Home Ownership: A Starter Pack
A new home comes with a host of new responsibilities. Here are a few to get you started.
You’ve found the perfect home, passed inspection, closed and hired the movers. In a few short days, you will embark on the joys (and rollercoaster) otherwise known as homeownership. From the moment you turn your key in the lock of your new dwelling, there will be a new set of points to ponder. Some are expected while others might come out of nowhere and take you by surprise. Here are some things or a new homeowner to keep in mind for the near-and short-term after closing.
6 things to know as a first-time homeowner
Neighborly exchanges aren’t always the easiest, but it is always worth giving a try. When you are the newbie on the block, getting to know your new neighbors can prove challenging. If they have known one another for a long time, they might not be as eager to add another to their circle as you are to be added. Don’t despair. Instead, look for opportunities to introduce yourself as the new homeowner and make sure to be the first one to say hello. If you have children, find out if there are other children in the neighborhood similar in age and try to set up playdates. You can also try to set up common interest groups, such as walking, running or yoga.
Get familiar with the property’s covenants, conditions and restrictions. Also known as CCR, these are often implemented by governing parties such as homeowners associations and are commonly found in planned communities. In a nutshell, these are the rules that govern life on the block. CCRs dictate a swath of everyday issues, such as what improvements can be made and how the land can be used. It also covers where a car can be parked, whether or not fences are allowed and sizes and breeds of dogs that are allowed. CCRs can also cover aesthetics such as lawn and yard upkeep and maintenance or what colors you are allowed to paint the home. It is vital to get a clear understanding of what is allowed and what is not, because violating the rules could result in fines, revoked privileges such as a clubhouse or pool, or even a lawsuit.
“Stay off my lawn” doesn’t always apply to your entire property. As the new homeowner, it’s important to note that some properties come with a pedestrian clause that comes in the form of an easement. Simply put, an easement is a patch of land or space that is available to anyone for use. This means that if you are close to the easement, you may wind up seeing your neighbors use it, and they may have a bird’s-eye view of the goings on in your home. Depending on the rules, an easement may play host to community events or parties, which would also take place in your personal space if the easement is nearby. Easements are also available for utility workers if there are utility materials such as poles or boxes there.
Pay attention to the zoning. Land is typically zoned in one of three categories: residential, business and industrial. Your biggest concern is to find out what residential zoning laws there are on and around the property. Unless you want a mall, parking garage or factory built in your backyard, that is. Zoning also impacts the size and type of building that can be put on a property, what schools residents are qualified to attend.
Give yourself a break–a tax break, that is. Now that you are a new homeowner, there are incentives in the form of tax breaks that come along with that. Because it can vary by tax year, a good accountant will be able to help you navigate the newest laws and deductions when it’s time to get your breaks. However, standard deductions include mortgage interest, property tax, interest on certain amounts of a home equity line of credit (or HELOC) and mortgage points. These incentives were created with rewarding home owners in mind.
Maintaining the maintenance. If you were a renter in the past, you probably had a super or handyman who handled the upkeep and maintenance where you lived. But, you are the point person for your new home now and times have totally changed. It’s now on you to make sure the property is tended to and well maintained. In addition to routine tasks such as lawn and yard upkeep, there are annual and bi-annual tasks that are worth adding to your checklist (or worth farming out to a professional to handle for you). You should make sure the roof valleys and gutters on the home are cleaned at least once a year. If you live in a wooded area, you might need to add moss removal services and power washing of any algae that has collected on the home. Windows are also worth your attention from time-to-time. The outsides can get grimy and adding a good, thorough washing as well as examination of all screens to your spring list can help you when bug season comes along. In addition, make it a point from time-to-time to walk your home and re-caulk crevices, nooks and crannies. It will also help you preserve your sanity and your home.