Buying a House: 25 Things I Wish I Knew at 25

Lily Zappulla

For many of us, buying our first home was our first glimpse of “adult life.” From the moving process, to furnace troubles to stained carpets, the experience of finding your first place is as stressful as it is rewarding. It is an unforgettable rite of passage that no person can fully be prepared for. We asked 25 people what is the one thing they wish they knew at 25 before buying their first house, and this is what they said:

1. The planned timeline for every “easy project” should be multiplied by three, to account for all of the “not-so-easy” issues that come up along the way. It literally happens every time.  Alyssa F.

2. Home renovations are stressful and time-consuming, but if you stick it out and do it right the first time, you will save yourself years of stress (and money!).  Salvatore Z.

3. Live at home with your parents for as long as you can. Those that critique people that live at home are just jealous of the rent free lifestyle.  Ben D.

4. Make sure to know the difference between septic and city water. Otherwise, you could find yourself in a crappy situation.  Jen N.

5. Most people want to change five or six things they don’t like about a new home before moving in. Live in the home for six months first and you will find five or six new things that bother you more!  Jake F.

6. Pay attention to lawn size, patios, trees, etc. Remember that more yard means more yard work.  Amanda A.

7. Don’t get emotionally attached to a house until it is closed. It is good to envision yourself living there, but until you close there are so many things that can come up.  Matt B.

8. Don’t forget the little necessities! Nothing is more frustrating than when you are in the middle of cooking your first meal and realize you don’t have a can-opener…  Maria L.

9. Closing costs are like a black hole, you have to make sure you understand what your closing is composed of. A tip: know the amount of oil remaining in the furnace!  Belma K.

10. In my first place, I wish I had noticed the thickness/hollowness of walls earlier. I could hear almost everything in the apartments that surrounded me.  Shay O.

11. While inspections are required by the bank, getting another look from someone who has experience with homes can be extremely beneficial. It is always good to use a second pair of eyes!  Paul A.

12. There will always be something that “needs to be done” on the house, and sometimes, it’s okay to just sit outside and drink wine instead.  Alyssa F.

13. Keep your calendars as open as possible, especially in the beginning. Between service appointments or just unpacking, you’ll need to be flexible.  Joe F.

14. Your credit score will dictate more than you think, not just when buying a house but in all aspects of your life. Make sure you have a good one!  Alphonso D.

15. Don’t get a pet right away (unless it’s a fish). As tempting as it may be, you will be too busy with appointments, projects, or simply unpacking.  Abby Z.

16. When buying a fixer-upper, do not get attached to what it “could” look like without talking to contractors or other experts.  Robert B.

17. If I had known what poison ivy looked like, it would have saved me from two weeks of itching!  Matt B.

18. If you buy a house with a lot of land, make sure you’re prepared. Invest in the big stuff (lawn mower, snow blower, etc.) but don’t forget the little things (rake, shovel, etc.)!  Frank I.

19. Be nice to your neighbors, especially when you are just moving in. A good first impression goes a long way. You never know when you might need them.  Neil E.

20. Don’t get hung up on paint color, carpeting, or anything that can be easily changed. Focus on the more expensive or permanent things, even if they are less visible.  Mary E.

21. As pretty as mature trees can be, if your lot has a ton of them then I would advise cutting some down. They’re not only a ton of work, but can be dangerous!  Greg A.

22. When packing your own moving van, use boxes that are all the same size (rather than boxes you collect from here and there). This makes for more efficient packing, especially for out-of-state moves.  Lucie J.

23. When shopping for paint, many stores have “used” pints or gallons that are still almost full but sold at half the price. Great for bathroom renos or other projects!  Sue S.

24. You can change nearly everything about your house, except for one thing: location. Do your research and pick the best neighborhood for you.  Camilla N.

25. Go into your basement, even if you don’t have a use for it. We neglected to check on our basement for about a month, and when I finally made it downstairs, there was about a foot of water. Gross and a pain!  Beth G.

