Transitioning between an apartment to home ownership

Going from living in an apartment to living in a house can be quite a transition, but it doesn’t have to be that hard. There are some things you need to know before you move so everything goes smoothly, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with the basics.

The American Dream. It is the idea that a person can choose their own path, they can be the captain of their own destiny, and they will be treated the same as everyone else. For a large part of American history, the idea of homeownership was an integral part of that dream, and for some it still is today. Then again, there are people who want to buy a house for the extra space or the extra independence. Whatever fuels your desire to buy a home, however, you need to be aware of those things that tend to throw first-time homeowners off. The following are a few facts about homeownership that, if you know them, will make that transition from living in an apartment to living in a home much easier.

Buying a house doesn’t always mean more space:

For starters, you need to keep in mind that the space in a house can be significantly different from the space you’d get if you rented an apartment. In general, houses tend to be larger than apartments. However, there are sometimes when that isn’t always true. In the Boise area, on average an apartment can range from 400 or 500 square feet to 1,000 or 1,100 square feet. The houses in Boise, on the other hand, usually range from 1,300 to 2,000 square feet. This is great. More room! However, it doesn’t always work out that way. Say you are living in an apartment with 1,100 square feet and when you go to buy a home you can only afford a house with 1,000 square feet or less. Then you are losing space in this upgrade. So, if more space is what you are looking forward to in a new home, then you should probably make sure you can qualify for a home with more space before you terminate your lease.

Then again, there are some problems that can spring from getting that extra space. You will find that if you move into a bigger place that it may look bare. This is because your belongings to space ratio in your apartment were presumably at comfortable equilibrium levels for you and when you moved to a home there is more space and that comfortable ratio you know and love is thrown off. Many people find that when the get new space they tend to buy more things to fill in those spaces. If you are ok with that then that is fine, but if you are worried about the expenses that come with owning a home, you might want to keep this in mind just in case.

You’ll find yourself paying for a lot more stuff when you buy a home:

While we are on the subject of expenses, let’s take a moment to talk about how much it will cost to live in a home. Now, we aren’t talking about the monthly mortgage payment—no. We are talking about all the other things that you didn’t have to worry about when you were living in an apartment. This included utilities, property taxes, insurance, and so forth. Now, instead of only having to pay for your own gas, electricity, and internet, you’ll have to think about water, sewage, trash, and so on and so forth. Then of course, like we mentioned earlier, there are the expenses for insurance and taxes. These are unavoidable when it comes to buying a home. There aren’t many exceptions to these rules.

When you buy a home, most of the time you need to buy some appliances too:

There are some appliances that stay with the home when it is sold like the furnace and other climate control systems, but not all appliances do. For example. There are some homeowners that choose to take their oven, dishwasher, fridge, washer, dryer, and so on with them to their new home instead of selling them to the new homeowner. So, if they aren’t listed as part of the sale, you may have to make a trip to the store and buy these items.

Be sure to check out the ratings and consumer reports for appliances when you go shopping. This will not only ensure that you are buying a good quality product, but it will also give you a chance to look for energy efficient appliances. Remember those utilities we talked about earlier? Well, if you take care to buy energy efficient appliances, like the ones certified by Energy Star, you can potentially lower your energy bill each month. They can sometimes cost a bit more upfront— sometimes— but not always. However, most of the time they do end up paying for themselves with all the savings you receive.

Neighbors and homeowner’s associations can be a bit hard to deal with:

Now, not all neighbors or homeowner’s associations are terrible, that isn’t what we are saying. We do want to warn you, however, that they are to be looked into—especially the homeowner’s association. Homeowner’s associations (HOAs) are not present in all neighborhoods and when they are they tend to be pretty simple and noninvasive. However, there are some that are pretty intense when it comes to rules. There are some homeowner’s associations that have very strict rules for the neighborhood and can be quite adamant about people following these rules. So, be sure to research your HOA before you move in to make sure you are alright with the rules and the amount of involvement the association has.

