Homeownership 101: Expert Tips and Advice for First-Time Homeowners

Homeownership 101: Expert Tips and Advice for First-Time Homeowners

A real estate agent giving a house tour to a first time home buyer

Homeownership can be exciting, but the decisions and questions that are part of the process can be overwhelming. Whether you are a first-time buyer or an experienced homeowner, this guide will be your go-to companion. We’ve included expert advice and insights from home maintenance and repairs to interior design and space optimization.

Getting Started

The most important step is understanding your financial readiness and exploring resources like mortgage calculators and first-time buyer programs. Getting started on the right foot sets the stage for a smooth transition into your new home.

How can first-time homeowners determine if they are ready for the responsibilities of homeownership?

Here’s a simple checklist to help you decide if you’re ready for homeownership. Firstly, check your finances – can you comfortably cover the mortgage, taxes, and unexpected expenses? Next, think about whether you’re ready to settle down for a while. Owning a home means committing to staying put. Are you okay with taking care of repairs and maintenance? That includes mowing the lawn and shoveling snow. Lastly, don’t hesitate to seek advice from experts or homeownership programs. It’s all about feeling confident in your decision. Take your time, think it over, and when you’re ready, go for it.

Daniel Goldgut from Epilogue Wills

How can you differentiate between essential needs, wants, and must-have features when selecting a new home?

Have all those house-hunting shows made your head spin on how you can make your next home your dream home? But then the reality of your budget rings in your ears like a bad alarm clock. Here’s how to determine what you really need.

Make a list of everything you think you want in your new home. Make this list for every single member of your family (two-legged and four-legged). Chances are you now have a very long list.

Combine the list and place the items that are on everyone’s list at the top of your list.

For example, all the kids’ dream lists might include a good public school within walking distance from home, a safe neighborhood, being close to grandparents for babysitting needs, a grassy yard (oh, that’s on Rover’s list, too), etc., so these things go to the top of the list.

A good investment might be on your list, as well as good resale value, security, etc. Again they go to the top of the list.

Other features or wishes, like a white picket fence, might go to the bottom of the list since it was only on one list.

Now the fun begins. Start ranking each item. If item one is more important than item two, it stays in position one. If item three is more important than item two, it moves up a notch, etc. No matter what you have on your list. Make your first three items: Location (the city), Location (the street/neighborhood), Location (the home itself). Give your realtor the entire list and ask them to help you meet the top items on your list. Unfortunately, your budget will quickly determine what you can live with

Laura McHolm from NorthStar Moving Company

What are the key steps involved in the home-buying process?

The key steps in home buying are centered around clarity. As I like to say, “Vision Drives Decision.” Are you living in the home you expected at this point in your life? What do you really want out of your next home purchase? Location is important, but what lifestyle does the home, neighborhood, and local community offer?

How much are you willing to spend to find the right home? What downpayment will be required? Does that mortgage into your monthly budget? Is the home move-in ready, or will you need to spend additional money to make it your own? Are you and your spouse on the same page? Sometimes, people don’t have all the answers and want to go look at homes, but the people who spend the time getting clarity have a better home-buying experience and outcome.

Trey Langford from Build Idaho

Home Financing

Research the right financing for your new home, from traditional mortgages to alternative financing options like crowdfunding. Understanding home financing can help you make informed decisions and avoid common pitfalls.

How can a first-time homebuyer determine and stick to a realistic budget for their home purchase?

Embarking on the adventure of buying your first home is exciting, but it is important to navigate it with a clear budgeting plan. First, an honest assessment of your finances is key. Look at your income and expenses. The income is the easier part, then move on to the non-negotiables like rent, utilities, and groceries. Also, take an honest look at your fun activities, such as eating out and buying coffee.

After all the bills are paid, what remains? Is there a way to cut back on some of the areas? This could be your golden ticket to accumulating a down payment and a peek into your potential home-buying budget.

It is also key to be realistic about the home you are going to buy. Your initial home purchase might not check all the boxes of your dream home, but it’s a stepping stone to get you there. Working with a professional real estate agent to find a home that aligns with your current phase of life and your financial framework is key.

