First Year Homeowners: Watch Out for These Surprises

New homeowner

It’s been a year since my husband and I took the homeownership plunge. We made it through the mortgage process and all the initial funding hiccups. We now have a handle on all of our new bills, and even (mostly) remember to move our trash bins to the curb each week for garbage collection.

The financial plan we prepared for the past year went mostly as expected, but we did encounter some surprises along the way. Now that I’m an old hat at this homeownership business, here are some of the surprises that we encountered in our inaugural year:

Be Prepared for the Unexpected

Long gone are the days of a fixed rent payment and a call to maintenance when something is broken. As a homeowner, anything that breaks is on our dime. Though we were expecting some degree of maintenance, we learned this lesson the hard way when we had a leaky toilet turn into a $15,000 massive sewer rebuild. Make sure that you have a plan in place to pay for any large surprise repairs, because when a pipe breaks, you don’t have any choice but to fix it.

Homeowner’s Warranty: Take It or Leave It

Most home purchases come with a year’s worth of a homeowner’s warranty. The good news is that you are covered for a variety of surprises that could come your way, but the bad news is that you don’t control the repair process. Most warranty companies want to do their own scheduling and use their own providers, which can be a hassle if you like to be in control. The policies also have a lot of exclusions. When the ice machine in our freezer broke, it took many calls and four separate visits for “Mike the repairman” to finally fix it. In the end, going through the warranty company cost us more in time and energy than the dollar savings.

Know Your Escrow Account

If you bought a house with a loan, you may have had an option to have the mortgage company take out property taxes and insurance premiums when you make your mortgage payments. If you opt for this arrangement, make sure you know what is covered and what is not, as this can save you from some unexpected bills. Eight months in we found out that our escrow account was withholding the right amount of property taxes but paying the property tax at the old owner’s level – we didn’t know we had to make the supplemental payments on our own.

Love Thy Neighbor

Little things, like having someone look out for packages on your porch when you are out of town to bigger things like noise, matter so much more than I thought they would. A month after we adopted two puppies it became apparent that the fence on one side of our yard was badly in need of replacement. The neighbor on the other side was in total agreement, so we had the fence redone and split the cost 50/50. We got lucky that our neighbor was both financially capable and willing to share the cost. With the wrong neighbor, it could have been a nightmare.

If you’d like me to share your homeownership stories or advice in a future article, please send me a note at


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