than anticipated. For instance, if you’ve moved into a larger home than before, you’ll spend more on electricity, when the toilet breaks, you now have to cover the repair cost and when the pool becomes algae-ridden, chemicals need to be bought.
There will always be something that needs to be replaced or fixed and let’s not forget the other new monthly cost – municipal rates – which will increase over time.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
“Being prepared for the most likely eventualities will go a long way in easing anxiety and minimising the stress if or when situations do arise as problems can be dealt with far more quickly and easily,” says McKirby.
He recommends the following to ensure preparedness:
- Save money – When you own property, a rainy-day fund is more important than ever and you should include this in your budget from the get-go to cover emergency repairs or large maintenance projects like roof repairs. It can also ease the financial burden during difficult times so that you don’t risk losing your home. If you can maintain an account with the equivalent of six month’s income you’ll have peace of mind – and, if you are lucky enough to never need it, you’ll have a bonus which can be spent on a dream holiday, a special wedding or added to the retirement fund.
- Establish where everything is located as soon as you possible – Where do you switch off the water supply, where is your drain access, how do you access the geyser and exactly where in the roof space is it situated? You don’t want to be running around like a headless chicken watching your home flood because you have no idea where the municipal water tap is situated.
- Compile a list of recommended tradesmen – Unless someone in the house is very handy, you’ll need a list of trustworthy contacts which includes an electrician, a plumber and a handyman. Having someone you can call in a pinch to repair the garage door or unblock a drain will make life infinitely easier.
- Make sure you’re properly covered – Take the time to choose the best building and household insurance for your specific needs and update your policies every year. And don’t forget to inform your insurer when you are going to do renovations or make improvements.
“Owning a home in the first year is the dream for many people and when they achieve it, it should be a great new adventure and a happy time, but the reality is that home ownership does have many challenges which can be both costly and stressful, however if one is prepared, then most issues are easily fixed with minimum stress and fuss,” concludes McKirby.