Resisting the charm of houses that stretch your financial limits is tough. However, knowing your budget and adhering to it when house hunting is crucial to a home purchase. Stick to the game plan, and soon, you’ll cross the finish line into your very own home.

Twila Edwards from Klaus Team Real Estate Solutions

How can first-time homebuyers determine their budget for moving?

When determining your budget for moving services, you want to look at the different options available and determine what your non-negotiables are and what resources are available. 

Typical non-negotiables include:

  • I don’t want to drive a moving truck
  • I can’t move anything heavy or that requires 2 or more people
  • I need to be all hands-off

Chances are, if you’re buying your first home, you’re moving locally, so let’s just focus on the local moving budget. 

The cheapest move will be a DIY move, moving everything with friends and family and borrowing a truck or renting one from a local moving truck retailer such as Uhaul, Penske, or even Home Depot. You must know that here at UniMovers, we get a lot of calls from people who were anticipating more help from friends and family but needed to hire movers at the last minute. This option will typically run you between $0-$150 and is dependent on how far the moving truck rental place is and how many pizzas you’re going to buy for the friends and family that help you.

If you’re going to be hiring movers to help with the loading and unloading of the moving truck, you should anticipate needing about 1-man hour for every 100 square feet in your apartment/home. So, if you have a 1000 sq foot home, you would anticipate needing 10 hours for loading and unloading help or 2 movers for about 5 hours. Of course, stairs, weather, and your preparedness can make this number go up or down, but generally, this will give you a general idea of how many hours you’ll need movers for. The cost of moving labor can vary significantly.

On the low end, we see people charging 45/hr/mover, and on the high end, 100/hr/mover. So overall, you’ll be looking at about $45-$100 per 100 square feet in your home/apartment, plus about $100 for the moving truck. If you’re uncomfortable driving a moving truck, you can check out mobile storage options. Locally, mobile storage units can be quite affordable, but we find there to be a lot more variability in their cost seasonally compared with moving trucks.

Collin Flynn from UniMovers

Home Inspection and Maintenance

These are required to maintain your home’s value and safety. Identifying potential issues before they become major problems and implementing a regular maintenance schedule can help you stay on top of your home’s needs.

What are the essential tasks homeowners should prioritize immediately after moving into a new place?

As AAA City Removalists, we understand the importance of settling into a new home smoothly. After moving, homeowners should prioritize several essential tasks to ensure a seamless transition. Firstly, inspecting the property thoroughly for any damages incurred during the move is crucial. Reporting any issues to your moving company promptly ensures they can be addressed swiftly. Secondly, changing the locks on doors and updating security measures provides peace of mind in your new space. It’s also advisable to familiarize yourself with essential utilities such as electricity, water, and gas, ensuring they are functioning correctly.

Additionally, unpacking essential items like bedding, toiletries, and kitchenware will help you feel more at home quickly. Finally, updating your address with relevant authorities, setting up mail forwarding, and informing important contacts of your new address are essential administrative tasks to complete promptly. By prioritizing these tasks, homeowners can enjoy a smooth transition into their new home.

AAA City Removalist

Home Insurance and Protection

Protecting your home with the right insurance coverage can improve peace of mind and financial stability. Home insurance can cover various potential issues, from natural disasters to theft and vandalism. A home warranty can offer added protection by covering the cost of repairs and replacements for major home systems and appliances. The benefits of a home warranty include reduced repair costs, access to a network of trusted professionals, and potential savings on home insurance premiums.

Home Improvement and Renovation

From small updates to major renovations, home improvement and renovation projects can increase your home’s value and functionality. Whether you want to increase your home’s curb appeal or create a more functional living space, expert insights can help ensure a successful project.

Improvements can include design elements like color schemes, lighting fixtures, and furniture layouts to enhance a home’s aesthetic appeal. By carefully selecting materials, textures, and architectural details, you can transform your living space into a personalized sanctuary that reflects your style and meets your practical needs.

What are the key aspects new homeowners should focus on to make their new house feel like a home?

Turning a house into a home involves more than just furnishing empty rooms; it’s about infusing personal touches and creating a space reflective of a family’s unique personality, lifestyle, and manner in which they use their home. New homeowners should prioritize filling their space with warmth and character. This can be achieved firstly through thoughtful decor choices that resonate with their tastes and values, from selecting quality furniture pieces that blend comfort with style to incorporating meaningful artwork and sentimental keepsakes.

