Tim Garvey's Blog
Old doesn't mean decrepitLet's go back to our book analogy from earlier. If you have a book from the late 1800s that has been stored in a dry place, hasn't been thrown around much, and always had conscientious owners who respected it enough to repair the binding when needed, your book will be in great shape. The same is true for old homes. Oftentimes, it only takes a quick glance around the home and a peek at the foundation to see if the home has been taken care of. Just because a house was built in the 1800s doesn't mean it hasn't been renovated periodically and maintained properly.
Warning signsIf you are thinking of buying an old home, here are some things you should look out for before you sign the dotted line. Don't forget to have the home inspected by a professional as well, since they will give you a much more detailed analysis of the problems a home might have.
- Ancient HVAC. Aside from being prone to malfunctioning, old heating and ventilation systems could also prove to be dangerous and inefficient. Be sure to have a professional inspect the entire system.
- Pests big and small. Over the years homes begin to develop vulnerabilities to ants, termites and other pests. Similarly, don't be surprised if you find mice, bats, or other furry creatures around if the home has been empty for a while.
- Hazardous materials. The builders of yore were excellent craftsmen, but they were using (unbeknownst to them) dangerous materials like lead and asbestos. If you have small children, even more of a reason to make sure the home is free of hazardous materials. Part of this check should also be for mold growth.
- Inefficiencies. Old windows and poor insulation walls also tend to be issues with some old homes. Find out what the monthly utility bills cost to see how much work you'll need to do to bring them up to date.
- Foundation issues. Eventually, nature prevails. Foundation cracks and deterioration are common problems in old homes, especially in climates like the Northeast with freezing temperatures and lots of snow, rain, and wind.
- A step stool and a ladder You'll use both of these quite often, especially when you're moving. In my house there are a few top kitchen cabinets that are just out of reach, so I'm constantly pulling out the step stool. However, they're also useful around the house like in closets or reaching high spots while cleaning and painting. Equally important is a ladder. You won't want to mess around climbing on unsteady chairs for changing lightbulbs or smoke detector batteries. Plus you'll need one for access to the roof of your shed or house.
- A whole-house fan or air conditioner When you move into a house, especially in the summer months, you're going to want to stay cool while setting up and cleaning your new home. A great way to bring lots of fresh air into the house is to use a whole house fan which draws air into the attic and therefore causing air from outside to flow into your open windows. Window fans are a suitable substitute, so long as they have an exchange mode to bring air in and out.
- A bucket and a wheel barrow Both of these items are easily overlooked but will be invaluable when it comes to cleaning your house and maintaining your yard. Reddit user shuggins points out some of the myriad uses for a bucket: mopping the floor, pulling weeds, watering plants, washing the car, washing the dog, and even turn it upside down for a stool when you need a break from all those chores. And in the unfortunate event that someone is sick and queasy, a bucket can be a lifesaver.
- Drain stops and screens It won't take long for your drain pipes to get clogged up with food in the kitchen and hair in the bathroom without drain screens. Plus, having a drain stop for your sink will turn it into--you guessed it--a bucket! Buckets are the best.
- New locks Who knows who has copies of the keys in and around your home. It's important to change all the locks, including padlocks to your shed. There are many horror stories of new homeowners getting all settled in only to be burgled soon after.
- Batteries all sizes Reddit user typhoidmarry accurately describes the necessity for extra batteries when they write, "Your smoke detectors battery WILL die at 2am. It will." Play it safe and get extra batteries for your all of your electronics to avoid frustration and rage when you can't watch Netflix because your remote battery died.
Safety CheckBefore you ride your bike, it's good to perform a basic safety check in your driveway before leaving your home. You'll want to check:
- tires, to see if they're properly inflated, have enough tread, and don't have any cracks
- brakes, to see if both the front and rear brakes work properly and that they're touching the rims when pressed
- chain and shifters, to make sure the chain is lubricated and that the shifters are functioning correctly
Cleaning and lubricationCleaning your bicycle regularly isn't just a matter of aesthetics. A clean bike is a safe bike and the process of cleaning helps you discover any potential issues with the bicycle. On a monthly basis, clean the frame and rims of your bike with a cloth. Look for any cracks in the frame, loose bolts or screws on any of the mechanisms. Cleaning and lubricating the chain of your bike will significantly increase its lifespan and will prevent your chain from malfunctioning when you're out on a ride. First, turn your bike upside down so that it is balanced on the sea and handlebars. Wipe off the grime that has built up on the chain with a rag. If necessary, use a degreaser and a small brush to scrub any remaining residue from between the links, then wipe down the chain once more. Apply a drop of chain lubricant to each chain link while you rotate the pedals. While you have the lubricant out, also be sure to apply a small amount to the brake levers an derailleurs (the part that moves the chain onto the different sized sprockets to change gears). Also lubricate the brake cables and gear cables to make sure they can move freely and do not freeze up.
Repairs and replacementSometimes, in spite of proper care and maintenance you're going to beed to make some repairs to your bicycle. The most common fixes you'll need to make are changing flat tires and replacing worn brake pads, and chain issues like a skipping link. Depending on your bicycle, you can often find tutorials online that will help you find the tools you need to make these repairs from home. Otherwise, you could always give business to your local bike shop.
House title search fees, mortgage application fees, mortgage insurance, homeowners insurance, property taxes and homeowners association fees are only a part of the cost of owning a house. There is also the mortgage principal, home appraisal fee, closing costs, home inspection fees and mortgage interest to pay after you buy a house. Facing all of these and other costs takes thought.
Three simple steps to home ownership and lower mortgage payments
By preparing to buy and maintain a house, you could save big over the short and the long term. Get creative and you will see that there are many ways to save for your home. Three simple ways that you can save for your home are to:
- Open a home savings account. Do this at least two years before you buy a house. Set up an automatic deposit so that money goes into the account each time you receive your payroll check.
- Use money from your bonus check or tax return to invest in your house down payment. Start doing this early, as soon as you graduate from high school, and you could save several thousand if not tens of thousands of dollars.
- Work a second job or freelance. Invest all of the earnings from this work into your home savings account. You could sharpen your talents by using these abilities to generate income. For example, if you have design skills, you could start your own web design or marketing design company and use earnings from sales to build a down payment on a house.
Splitting the down payment with another adult you buy a house with is another way to make smart house buys. Hold yourself and other adults who will be living in the house responsible for making their portion of the monthly mortgage. Split house maintenance costs as well.
Get serious about saving money to buy your first house
As soon as you decide to buy a house, start taking steps to save for your home. For example, if you know that you want to buy a house two years after you graduate from college, start saving for a down payment while you're still in college or as soon as you graduate.
Learn how to build and manage a budget. Depending on how disciplined you are, you might benefit from working with a line item budget. If you live at home, slowly work your way up to saving enough each month to cover the mortgage on the type of house you want to buy.
Do this for two years and you could save a healthy down payment on a house. Focus on what it takes to get your monthly mortgage payments down to where they only require 25% or less of your total net income and you be financially comfortable throughout the home buy and maintenance process.
You might even have enough money to add one or more rooms onto your house, increasing the total value of your property. This single step could position you to yield a profit should you decide to sell your house.