Where Can I Find Boxes for Moving?

29 Responses to "Buying a House: 25 Things I Wish I Knew at 25"

  • Extra Mile Staff | June 4, 2019 at 11:45 pm

    Rick- thank you for providing this excellent advice!

  • Rick | June 4, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    We bought a house with a beautiful, but shaggy oak tree in the front yard. We called to have it trimmed only to find out it was dying and needed to be removed; this was verified by another trimming service and the county arborist. $8000.00 later, I would recommend having large trees checked as part of the pre-purchase inspection.

  • Extra Mile Staff | May 3, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    Thank you for sharing, Ila.

  • Ila E. Stapleton | May 1, 2019 at 6:04 pm

    After learning that a local Navy service man and his family were forced out of their Port Orchard, Washington home, because the place is contaminated with methamphetamine, I wanted to inform others about this issue as I for one, didn't know about this issue. The Barnes bought the place after the Navy transferred them here a year ago. But after their son kept getting sick they had the place tested for mold. It was four times the legal limit. They said none of this came up in the home inspection done before they bought the place because apparently, they don't test for methamphetamine. And please note that Inspectors don't check for mold either unless you ask for it and pay extra.

  • Extra Mile Staff | April 30, 2019 at 3:02 pm

    Wow, what a great tip! Thanks for sharing, Jeanne.

  • Jeanne | April 30, 2019 at 4:03 am

    Visit the neighborhood at night. Things can be different. My sister bought a house on a not too busy during the day but discovered that the nearby port unloaded cars from dusk to dawn, causing loud rumbling traffic all night. The house shook. Is there a security light that shines right into the master bedroom? Could some clubs that close at 2 be a way home for those avoid police or traffic? How early are children dropped of at school? And more. I recommend at least one 24 hour watch. Weekends can also hold surprises.

  • Extra Mile Staff | April 29, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    Thanks for providing this insight Helen!

  • Extra Mile Staff | April 29, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    Amazing advice Nancy! Thanks for your feedback.

  • Extra Mile Staff | April 29, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    Great advice Stefanie- thank you for sharing!

  • Extra Mile Staff | April 29, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    Julius- thank you passing our list along!

  • JULIUS KLAUSNER | April 28, 2019 at 5:45 pm

    I have owned two homes, for forty years plus, and I learned some great points from your list. your list was great. I have one recently married daughter, I will forward this list immediately to her. I will also hold a copy for friends and neighbors. Thank you so much.

  • Stefanie Mead | April 28, 2019 at 1:02 am

    Beware of wallpaper. I live in Florida, purchased a home inspected by two professionals, one of whom was from the insurance company. Two weeks after closing and eager to move in I began ripping off old bathroom wallpaper, surprise! Black mold. The entire shower, walls, flooring had to be gutted. Damage was caused by copper piping which had been leaking for years.

  • Mary An Coty | April 28, 2019 at 12:46 am

    Husband died, sold 75 year old house, finally, purchased townhouse in a much better area, higher taxes, too. The first morning taking a shower the cold water would not turn off. That afternoon the hot water tank went caflooy all covered by an insurance policy purchased by our real estate person.The next week the dishwasher overflowed, the refer, brand new, went out and the toilet wouldn't stop running. After Christmas we noticed a gradual discoloration of the wall over the fireplace. Roof replaced two years before with 1/4" sheeting instead of 1/2" allowed water to get under the roofing and "run" into the fireplace. The whole inside was mildewed and the chimney was cracked. I called my insurance on that one and they pulled down the chimney, pulled out the fireplace and wall, cleaned up the mildew, replaced the wall and I put in an electric fireplace. My cost was $4000.00, Insurance paid $62,000.00. Not to mention the sellers hide the ivy covering the one huge flowerbed with bark and on and on and on. It has been three years and hopefully most problems have shown themselves or there will be no more. I had my own inspector plus the seller had one and yet a number of problems that didn't show during inspection popped up. I must say when you buy a house as a first home buyer or even a second or third home buyer "be careful". Get several knowledgeable craftsmen to check out the residence just to be safe. It will save you a ton of money and a lot of sorrow.

