Many millennials are in the process of leaving their rental units behind to become homeowners, but purchasing a house or condo doesn't solely result in more space and freedom—it can bring about a slew of challenges, too. We spoke with young homeowners who recently moved into their new spaces to gather tips on what prospective buyers should keep in mind when it comes to property taxes, repairs, and even the design process.
The Existence of Property Taxes
Property taxes will vary across the country and will depend on your home size, but they should certainly be kept top of mind during your search process. "Consider property taxes as part of your budget when you’re looking at homes and decide how much you want to spend on them," New Jersey resident Callie Bunin says.
You'll want to continue to factor these costs into your budget post-move in, too, of course. "We’ve found that it’s helpful to set aside funds throughout the year so it doesn’t catch you off guard at year-end," Washington, D.C. homeowner Stephanie Schneider adds.
You Can't Call Building Maintenance
While many rental companies make repairs feel seamless, things look different when you're a homeowner who can no longer dial a front desk or file a maintenance request online when things get messy. "It's stressful being in charge of everything in terms of maintenance," says Jennifer Allevato, a new homeowner living in the Washington, D.C. area. "The best tip is to get recommendations for anyone who comes to work on your home—ask neighbors, your realtor, or join a neighborhood group online." Influencer Kat Jamieson, who recently purchased a home in Connecticut, agrees. "It helps to have a list of everyone right when you move in so you can reference them quickly throughout the year as needed."
Allevato advises paying extra careful attention to helpful hints that may arise during the home inspection, too. "The inspector showed us basics like where our main water shutoff was and how to clean the furnace. We kept the list of 'issues' (many were cosmetic) to refer to for updates to the home later as an easy checklist."
Shaker Heights, Ohio resident Sarah Brandon also emphasizes the importance of scoping things out in advance. "Biggest piece of advice; invest in a really, really good home inspector! Do your due diligence on the front end so you understand as best you can the condition of your home."
And the types of repairs needed may be pretty extensive. "In the first year of homeownership, we had to tackle everything from damaged dormer casings to replacing our whole downstairs HVAC system," Great Falls, Virginia resident Allison Lipsey comments. But while such maintenance may involve more planning (and a higher price tag) than before, the freedom that comes with it can definitely pay off. "Although you must do the legwork yourself, you have much more control over the quality of replacement parts and units and the repair work," Lipsey notes. "As renters, we called our landlord every summer for six years to service our barely functioning AC unit, never once getting a new unit, always patching and repairing the old."
Furnishings and Appliances Aren't Included
Many young homeowners are moving into spaces that are larger than their rentals—which means that purchasing additional pieces of furniture is often a top priority. But, as Atlanta resident and new homeowner Taylor Cordeiro urges, one most certainly doesn't have to pay full price to design an aesthetically pleasing space. "If you’re not shopping estate sales, furniture consignment shops, and Facebook Marketplace, you are overpaying to furnish your house—full stop," she says. And going this route comes with benefits besides saving money right off the bat. Cordeiro adds, "When you buy furniture and decor from these sources, if something breaks or doesn’t work in your space down the road, you generally have more flexibility to adjust."
But there's no need to rush to make a home feel complete. "Before you dive into major house projects, design, and furniture decisions, live in the house for a while," Schneider advises. "It takes time to figure out how you want to use the space and you will come up with better ideas than you would’ve on day one."
Renovate and DIY to Your Heart's Content
Don't be afraid to purchase a home that is in need of a bit of a refresh, Jamieson notes. "There are so many DIYs or easy fixes you can do to make a space feel fresh—seriously don't underestimate a fresh coat of paint." Even a basement that has seen better days can be totally transformed with a bit of creativity. "We recently redid the floor in our basement and went with a vinyl faux wood plank that is a beautiful white oak shade and looks real," Jamieson shares. "It was affordable and completely changed the space."
Just be sure to budget accordingly if you plan to make changes. "If doing renovations, like we did, make sure to pad your budget with at least $10,000 extra," Bunin suggests. "Once you start opening walls, moving things around, etc. you’ll find surprises!" In her own home, re-wiring the main floor due to an electrical box that wasn't up to code ran $8,000.
On the decorating side, Allevato has greatly enjoyed the freedom that's come with designing her space now that she's a homeowner. "It feels so wonderful to be able to change or update anything without having to get a landlord's approval (or denial)," she explains. "We had our whole interior professionally painted (even the ceilings!) and added wainscoting to our primary bedroom. It feels fresh and beautiful and so much more like home."