Advice For A New Homeowner

I just bought a new house. My first house. Praise God.

Slight problem though. I know nothing about owning a home. I own a screwdriver, a hammer, a pair of pliers, and a tape measure. All previous home repairs have been done with duct tape.

If you told me that the headlight fluid on my radiator gasket needed to be replaced, I would believe you. I wish that Tim “the toolman” Taylor was my uncle.

So what advice would you give to me, the new homeowner?

  • Jeremiah

    The internet will be your best friend.

  • Matt Rodatus

    Well, I’ve only been a homeowner since late June, and I’m still a spring chicken (25 years old), so I don’t know that I can offer you much. But, here’s what I’d say:

    1. Watch out for idolatry in your heart and your family’s hearts. (Do you have a wife/kids?) Your wife may want to decorate the place, which is a fine and good thing, but don’t let her be consumed and preoccupied with it (Proverbs 4:23). Correct and exhort with all patience and instruction about our true home and where our hope and joy must remain (in Christ).

    2. Be hospitable. Plan for a room (or rooms) to be a permanent guest room. Besides hospitality being a command (Romans 12:13), it’s a blessing to us as well (Proverbs 11:25). It’s a lot of fun actually.

    Regarding house repair…I can’t help you. I’m a software engineer and pretty inept at using tools effectively. I generally just ask for advice and try to figure it out with an internet how-to (as Jeremiah suggested).

  • http://WebsiteURL Meg Brewer

    Paint everything beige……

  • http://WebsiteURL Dan Roca

    If you’re going to do it yourself, do it mostly right.

  • http://WebsiteURL Jeremy Hetrick

    Ask around as to who you should call for all of your repairs:
    heating and cooling
    small repairs (dry wall damage from your boxing and dropkicking practices or golf swings into the wall)

    seriously, these things are important to have handy when you need them, and most people need them when other people are sleeping. :)

  • http://WebsiteURL Laurie

    I have a lot of experience with this. (we’ve owned 6 homes and have managed to make money every time, even in this market).
    1. Consider buying the ugliest house in the nicest neighborhood. It’s great for investment.
    2. Look at tons of houses. You can’t always trust what you see online. I rejected the house we are living in in my initial internet search. I am so glad my realtor brought us anyway.
    3. Don’t let emotion get in the way. This is a huge investment. Be practical. Well meaning people said, “you’ll just know.” In our case, didn’t just know. ever. We had to really do our homework and make a logical decision based on a lot of counsel and thought.
    4. Consider ministry situations. For us, having a big room somewhere in the house was a non-negotiable because of hosting meetings. This might not be an issue for you, but consider that because you are in ministry, your house is a ministry base of sorts. Hospitality is a huge consideration.
    5. Consider a neighborhood that is in transition. It’s a risk, but sometimes those older grungy artsy neighborhoods (as opposed to the Ryan homes communities) are a great investment.
    6. Consider how close you are to your office and the people in your church. When we moved from MD to OH we moved to a town close to the office, but far from a lot of folks. 18 months later, we moved again.
    7. We aren’t handy. at all. But we loved our fixer upper experience. You can look at our pics on facebook. We did everything that we needed to do to get in the house in 1 week. it’s amazing what you can do with hard work and lots of help.
    8. The kitchen is extremely important. put your money there if you are fixer uppering.
    9. Look past the decor of a home. Look at the bones of the home.
    I’m sorry this is so long. Hope it’s helpful. We just went through this over the summer, so a lot of it is fresh in my mind. Jason is a guru with this stuff, if you want more of the financial, business side of things.

  • http://WebsiteURL Scott cramer

    Consider refinancing out of that subprime mortgage.

  • http://WebsiteURL Kim

    American Home Shield…you can look them up online.

