I know this post might be out of the ordinary from all my green living posts you find here but Tyler and I made it through our first year of owning our first home and it feels like something to celebrate! Sadly it was not all rainbows and Martha Stewart paint samples. I wanted to write about the experience and a few lessons learned in the hopes it will help or give some insight to what was a pretty tough first year of homeownership.
Last year I shared this post about our little Eco-home in the city and it has remained one of my top 5 posts. It’s a year later and I thought maybe there are others out there googling for advice, help and insight like I know I was before we bought our first home. There’s tons of advice on buying your first home, refinancing, what to do if you’re underwater on your mortgage and how & when is best to sell your home but if you ask me just one year in there’s a lot going on outside those few categories and not a lot of advice. It feels like once you get those keys you’re on your own.
Tyler and I got the keys to our home on my 30th birthday. What should of felt like the best birthday gift in the world felt overwhelming and more foreign than anything in my life ever has. Getting to the point of having keys in our hands was an emotional roller coaster to say the least. Our offer didn’t get picked, then we got a call two weeks later (after we had finally gotten over it and started looking again) saying the other people had pulled out and that they’d like to accept our offer. Then we ended up having an unexpectedly long escrow due to plumbing issues which had us working with our landlords at the place we were renting to extended our stay for an unknown number of days. Needless to say we were on edge, shaken, nervous and both trying to keep our shit together for the other.
I think it would have been nice to know that it’s OK that I didn’t want to do the happy dance. Knowing that feeling overwhelmed and nauseous was pretty normal would have made it all a bit easier. Instead I felt like I was putting on a show for friends and family about how happy I was. I thought the more I tried to be happy about our new home the more I would be. This was not the case. Be gentle with yourself if you’re not doing back flips of joy the first day, not everyone does.
We are both very grateful that although we pushed our budget to the top limit to buy our home we did not go over, not by even one dollar. Banks, realtors and blogs were all telling us “you won’t notice a couple thousand more”, “it’s an investment, everyone ends up doing it, it always works out”. I ask you please don’t get swept up in the “it’s only $5,000 to $10,000 more” syndrome because it can be oh so easy to do. There will be enough stress transitioning and budgeting from being a renter to homeowner without added money stress. Adding $50 to $300 more each month then you were planning is not the smartest, believe me that money can be used for about a million different home improvements.
Moving in was a blur, a crazy whirlwind of projects that needed to get done before we could move in. The unexpectedly long escrow meant that we only had 4 days to get our house ready before we had to be out of our old place. We had dreamt of having plenty of time to do our few “must do” projects before having to officially move in, but that didn’t happen. Does that perfect timing ever workout for anyone? If it did for you be sure to thank your lucky stars.
3 weeks into owning our home we should have been finishing unpacking and enjoying decorating, instead our plumbing issues were back and they were really bad. We had to move out of our home for close to 4 weeks they were so bad. We are lucky to have many kind friends and family that offered us a place to stay but there were still many mornings we were getting ready for work in a hotel room. I vividly remember sitting in my living room surrounded by boxes crying my eyes out on the phone with the unwavering uncaring home insurance lady. It was a long battle of who was going to pay; home warranty, us, the previous owners or home insurance. The worst part of this entire long horrible process was the warranty and insurance companies were doing everything they could not to pay the $8,000+ bill. All said and done the home warranty plan ended up paying for it (4 weeks later and after about 8 plumbers came and looked at the problem). Once the plumbing work started 2 and a half days later we were finally back in our home.
Please be sure to ask for your home warranty plan to include the plumbing all the way out to the street and not just within your four walls. To this day we are so grateful we insisted on this additional protection because of the previous plumbing issues we had during escrow. If we had not, we would have been out of luck and stuck with a huge problem to fix on our own.
I wish I was joking but, sadly I am not, 3 months later we had even more plumbing problems. This time it only took a week and a half to get fixed. It’s weird to be grateful for only being out of your home for a week and a half, but we were. With all these massive interruptions to our day to day life and stress about having to pay large bills or be forced out of our home again, you can only imagine that we started to question everything. Was this the right house for us? Should we have ever bought a house? On and on, down the “what if” street we went. It’s not a very fun street to hang out on. I recommend you find a way out as fast as possible.
A few months later (this one is just comical at this point) we came home after being gone for about a week to a home that smelled like skunk. Yes we had a skunk dig and make a home under our raised foundation house. After a $300+ humane removal bill and lots of airing the house out, sleeping out on the couch (the smell was worst in the bedroom) and essential oil sprays we were skunk smell free.
This past year I would have ran away and hid many times to get away from all the chaos and uncomfortable feelings if it wasn’t for Tyler. He was absolutely amazing at keeping me feeling grounded in a very tough time. Just because there are many days you wondered, “Should we have really bought this house?” or “Was this a smart idea?” Doesn’t mean it was a bad decision it just means you are growing into a new version of yourself or there is some bigger lesson to be learned.
Share your feelings with your partner and closest friends and family. It feels so good to be honest and not keep it bottled in. I always felt so uncomfortable, like I was the only person to ever feel this way after buying a house. The more I shared with others and heard their stories I started to feel not so alone. It was great to get hugs, and be reassured that things will work out. Put your fears out there so you can see them and begin to find solutions. It was a great relief to not have to pretend to be super happy when I was feeling frustrated.
I have a very free spirit and am constantly daydreaming of all the places I want to go and adventures I can’t wait to experience. If you fall into the wanderlust category, beware because you might have, what Tyler calls your inner gypsy, cry out in panic experience. Buying a house means that you are putting down some serious roots. I had to take a lot of time to journal and reflect on what owning a house meant for me and my free spirit. My advice would be you do the same. Don’t lock those dreams away and think they are for “someday” (aka never), get creative where there’s a will there’s a way. We went on a long road trip and saw a part of the county we never had before, we booked a trip to Cancun, Mexico through Costco because that’s what we could afford. Save your dollars for what matters, if you love to travel don’t keep buying $20 shirts from Target every time you go there to get shampoo (or does that only happen to me?). Set your mind and your priorities straight and it will make a world of difference, I know it did for me.
I’m totally proud of my generation for reshaping what the “American Dream” looks like now because the old one is dead. It’s time we allow each individual to create their own standards of success, like putting ALL your money into buying a small 700 sq. foot 92 year old home in the city or taking out a loan to open a coffee shop or becoming a yoga instructor or not giving up on the dream of being an artist. I find this movement so inspiring. I like being apart of it, finding my own way to happiness.
I’m so excited to begin a new year, with fresh intentions and perspectives. Knowing that my perspective is all I really have control over. I’m ready to leave that rough year in the books and start a new one. It feels so good to state that.
If you’re still reading you’re awesome and I hope that you will never experience such a rough introduction into homeownership. If you do or did I hope you found this helpful in some way and know I’m sending you a BIG HUG!