Today marks a full-year since I officially became a homeowner – it’s not everyday you get to celebrate something as exciting as this but living in the GTA and just being able to break into the home market here feels like a huge accomplishment / milestone. Especially when every real estate headline screams the infallible increase in the price of homes – I mean, just when you think you’ve saved enough for a downpayment and got your mortgage pre-approval, someone outbid you in the process.
I have been waiting for this date for some time and it feels very much needed to write a post and some thoughts I’ve had since becoming a homeowner and really having this amazing space to decorate / call my own.
Hopefully once the pandemic is under control, I hope to start hosting more people and entertain more. In the meantime, here are some thoughts from one year of homeownership (AKA, where you learn where the circuit box, water supply lines/valves, and going to Home Depot more times than you’ve ever done in your whole life!)
1. Start your home emergency fund sooner than later
An emergency fund should be a part of your personal finance plan no matter what; when you have a new home, it is a necessity. Even if your home is a new build, recently-renovated with brand new appliances, and furnishing, you will always have that one unexpected thing come up. Whether it be your condo maintenance fee hikes / things breaking down before you expect it to or even just the odd things that you need to repair every once in a while.
For example, my condo has pretty strong financials but COVID hit our financials pretty hard – with increased cleaning needed, they’ve had to hike the maintenance fee about a year after I moved in, which was highly unexpected. While the % figure is low, the number reflects a $50+ monthly increase!
I usually squirrel $100-200/month towards my emergency fund and since the lockdown, I socked away a lot more. My home emergency savings lives in my HISA and there’s just a peace of mind that comes with knowing that have some cash tucked away for emergencies to my condo!
2. Don’t rush into buying everything all at once
When it comes to styling and furnishing your home, it’s so, so important to live in the space and know it first before diving into buying everything all at once.
Of course, it’s important to buy the basics i.e. bed/sofa/shelves/work space but when it comes to some bigger ticket items or things you want to splurge on (i.e. lounge chaise / accent chair), give yourself enough time to get familiar with the space so you know what works for the area and for you.
A good example of this is a studio room that I thought I wanted to have / build into my den or walk in closet. I realized that my living room made the perfect backdrop for photographs so I’m glad I didn’t go all out on my first Ikea trip.
Same thing goes for home appliances or things that you want to decorate the house/unit with. I built up a Home Improvement fund into my home emergency fund so it allowed me to take advantage of some great sales during the year to start replacing my appliances or buying decor / accent / home pieces. Decorating and furnishing slowly meant that every piece have a sentimental value and I am shopping purposefully / mindfully rather than going with what’s in right now.
3. Build a basic toolbox kit
Ah, yes, the toolbox kit! You may not think you’re the handiest person out there but guess what! You’re going to need it when you spot that leak or need to fix / tighten something urgently. You don’t need the Ryobi / DeWalt or other expensive brand names ones; I bought an $10 Ikea Fixa Toolkit set to start off and added a few more tools (leveler / measuring tape) here and there from Canadian Tire / Home Depot as I went and buy things here and there.
For those one-off tools, you may want to consider renting from Home Depot or other home improvement stores (i.e. Shop Vac, etc)
4. Save/read through your appliance manuals
Raise your hands if you’ve ever actually read through manuals before. Yep me neither. But since moving in and buying new appliances here and there, I saved up all of my appliances in a binder and spent some time reading through them just so that I know how to fix/what parts/problems to look up when I encounter any issues!
5. Pinterest/Instagram/Reddit and the Everygirl Home Tours are amazing inspirations
Home styling and interior design are not my forte which is why in addition to Pinterest and Instagram, my favourite places to peruse are The Everygirl Home Tours blog set and Reddit’s Organization subreddit are awesome places to review every once in a while.
6. Invest in some but not all
So this is a bit of an odd advice that contradicts an earlier point I made about shopping mindfully but hear me out. If you just need that set of pot or pans for now because you’re waiting for a bigger sale down the road, it’s fine to buy an inexpensive temporary piece and replace it in a few months’ when the sale item you want becomes available.
There are some things that you might want to invest in right away as opposed to wasting your time on the cheap version only for you to replace it 1-2 months down the road. Some examples of this could include a knife/cutlery set (they really only go on sale during Back to School anyways), or one-of-a-kind small appliances like the Ninja Foodi / Vitamix if you’re set on those tools!
7. Gifts for any new homeowners?
If your loved ones are willing to help you get settled in by way of gifts, my go-to ask is a gift card or straight up cash! Why? The cash to add to my Home Improvement/Home Emergency Fund pile and/or if you prefer to ask for gift cards, those things are going to be useful as a new homeowner. Everyone has their own styling preferences so I’d rather not get gifted plants / things that I may have to return unless they really know my style!
The best ones to ask or gift?
- Home Improvement Stores – HomeDepot/Rona/Lowe’s/Canadian Tire: gift cards may be an odd one but trust me, whether it’s buying plumber’s / electrical tapes, E6000 glue, sanding paper, etc, these things become handy much sooner than later!
- Ikea: However you feel about the quality of Ikea goods, there’s a reason it’s one of those places that people naturally think of or gravitate towards when it comes to furnishing their homes whatever the size!
- Home Decor – Homesense/TJ Max/Bouclair/Michaels/Le Maison Simons: are those stores that I’ll pop in every one in a while to buy home accents/decor that caters to every and all budgets
- The Splurge-y Home Decor – CB2, Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn: enough said; some places have better home decor pieces than others and a little thoughtful gift goes a long way!
- General Stores – Walmart, Amazon: there’s always that one or two items that’s just cheaper to get here!
- Their Favourite Restaurant: Moving and becoming a homeowner is a lot of stress and work. It is just so thoughtful to gift a gift card to their favourite place so they can use it on those weekends when they’ve built one too many Ikea shelves or just want to relax and not worry about cooking.
8. When in Doubt, Go Second-Hand
COVID-19 has made it difficult and perhaps uncomfortable to be shopping second-hand these days. However, if you feel comfortable, the Facebook marketplace, university facebook groups and Kijiji are some of the best places to buy second-hand furniture at a bargain especially with everyone moving home temporarily.
Do you have any tips or suggestions for a first-timer homeowner?