    And no, I get nothing for telling you that. We’ve owned a policy for 12 years and as the wife, I can’t tell you what a blessing it is to make one call, pay one payment of a set amount and have someone come fix whatever, whenever. Ceiling fans to water heaters, a/c to garbage disposals…electrical, plumbing, appliances. They’ve fixed them all. I’d have to do the math but we’re probably still ahead after all this time. No matter the cost to them, our payment is the same. Makes budgeting for repairs easy.

    If you have a couple of small things…say a burner on the stove doesn’t work, the dishwasher isn’t cleaning the dishes well and the washing machine is leaking…you still only pay ONE payment charge. As long as the same guy who comes out can fix them all, you pay once. All appliances can be lumped together…all plumbing, etc. So, we save the little things for the big item, and get a lot of work for about $60, I think.

    The monthly cost is much less than that. Works for us and has for a long time. Hope it helps.

  • http://WebsiteURL Maria

    Don’t be afraid to learn new things and try the repairs on your own! Lots of great resources at the library – and now on the internet. Don’t compare your house/projects to what you see on tv. Take your time and remember that only God is perfect – the mistakes we make are our daily reminders of this great truth. Laugh at yourself and be humble enough to call on your friends for help.

  • http://WebsiteURL Sara

    Become like us and Joe & Mary and just keep J. on speed dial.

  • http://WebsiteURL laurie

    Um. I didn’t read your post carefully and thought you were still house hunting. Sorry. Jason and I got a good laugh out of my stupidity. And then I was scared for my children whom I homeschool. :)

  • http://WebsiteURL BrettR

    Take a slightly older man with large callused hands out for lunch. When something needs fixed call him and have him walk you through it. Lunch is cheaper than a trip to the ER, and you will gain an invaluable friend and mentor.

    I am guessing that unplugging “stuff” will be the first lesson.

  • Elizabeth

    We’ve been homeowners for five years now, and I do miss being able to call maintenance and have them fix it at no charge to me. :/ That is probably the only benefit to renting…even if you have to wait a week, you don’t have to worry about it.

    However, since we’re blessed to be homeowners now…

    I agree with others who have said to talk to others who are older and more experienced, utilize the internet, etc. Do your best to learn how to take care of a lot of things yourself. We have to ask for help a lot. However, there are some things that we have been able to fix easily (dryers are usually easily fixed ;

    Probably one of the most practical things to keep in mind…don’t procrastinate for most things…they will only get worse and do further damage (a stitch in time saves nine ;) We have a handle that broke in half on the kitchen sink which we’ve let go for a couple of years b/c it is functional and won’t cause further damage by leaving it in its current state. However, this is not the case for many other things.

    Anyway, Congratulations! Enjoy!! And don’t sweat it–God always provides! ;)

  • Matthew Westerholm

    Your furnace probably has an air filter. They cost $0.20 to replace, but will save you expenses and furnace repair if you swap ‘em as scheduled (couple of times a year).

  • http://WebsiteURL Erik Huff

    Hey Stevo,

    #1 Go to Lowes and see if the Dewalt tool bag is still on sale (if not then wait until it is again betwen now and mid-january) it normally sells for about $50 (the bag alone is worth 15-20) and contains a nice screw driver, a quick change driver set and several nice drill bits.
    #2 Save up (or ask as a gift) for a corded hammer drill and a nice extension cord. The corded drill is MUCH more powerful than the cordless and living in town you will be able to get to anything you need to drill with a 25 of 50 foot extension cord (I like yellowjackets).

    Finally, regarding your tweet about good worship songs for Thanksgiving Sunday, I humbly resubmitting “Your Hand Upon Me.”

    As I think of more advice I will force you to listen to it at awkward and inconvenient times.

