New Homeowners Tips – What to Tackle First
We’re not quite sure if we still fit into the “new homeowner” category (Bridget has been in her home for over 3 years, and I’ve been in my condo for 1 year), but we certainly remember those early days of new homeownership. After the high of being a new homeowner wears off, you feel like you’re writing check after check on all of the things that come with being in a new home. Painting, buying new furniture, fixing this & that…it’s can be incredibly overwhelming and incredibly EXPENSIVE! We literally felt like we were bleeding money and couldn’t make the bleeding stop!!
After shelling out big bucks for a down payment, the last thing you want to do is spend even more money on your house. Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid some of these early homeownership expenses BUT there IS a way to prioritize those valuable dollars.
New Homeowner Tips – Prioritizing Projects
Today, we wanted to offer our two cents (#punintended) on what you should SPLURGE on right from the start, and what you should wait on to help you SAVE. Although this list may not work for every situation, these priorities are what worked for us and if we ever move, this is definitely what we’ll be sticking to in order to prioritize our expenses. Here are our new homeowner tips…
Projects to Tackle Now
If the hardwood floors in your new home are in bad condition (or a color you HATE), you may want to think about repairing them before you move in. Sanding & re-staining hardwoods make a huge mess (legit dust everywhere!) and you’ll need to remove everything in your home before taking on a project like that (seriously nothing on the floors…even in the closets!).
We suggest splurging on updating your floors prior to even moving in 1 piece of furniture so that you can get the mess and inconvenience out-of-the-way immediately AND love your gorgeous new floors… immediately too! That’s exactly what Casey & Finn did in their condo. Because the hardwoods were scratched and scuffed, they had them sanded and stained to a color of their choice. Yes, it was a couple thousand dollars at a time when money was flying out the window like crazy, but it was worth it to get that wishlist item done right away.
Painting is definitely something you can wait on if you really want, but getting some fresh paint on the walls, trim, and doors is a great way to start your life in your new home! And again, painting is a heck of a lot easier when you don’t have anything on the walls or furniture in the space. Plus, having the wall colors nailed down will help you when you start decorating so you can keep a cohesive color palette.
Although paint is expensive these days, we think painting the house yourself is a great way to make this expense a little less of a huge splurge and more of an affordable and attainable project. You can always choose individual room colors down the road as you tackle each space, but getting the main areas, trim, and ceilings all freshly painted is a wonderful way to start your life in your new home.
Here’s our comprehensive guide to painting (from choosing colors to getting the perfect finish!).
If you’re looking to add recessed lighting into any of the rooms in your home, we suggest trying to get this done pretty early in the process! Yes, we understand it’s hard to find extra money for another extra project, but getting this mess out-of-the-way will save you some serious inconvenience later on. An electrician will need to change the electrical in your ceiling…so it’s a big project! Bridget waited about 1.5 years to add recessed lighting into her family room area, and she could hardly believe the difference it made once it was in. So much brighter, it makes you wonder how you even lived without it!
We don’t think it’s necessary to change out all (or any) of the light fixtures right away. Living in the space and seeing how your home’s style evolves will help determine which fixtures you should eventually add.
Our advice? Splurge on recessed lighting now. Save up for light fixtures you love for later on!
Steam Clean Carpets
Yes, this is another expensive splurge, but let’s be real… who wants to live surrounded by a stranger’s germs trapped in your home’s carpet (TMI?!). Getting the carpets cleaned will not only make the house look better but most importantly, it will give you peace of mind in helping you feel comfortable in your new space.
Projects to Save for Later
Yes, we LOVE new furniture but we definitely don’t think it’s the most important expense when you buy a new home. Thanks to our own mistakes, we think buying new furniture right away isn’t always the best choice (more about that rookie mistake right here).
To us, it’s very important to live in your space before you start buying all of the new furniture for your home. You want to make sure you figure out your routine in your space before you fill it with items that might not be the right fit for your lifestyle. Instead of buying just to buy, hold off on purchasing any huge furniture pieces.
In the meantime, you can use thrifted or secondhand pieces. Or just make do without a few items until you save up for the exact piece that you l-o-v-e.
Of course, we all want to impress the neighbors right away, but waiting to indulge in new/improved landscaping is definitely a way we feel you can save money. Living with your home for a full year (crazy, we know!) if money is tight is a great way to see how your home functions during every season.
Will you really take advantage of your front porch as often as you think? Will you do a lot of backyard BBQ-ing or entertaining on the patio? Will that corner of the property be the perfect home for the shed you hope to build? Getting the answers to these questions before jumping into new landscaping or outdoor expenses is important so you can make the right decision.
We actually have a few friends that have built houses over the past few years and were super bummed when they came to find out that the built-ins on their wish list was out of their budget (at least for the time being). The price on the built-ins was more than they anticipated and they just couldn’t afford this extra expense after all was said and done.
Our answer — that’s okay… and in some ways even better! Like the furniture, it’s important to note how you live and how your home’s style evolves before making such a permanent decision. Yes, it would be super convenient to get all “building” projects done right away but when money is tight, the built-in can easily wait because it’s something that can be added later without an unbearable mess. Heck, Casey got her whole entertainment center installed in one day… with a very minimal mess! And Bridget’s fireplace built-ins only took a weekend. We would encourage people to save up and when the time comes, splurge on the design and size you’ll love forever.
You know we are all about accent walls here on the DIY Playbook and if you have the money right away, we say go for it! But if not, this is definitely an expense we think can wait. Although it may be annoying to work around furniture later on, this furniture will provide a good indication of your style, which will help you make better decisions about these accent walls.
Plus, these projects that can easily be DIY’ed, so wait until you have more time to devote to these fun projects.
Bath & Kitchen Remodels
If you have the money right away, of course, we’re huge fans of remodeling right from the start… especially rooms like the kitchen or bathrooms. However, we realize that is often times far from reality and not always feasible for the new homeowner budget. Heck, Casey & Finn waited 3 years to renovate their guest bathroom.
So instead of tackling the whole makeover right away, try making mini updates that are more affordable. Maybe try painting, changing the hardware on the cabinets or vanity, changing the faucet, hanging art, or any other mini project that will upgrade the quality of this space without breaking the bank. Once you have saved up, you’ll know how your family uses these spaces and will have a much better idea of what you want in that makeover.
We hope you enjoyed our new homeowner tips. Good luck during this exciting time!
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.