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4 Mistakes I Made as a First-time Homeowner

I’ve learned a few things about homeownership since I bought my first home in July 2016.

I’ve learned that homeownership is expensive. Even though I managed to get the best mortgage rate and minimize my monthly costs, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on unexpected or unforeseen expenses since moving in.

I’ve also learned that homeownership is something that most of my peers use to measure my success, and they all universally congratulated me when I officially announced I was a first-time homebuyer.

Finally, the most important lesson I’ve learned is that no amount of preparation or googling could completely prepare me for the challenge of homeownership. No matter how much I tried to prepare or how much research I did, I wasn’t totally prepared for homeownership and I made some significant mistakes at first.

Here are four embarrassing mistakes I made in my first six months of homeownership:

I thought I broke my furnace

One of the greatest selling points of my home was that it came equipped with a forced air oil-fired furnace. I wanted a home with a forced air heat distribution system so that I could convert it to an energy efficient air source heat pump in a few years.

I bought my home in July and at that time the furnace was in good working order. When the time came to turn the equipment on in October and warm up my house, it wouldn’t turn on. It’s an older furnace so I wasn’t able to troubleshoot potential problems using Google. Fortunately, my brother-in-law is an HVAC engineer and he agreed to take a look at my mysteriously non-operational heating system.

As it turns out, every oil-fired heating device comes equipped with an emergency shutoff switch on the main floor of the home. Having never lived in a home with a furnace before, I wasn’t aware of this and had flipped it off at some point during the summer. My great HVAC emergency was solved with the simple flip of a switch!

I actually broke my dishwasher

One of the common home maintenance tasks to perform before winter arrives is to drain your home’s exterior faucets to prevent frozen and broken pipes. As a new homeowner, the first step in this task was finding the indoor shutoff to my home’s exterior faucet. The shutoff wasn’t clearly labeled and there were a few potential options.

One candidate was a shutoff valve underneath my kitchen sink. After attempting to shut it off, it was clear that this shutoff valve went to the dishwasher.

I eventually did find the right valve, but fooling around with the dishwasher shutoff valve had caused a new problem. Now my dishwasher was failing to fill with water. After attempting to troubleshoot it with my limited plumbing knowledge, I called an appliance repair person.

The result was embarrassing. Turning off the old shutoff valve had caused it to stay closed even after I attempted to opened it back up. The repair person only banged on the valve with a rubber mallet to jostle it back open. The 15-minute visit cost me $69.

I epically failed at garbage collection

This mistake didn’t cost me money. But it did cost me time and it was quite embarrassing. After living in an apartment for two years in Halifax, I’d never learned how to sort my garbage, organics, or recycling correctly. Halifax has a bit of a complicated system and I’m thoroughly embarrassed to say it took me two months to master it.

Why was this embarrassing? Because when my garbage separation wasn’t perfect, it got a big orange sticker and left on the curb for the whole neighbourhood to see—how embarrassing!

I dramatically overestimated my DIY abilities

When I bought my home I had big plans for how I was going to renovate it last year. I had laid out a plan for some big projects, estimated how much they would cost, and told all of my friends about them.

Unfortunately, I didn’t accurately gauge how much time they would take, or, more importantly, how much time I’d have to complete them. Doing it yourself is labour intensive and if I had an unlimited amount of time, I could’ve stayed on track. Unfortunately, I’m busy with both a full-time job and a side hustle, and finding the time to complete projects has been difficult.

As a result, I’ve only been able to complete a fraction of the projects on my list. In the past six months, I’ve learned how much I can realistically do, and I’ve adjusted my expectations to match.

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