Buying a home is a huge step. Learning to maintain and improve it is a long series of baby steps, sometimes painful and sometimes rewarding.
To help get new homeowners off on the right foot, the editors at The Family Handyman –some of the sharpest DIY Veterans around—offer their best tips for choosing, maintaining and improving a home.
These hints include:
1. Scout the neighborhood: Ask questions. When you are checking out your future home, try going on separate occasions and different times of the day. Ask neighbors about the area, schools, etc. This will give you a real indication of what the people and place is really like. You’ll feel more confident with your decision to move in once you have done all the proper research.
2. Check crime stats: Before buying, get a report of police calls in the neighborhood. A bargain price may be due to the crime rate in the area.
3. Verify everything: Get the house historyand insist on full written disclosure from the seller about remodeling, repairs, old damage, leaks, mold, etc. Check with the city or county, and get—in writing—the property’s permit history, zoning, prior uses, homeowners’ association restrictions and anything else you can find out. Forget “location, location, location” and think “verify, verify, verify!”
4. Get a licensed home inspection: This is extremely important. Don’t let your real estate agent choose the inspector. Hire someone who works for you without any conflict of interest. Inspect the inspector before you hire. Ask to see a sample home inspection report. Comprehensive reports run 20 to 50 pages and include color photos showing defects or concerns. Also ask about the length of the inspection. A thorough inspection takes a minimum of three to four hours. You should walk through with the inspector, you’ll learn a lot about your house. You may pay more for a certified inspector, but in the long run, it’s worth it. For a list of certified inspectors by the American Society of Home Inspectors, visit ashi.org.
5. Get a home warranty: Piece of mind is important. A home warranty can save you from faulty appliances and you can get the brand new items you need.
6. Make a homeowner’s journal: Buy a ring binder and keep insurance papers, repair receipts and all other paperwork pertaining to the house in it. Storing all your house information in one handy place makes life easier for the homeowner and can be a sales “plus” when selling the house later.
7. Get to know your house before making big changes: Live in your home for 12 to 18 months before undertaking any major renovations such as additions or knocking down walls. What you initially think you want may change after you’ve lived there for a while.
8. Tackle one project at a time: It’s important to take it easy, one project at a time. If you tear right into the porch, kitchen remodel, and outdoor fence replacement at the same time – you’ll have the whole house and yard torn up at the same time. It might come together, but having everything going on at once will just add a lot of stress.
9. Check the furnace filter: Look for clueswhen it comes to the furnace.This can give you some insight into whether the previous owner took care of regular maintenance.
10. Don’t be afraid to DIY: Ninety percent of a DIY project is having the guts to try. Worst case—you mess up and then bring in the professional. Best case—you save money, learn something new and feel a great sense of accomplishment.
11. Finish projects . . . now: Don’t learn to live with incomplete projects. If you do, the last couple of pieces of trim can linger for years!
12. Budget for trouble: The worst will happen sooner or later. As long as you’re prepared, it will just be an expense rather than a financial shock.
13. Ask neighbors about pros they trust: If you’re looking for plumbers, electricians or other pros, ask your neighbors. You tend to get decent advice if you get it from people who live near you.
14. Offer to buy the tools too: You can always use more tools. If you buy from a couple that’s downsizing, you might get a great deal if you purchase their garden tools, tractors, snow blowers and tools in general.