  • Jon Daley

    Working on stuff yourself isn’t hard, just follow my example:


  • http://WebsiteURL Ben Hastings

    You're a pretty smart guy, Stephen. Unless you're totally inept in the kitchen, you should be able to handle most basic repairs. Hometime is a great place for the right way to handle most jobs. Their webisite is full of a lot of great information –

  • http://WebsiteURL Tim Madeira

    Couple Things…

    Things a novice could try w/o the help of someone who does know (don’t be afraid to try things…much is about common sense).
    -drywall (it’ll take a couple trys to get it mostly right)
    -refinishing floors (with a little reading)
    -non structural carpentry (trimwork, etc…)

    Things to leave to the people who know…
    -structural carpentry

    When you’re doing a project yourself, it’s ok to be ok with “it’s good enough”. Just make sure it’s right. If you want perfection, then pay someone to do it.

    To save on your heating, look for drafts around windows and doors (see Draft-Dodger). Insulate your water heater in the winter months. Keep your heat 3 degrees below where you think it’s comfortable…you’ll get used to it, and you’ll save some dough.

    Congrats on the home. Have fun.

  • http://WebsiteURL xHWA

    Here’s what I’ve learned:

    Repair guys are often out to make several bucks, and they will sell you what they are compensated for selling as opposed to what is best for you. Get several quotes, do in-depth internet research on your own, and then ask your family what they’ve experienced. You NEVER know what will turn up.
    For example, I had a water hose split in my furnace and was told it would be $20 for the hose and $50+ for the labor. After asking around I went to Lowe’s, got a section of quality garden hose for $3 and some clamps for $2, and fixed it myself. Again I had noise coming from my furnace and called out a repair guy. He said the bearings in the blower motor were shot. He quoted me several thousands for a new furnace or several hundreds for a repair. I spoke with my brother and found that he has repaired multiple furnace blowers (he’s a machinist by trade and specializes in building/repairing this sort of thing.) Got it done for under $100. He found a loose screw that was rattling around inside and making a racket to boot.

    Home repair never ends. You will always have something to fix. It will never be at the most convenient moment. Pace yourself. Plan, plan, plan. Prioritize. Stick to the plan.
    Yes, your refrigerator doesn’t match the dishwasher, and the driveway is an eyesore, but if the roof is leaking it takes priority. People go nuts and find themselves in such debt they’ll never get out. A little patience would have saved so much headache!

    Try to pay the mortgage bi-monthly. One mortgage payment per month may be affordable, but you accrue more interest. Bi-monthly payments are easier on the bank account and they leave less time for interest to build. You save so much money in the long-term! Also, overpay the mortgage. Pay enough extra each month that you have paid one extra full payment per year. Do these two things and your 30 year mortgage will be a 20-25 year mortgage. :)

    Actually look at ROI (return on investment). All new windows may save cash, but will they pay themselves off in the time you plan to live in the house? Prioritize the things that will pay off, like getting a programmable thermostat.

    Oh, and CAREFULLY replace and test all outlets and switches (unless they are new – just test and look behind the new ones.) It’s easy and cheap and looks great. But most of all you never know what you’ll find. Better you find that old, burnt wire now before it catches anything on fire.

  • http://WebsiteURL B. Minich

    Well, be sure to have your Dad on the speed dial. He’s owned a house longer then you, and will have great insights for you.

    Also, have someone who is extremely handy on the speed dial as well for advise. My Dad fits that bill for me – he’s really good as a former carpenter who still does some work in that arena (espicially when school is out in the summer).

  • http://WebsiteURL Shawn

    When you need repairs, call your father-in-law (I’ve met your dad). He’s more interested in making sure his little girl is taken care of than teaching you a lesson. Soon he’ll feel sorry for you, teach you how to do it, and maybe buy you some tools for Christmas.

    Seriously, the most important thing I’ve learned is this. If you don’t have the the right tools, call someone who does. The wrong tool will be ruined and ruin the work as well as your confidence.

    Congratulations on the home.

  • http://WebsiteURL Auntie Em

    Don’t ask Mike for help. One of his thumbs is named “Stubby” for a reason.

  • Audra

    If you start a plumbing or electrical project, make sure to do it during daylight hours and when it is not overtime for a professional should one need to be called! Professionals are much more expensive after hours or on weekends!