What I Should Have Considered Before Buying

I’m a big advocate of home ownership. Not because I think it’s a right but because I think it makes people appreciate where they live and the structure they live in. Homeowners are the anchors for a strong community. But home ownership does have its trade-offs. The following are four examples of things I should have considered before I bought my last home.

1. More Space = More Maintenance. My home isn’t huge by any stretch of the imagination. But it did come with 3 acres and an extra room over a very large garage. It’s amazing how dirty a space can get even though I only passed through it for about 30 seconds each day.

Did you know that trees don’t prune themselves? That they can split and create a week’s worth of cleanup work? That bad trees and shrubs grow twice as fast as the good ones?

98% of the property was easily maintainable. It was that last 2% that gave me the most grief. In the future, I would definitely consider buying less acreage. Especially here in the south where yearly growth is measured in feet rather than inches.

2. My Lack of Skills. I’m the first to admit that my house maintaining skills are on the severely lacking side of the scale. My wife would agree. Fixing a toilet? What’s that about? Climbing into a dank crawl space with nothing but a flashlight to fix a heater duct? Now that’s what I call learning on the job!

I certainly know more now than I did four years ago. But the process was painful sometimes and an inconvenience every time.

3. Winter Utility Costs. I only have one word—propane. I burned through nearly $700 of propane in two months. That didn’t include the cost of electricity to run the heater. That was in the winter of 2006. The last time it had been that cold for that long was in 1988, nearly 20 years prior.

I was cursed. My business was sinking while I was sinking more money into heating a house. I adjusted quickly after cutting and burning a cord of fire wood. Then replaced the wood stove with a pellet stove. I didn’t keep count but I probably spent $5,000+ on propane, wood, and stove replacements that first year.

4. Lack of Internet Access. When my wife and I first moved in, we both worked from home. We also both assumed we could get Internet access. We had specifically asked if Internet was available. “Oh, sure!” came the reply. What I didn’t realize was that my question wasn’t specific enough with what type of Internet access I’d be able to get. Internet access is Internet access, right? Apparently, dial-up still works fine for some people.

I ended up using satellite Internet service for a year—or what I affectionately referred to as “high speed dial-up”. After spending $500 to have it installed and paying $80/month for a year, I was ready to move on. And after having to clean off the dish receiver as a result of a greater than average snowfall that first winter, I was desperate. Luckily, by that point, cellular data service had become ubiquitous so my wife bought a data card for her laptop and I cruised the local coffee shops.

However bad I may have perceived these things at the time, they pale in comparison to the good memories we made. I miss that place—except for the mice of course. So, if you’re in the home buying mood, examine your motives. Look at all the pieces and parts. And set your expectations accordignly. If everything checks out, then go for it!

2 Responses to “What I Should Have Considered Before Buying”

  1. Gail Margolies Reid September 25, 2010 at 3:17 pm #

    As a CPA and long time homeowner, I have often counseled clients to look at a rent vs purchase comparison for a home, just as you might for a car. Homeowner has been gloried as ‘forced’ savings account, since you gain equity as you pay down your mortgage. Without the appreciation factor, which we can no longer count on, the biggest reason to buy has disappeared. You have to look at the numbers today, especially with so many nice properties available for lease in the marketplace.

  2. Jerret September 25, 2010 at 8:29 pm #

    I know for myself, buying has definitely lost its luster. Especially now that I’ve had to move and couldn’t sell my home. Because of the housing crisis, the rental/lease market has certainly picked up.