Furthermore, embracing DIY projects not only adds a personal touch but also instills a sense of pride and ownership. Lastly, carving out areas for relaxation and bonding, such as cozy reading nooks or inviting outdoor spaces, can transform a house into a sanctuary where cherished memories are made.

Molly Cooper, Cooper & Co. Interior Design, a division of Honest Abe Log Homes

How can new homeowners evaluate and compare different contractors for their new home project?

Use Risk Management When Hiring a Contractor

If you are a new homeowner looking to remodel or have repairs done, it is imperative to approach hiring a contractor as a potential risk that can quickly unravel your dreams. Hiring the wrong contractor can leave you with shoddy work, possibly empty-handed, or worse, you could be sued if someone is injured while working on your property. 

Hiring a contractor is an important process. Take your time and do it right. Start with people you know and search reviews. Referrals are a great way to find out how an experience went. 

  • Always get three bids and ensure details of the work are clear on the bid. 
  • Ask to see pictures and addresses of previous work. 
  • Before hiring a contractor, verify they have a current license, bonding, and insurance. You can call the city to ask where to check on these. 
  • Make certain there is a contract, and do not pay upfront without getting anything in return. I like to pay for materials when they arrive at the house and pay for work in stages as it is completed. This is a good method for both parties. 
  • Ensure your contract details the work to be completed, the exact materials, payment terms, warranty, and a timeline.
The Smart Consumer

Neighborhood and Community

Getting involved in your neighborhood and building relationships with your neighbors can help new homeowners feel more connected and engaged in their new community. By actively participating in local events and initiatives, residents can also contribute to the overall well-being of the neighborhood. When picking where to live, it’s not just about the house itself. You must consider everything from schools and safety to fun things to do nearby. It’s all about finding the right fit for you and your lifestyle.

What should new homeowners consider when choosing a location for their home?

Location, location, location. It’s the three most important words in real estate. When buying your property, it should be one of the main factors you consider when buying a home. The home’s location will always be directly correlated to the value of the home and will make it more presentable to future buyers, which will, in turn increase your equity. 

Andrew Holm from The Holm Group

What are some practical housewarming gifts that cater specifically to first-time homeowners?

Choosing housewarming gifts for first-time homeowners is an opportunity to blend practicality with thoughtfulness. Here are some ideal options:

  • Tool Kit: Essential for maintenance and DIY projects, it’s the foundation of any new homeowner’s toolkit.
  • Fire Extinguisher: A vital safety measure, this gift shows you care about their safety and well-being.
  • Gardening Set: For those with green space, it encourages nurturing nature right at home.
  • Quality Cookware: A reliable set of pots and pans is a cornerstone of a well-equipped kitchen.
  • Smart Thermostat: An energy-saving device that also provides comfort through convenient control.
  • Gift Cards: Offering flexibility, they allow homeowners to select exactly what they need or desire.

Each gift is a mix of utility and a nod to the homeowner’s personal needs, reflecting their lifestyle and the potential of their new abode. Choose with consideration to their unique tastes and living situation to make your housewarming present genuinely special.

CubeBik

Looking to move soon?

Check out UniMovers and save 30-50% on your move as compared with traditional moving!

Future Planning and Investment

Planning for the future and making smart investment decisions can help ensure long-term financial stability and success. From saving for retirement to investing in real estate, expert advice can help new homeowners make informed decisions and plan for the future.

Homeownership is an exciting and complex process with many challenges and decisions, but these expert tips on understanding financial readiness, exploring housing options, and embracing community connections will help you make this process smoother.

Headshot of Ashlyn Cook, UniMovers' Community Outreach Manager

Ashlyn is a homegrown Iowan (go Cyclones!). She graduated from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 2023 with a degree in Business Administration, Marketing, Public Relations, and Communications. Now, she serves as UniMovers' Community Outreach Manager. In her free time, she loves to try new restaurants, travel, watch baseball, and spend time with her dog!

To get in contact with her regarding blog partnerships at UniMovers please email blog@unimovers.com.