Home ownership is exciting and scary at the same time. From buying your first home to each successive home you buy, there are many challenges along with the enjoyment and satisfaction that comes from owning your own home.
Can you remember worrying about painting the walls in your apartment? Or dreaming about the day when you wouldn't have to worry? Funny looking back to my first apartment when I painted a dark green stripe on my living room wall, and didn't get my security deposit back.
When we bought our first home, we painted the kitchen white – boring. We added color with furniture and accessories until I learned to decorate with fabric. You can enjoy your favorite colors and today's wonderful geometrics, stretched over foam board (my home office below right). That's why we've created Home Tips for Women, to help you get rid of any fears you have around home ownership, so you can enjoy your home!
Financial Independence Through Home Ownership
Home ownership is a big decision for everyone. When you rent, only utilities change from month-to-month and you can call the landlord to handle problems. As a homeowner you have a mortgage, taxes and insurance that should be relatively stable, with a fixed rate mortgage versus a risky, variable rate loan.
- Buy a house you can afford today, including a 20% down payment so you're not house poor unable to live out your homeowner dream.
- Get a fixed rate mortgage.
- As your income rises, pay down your principal as ideally, your mortgage is paid off when you're ready to retire.
The exciting news is more than 20% of new homeowners are single women, who understand the financial benefits of home ownership. Congratulations and welcome to our community of women homeowners, where we provide resources for all your home related questions, projects and more, plus a community of women homeowners supporting each other (learn about Sharing Homeowner Stories).
The Lifestyle Benefits of Home Ownership
When buying a house, we think in terms of location, square feet, number of bedrooms and bathrooms. These features are included in real estate listings to make it easy for homeowners, sellers and buyers, to exchange information. What listings don't reflect are the areas of our homes, activity centers, that support our lifestyle.
When moving to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, our realtor asked the usual homeowner question, how many bedrooms? I explained that bedrooms weren't important as our children would be away at school – what we needed was space, possibly an attic, for my quilting studio plus a basement or garage for my husband's workshop. So here's what the spaces looked like:
- We loved our Portsmouth, NH home (Victorian Kitchen Remodel) with a fantastic basement and instead of the 4 room “attic apartment”, my quilt room fit into one of the extra bedrooms.
- When down sizing to a condo, the quilt room doubles as the guest bedroom with a Murphy bed. My husband's workshop is now in the garage which is also perfect for his collection of telescopes.
You'll be happier with your home when it supports your lifestyle. If you're working at home frequently, even running a business at home, make sure you've got the space to do that comfortably. Avid gardeners need a potting shed or similar space in the garage and families that are home schooling, need classroom space.
Responsibilities of a Homeowner
When the biggest investment of your life is a house, you should learn how to protect that investment. My first home was in El Cerrito, California – 2 bedrooms and 1 bath on a postage stamp lot. We had big windows and on tip toe, you could see San Francisco Bay over the kitchen sink! Buying the house took all our savings and with my husband a full-time student at UC Berkeley, we didn't have a lot of money so we made small, incremental improvements.
We loved our $15, old fashion lawn mower and the 15 minutes it took to mow the front lawn. Buying our first washing machine and dryer was an adventure, and we were thrilled to invite everyone from our old apartment building, for our first formal dinner. We lined up boxes on the floor and used my quilting fabrics for tablecloths.
Here are my favorite tips from owning more than a dozen homes.
- Invest in your home with routine maintenance (check out our home maintenance checklists, written for the woman homeowner).
- Make incremental updates to your home, so you're prepared to move for the right personal and/or professional opportunities.
- Save for home emergencies or better yet, plan and budget for timely replacement of key home systems like your hot water heater, appliances, a new roof, heating and air conditioning systems.