More Adventures in Homebuying

My last article covered my initial adventures in homebuying, up to and through the closing. Now I offer a few more experiences and lessons, mostly based on adventures that occurred after I moved in.

Inspect, inspect, inspect
OK, the home inspection is one thing that happened, as it should, before I moved in and not after. It seemed to go well. There were two inspectors, they finished the job in less time than I expected, they were very nice, and they liked the house. They only found three or four little fixes to recommend.

After moving in, though, I began noticing some things. The tub in the bathroom, for starters, took more than an hour to drain after a shower. It was apparently clogged, yet no one had noticed this. And soon, it began leaking water onto the ceiling below. The garbage disposal made quite a racket, suggesting it was broken. The sink in another bathroom was somehow not fixed to the wall, instead wobbling on an unsteady base.

I'm not done yet cataloging these additional issues, and I'm not yet sure what I can or will do about them, other than get them fixed. But I've learned a few lessons. Next time I have a home inspected, I'll be sure to follow the inspector(s) around from room to room, asking questions and seeing exactly what they do and don't inspect. In fact, since an inspection typically costs around $200 or $300, which is small change compared to a house that can cost $200,000 or more, I might even spring for two inspections. You never know what an inspector might uncover.

So now we come to repairs. Truth be told, any homebuyer should expect to have to make some repairs upon moving in -- except perhaps someone buying a brand-new home (though even there, odds are you might want or need to make a few changes).

Repairs are the kinds of things that can drive you mad. Lots of things can go wrong or can trouble you:

  • An initial fix might not work, necessitating an additional fix.

  • An attempt to fix one thing might break another thing.

  • An attempt to fix one thing might lead to the discovery of additional necessary repairs.

  • Costs can spiral out of control.

  • Repairs can take forever if your professionals are busy. (And if they're good, they probably don't have a lot of free time on their hands.)

  • If you're not a handy sort, you might end up wondering if you're getting taken advantage of by those working on your house.

I'm not the most experienced homeowner yet, but my initial take-away is that it's vital to find a handyperson or contractor (or other repairfolk) whom you can trust. Spend extra time asking around. Don't just ask one or two people and get names of people they've used. Keep asking until someone raves about the professional who's worked for them. Make sure the person or people you use are ones you trust and are comfortable with.

Budget liberally
Expect the unexpected. When I was estimating how much money I'd be spending once I moved into my house, I did budget for property taxes, mortgage payments, occasional repairs and maintenance, and some big-ticket items at the outset, such as a new TV, file cabinet, sofa, etc. But there were a lot of things that didn't occur to me. Examples include:

  • That I'd need to have a phone jack installed in my office.

  • That I'd have to spend around $300 on Roto-Rooter services to clear a nasty clog.

  • That the clog would somehow lead to a hole being cut in the ceiling below to access pipes, the hole then requiring repair.

  • That a good home alarm system would set me back about twice what I expected it to.

  • That carpenter ants would suddenly appear, costing me around $250 to get rid of them.

  • That general repairs and upgrades would cost at least $1,000 (these include a new garbage disposal, new locks on doors, having a new sink fixture installed, and a bunch of other things).

  • That lots of little things for the house add up to hundreds of dollars: doormats, fire extinguishers, a new mailbox, shelves for the garage, extension cords, a hose and sprinkler, and so on.

My advice here is to be prepared to spend a lot getting your home in order, even if the home seemed to be in move-in condition when bought. You never know what expenses will crop up. If you end up spending much less than expected, hurrah. If not, well, at least you were prepared.

Keep learning
For much more guidance on homebuying, visit our Home Center. Don't forget to also check out our Fool Mortgage Center, where you'll find links to several mortgage lenders offering attractive rates, as well as a bunch of information on mortgages in general and tips on what to look for when mortgage-shopping.

And finally, drop by our Buying and Selling a Home discussion board and our Building/Maintaining a Home board -- where Fools are asking and answering questions and sharing experiences. We offer a painless free trial of our vibrant discussion board Community, no credit card required.

Selena Maranjianhopes that her house is finished revealing its surprises.For more about Selena, view her bio and her profile. You might also be interested in these books she has written or co-written:The Motley Fool Money GuideandThe Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.

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Selena Maranjian

Selena Maranjian has been writing for the Fool since 1996 and covers basic investing and personal finance topics. She also prepares the Fool's syndicated newspaper column and has written or co-written a number of Fool books. For more financial and non-financial fare (as well as silly things), follow her on Twitter...

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