You are the one responsible for maintaining your home:

The minute your buy that home, you are the one that has to make sure the house doesn’t fall into disrepair. This also means that you are the one that needs to arrange and pay for a plumber to come out when the pipes burst, an electrician when the wiring is faulty, and a roofing team when your shingles start to deteriorate. Granted you could do some of this work yourself, but the key here is that you don’t have the luxury of just complaining to a landlord that then figures out a solution. Now, you might think, ‘well, unless it’s major I’ll just let it go’ and we’re here to tell you that is a bad idea. If you let the things that need attention go, you will find your house losing value and when it comes to selling it in the future it will be harder to do and it won’t sell for as much.

Parking is also an issue that homeowners have to think about:

For most people, parking when you own a home isn’t that big of an issue. They can park in their garage or on the driveway if they have them, or they can at least park on the street. However, it can get a bit hairy when you live in an area like downtown Boise where there is limited street parking and they don’t have a good driveway or garage. In other neighborhoods where there is plenty of parking, things can still get a bit sticky if the HOA in the area has rules about whether or not a resident can park cars on the street.

Homeowners also need to take care of the yard:

When you lived in an apartment, you probably didn’t have to worry about, however, when you move into a home you are going to have to start tending to the property. This can mean a lot of things depending on what you plan to do with it. I could be as simple as making sure it gets mowed weekly or as extreme as having to weed and till and trim and so on. It all depends on the kind of yard you want. If you don’t care about keeping up your yard’s appearance and functionality then you could leave it be, however you may be required by your HOA to take care of it if it gets unruly.

The great thing about having a yard though is that you have space to play, entertain, garden, or work. This extra outdoor space will give you many more opportunities to do activities that you not have been able to do before. It essentially becomes your own park with privacy from your neighbors and passersby. You also have the opportunity to install your own pool or hot tub, a basketball court or tennis net. It all comes down to what you want, what you can afford, and what the cities building code will allow.

Homeowners have to deal with pest control:

When you were living in an apartment, if you had a pest problem you could just tell your landlord. However, that isn’t the case anymore. Since you are the homeowner it is your responsibility to take care of pets. You can do that yourself (if you are qualified and comfortable with doing so) or you can hire a pest control company to do the work. Either way, you are going to have to pay for and arrange the whole thing. So, the best advice we can give you is to be diligent in preemptively fighting pests like ants, spiders, mice, and so on. It will be cheaper to prevent them from getting in than repairing the damage they do once they are inside.

A homeowner needs to take security measures into account when they buy a home: There are a few different dimensions to this section, but the two biggest things that a homeowner needs to worry about are break-ins and disasters (both natural and not). Let’s start with burglaries:

Now, we aren’t trying to say that people in apartments don't have a need for security, rather, that homeowners need to be extra careful. It is said that homes are more likely to be victim to burglaries than an apartment for a few reasons. First, in apartment complexes there are more people in a smaller area which can mean more eyes to spot a potential break in; second, there are more potential entry points into a house than an apartment. Despite these facts, however, there are some things you can do to make your home safer. The first being the most obvious, lock your doors and windows at night and while you are away. This will drastically lower the chances of a break-in since it will be just a little bit harder to break in. Then, of course, you must make sure your sliding glass doors and windows all have bars in their tracks to make them more secure against jimmying.

Next, there are disasters, this includes floods, earthquakes, tornados, extreme heat waves or blizzards, wildfires, and so on and so forth. While this can sound like a daunting, and sometimes impossible, task, there are a few things you can do to prevent disasters like these, the first step being purchasing adequate insurance. Insurance, though not a preventative measure, will do you a lot of good if the disaster does happen. After that, you can go about preparing your home for each individual disaster. We recommend you start with the disaster that is most likely to happen in your area. If you live in a floodplain, do whatever is necessary to minimize the threat of a flood. If you are in an earthquake proof area, then work on earthquake proofing your house from the foundation to the smallest knickknack or picture.

Lastly, there are the disasters that are not natural, these are house fires, flooding, and so on. The best thing to do in these situations is to take the time to regularly update the plumbing, electrical systems, fire and carbon monoxide detectors and so on. This will do a lot lessen the likelihood of a disaster.

The transition between a house and an apartment can be rough, but with a little preparation, things will go more smoothly. For more information about buying a home or real estate in general, contact one of our great real estate agents here at the Hughes Group. They would be glad to answer any of your questions and guide you through the real estate process.

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