What you need to know about owning your first house

Homeownership has many more advantages than disadvantages. One advantage to homeownership is the obvious tax deduction, as homeowners can deduct both mortgage interest and property taxes, as well as the investment value. Beyond the financial benefits, the advantages to owning a home include being able to design or redesign the interior, and being able to landscape both the back and front yards. While creating a cozy space is fun, if imaginative, the responsibility can be daunting. However, with planning, transitioning to a newly acquired property can be effortless.

Before moving, homeowners should make a checklist of all tasks that need completing. These tasks include contacting utility departments such as water and electricity, in addition to garbage, and cable services to either transfer or start service. Some realtors will provide new owners with a list of the phone numbers and addresses of these places. Today, cable companies bundle services, so homeowners save more money monthly by purchasing a package, which includes phone, internet, and television. Most utility departments service a designated area, and depending on whether the dwelling is a home or a condo/townhouse, garbage disposal might be included with the water. If just opening a new account, these places frequently require a refundable deposit that is returned to the customer upon closing the account.

Another major task to organize is the move. First, transfer mail from the old home or apartment to the new location by filling out a change of address form at the post office. When moving, homebuyers can rent either a van or a truck from any number of places, or if moving an entire home, a moving company can move the household to the new address. For an easier transition, label boxes so that when placing fragile dishes and glasses in the vehicle they are not broken. These labels also make it easy to identify boxes when unpacking. Cleaning the place before moving in can make moving day run more smoothly as well.

Even though the dishes are unpacked and the furniture has been delivered, now is not the time to relax. Budgeting for what is needed monthly can save homeowners from wasting extra money. Monthly charges for cable and garbage services will be consistent, so these items are easy to budget. However, water and electricity use is a bit more difficult to budget for initially because the owner will not know these costs for a couple of months. Some other tips for saving money include:

  • Contact the utility departments to take advantage of programs that save money on water or heating. For example, one program places a device on the water heater which regulates how the tank is heated throughout the day, so that the heater is not constantly running. Save those mailers the utility companies send in the mail, as they have an abundance of updates and information.
  • Convert from electricity to gas for cooking and heating/cooling the home to save huge amounts on utilities.
  • Make sure that the electricity meter readings are consistent with billing by looking at the beginning and ending dates on the bill and walking to the box outside to see actual usage from month to month.
  • Check into homestead tax breaks that alleviate property tax costs.
  • Research ways to lower homeowner’s insurance or home warranty costs. For example, changing or reinstalling certain features in the home will more than likely lower yearly insurance costs.
  • Budget for possible shortfalls in the escrow account, so when the mortgage is recalculated yearly to include property tax and insurance, homeowners are not surprised by elevated home costs.
  • Install a well for water if possible, as it is much cheaper than city service.

Finally, know where the utilities are located in the home. The water meter is usually somewhere in the front yard. Double check to make sure no damage has been done to the cap that might cause water to leak and make the bill excessive. Also, owners should know where the fuse box is in the house, in addition to labeling each fuse in the box, so that if there is an outage, the person knows where in the home it is. Always have candles, flashlights, and a portable cell phone recharger in the house in case of weather-related emergencies.

While buying furniture and decking the place out can be fun, the reality of homeownership can come down hard and fast. The old saying homeownership is a responsibility is an understatement. However, with planning and budgeting, homeowners can alleviate most of the stress related to transitioning to a new home.