  • Gladys D. Orama | April 27, 2019 at 8:13 pm

    While planning on home improvement make sure you hire professional people to do the job.

  • paul tyre | April 27, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    The #1 thing in Florida and states that have similar laws is..." Use a Single Agency Buyer's Broker." !

  • Sheila Lacher | April 27, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    It really pays to search to find the right house for you, not the cheapest or the most showy, but one that you will live in for a few years, at least.

  • Jennie Sindak | April 27, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    In some states the inspectors are barely trained. Especially if you are buying an older home, spend the money to have an engineer look at the foundation. If you have a finished basement a house inspection won't show the cracks behind the finished walls. An engineer knows what to look for. It should be the law. Foundation cracks can cost a small fortune to fix. I know, love my home of one year. Not at all happy I am now paying to fix the foundation.

  • Helen Snyder | April 27, 2019 at 2:46 pm

    Tip #9: your loan-related costs have to be fully disclosed by your lender under RESPA, and you should treat your title or escrow officer as a source of info about. Other closing costs like escrow fees, title fees, recording fees and the rest. The realtors' commissions are not typically part of the buyers' closing costs unless that was spelled out early on. As a realtor, I bring up closing costs early on in the relationship with buyer or seller, and buyers should always ask if it's not covered.

  • Nancy Rohn | April 27, 2019 at 5:58 am

    Older houses or houses that have been occupied for 10+ years should get new outlets installed. Cheap and easy to do. An attic fan or two can alleviate hot houses. Worth the investment!! Requires an electrician to wire it and roofer or contractor to install the unit. Wish I had done this 15 years earlier. We don't need air conditioning because of the attic fans. Dogs would have been a lot cooler when left in the house during 4th of July fireworks. Put in lots of bulbs in the yard that return every year. Buy them in the fall when they go on sale and plant according to your area. Fresh flowers in the house or bouquets to others are always welcome. Get an independent inspection. Know where your crawl space access is if your house isn't on a slab. Know where your plumbing cleanout is. Know where your attic access is. Is the house insulated underneath? You won't know until you tour the crawl space. Is there enough insulation in the attic? Poke your head up there and look. Keep information on paint colors inside your electrical panel. Label your paint cans. Go introduce yourself to your neighbors. National Night Out Neighborhood Watch is the first Tuesday in August. Organize a block party.

  • Extra Mile Staff | April 26, 2019 at 11:57 am

    Thanks for sharing, Kris. This will help a lot of the readers when buying a house.

  • Kris | April 26, 2019 at 1:02 am

    Maybe one of the tips applies to the first of my two home purchases: 1988, a 3 bedroom + 2.5 bath townhome condominium, in a seller's market. At the age of 44, I finally had the financial resources to attempt a purchase, when there was very little available in the San Fernando Valley at less than $100/square foot. Was able to borrow the 20% down payment from two tax-sheltered annuities (like IRAs, for educators) and get a 30-year fixed mortgage sweetheart rate of 10 3/8%. A surprise was the amount of "earnest money" required, which I borrowed from a friend prior to the annuity loans. After moving in, I realized I couldn't live with the grey interior walls or the red toilet seat in the kids' bathroom or the decorative 4'-high white picket fencing around the dining room walls. A complete interior paint job really was required. Additional surprise: two sliding glass doors and the dining room window that were too wide for any off-the-shelf drapes, absolutely required for privacy; contracting and selecting from J.C. Penney, they were "custom" and about the same as one month's mortgage payment. It was three months before they were delivered and installed, but not before the HOA had pointedly inquired about my makeshift screening. Five years later, a couple years after I'd had an accelerator installed on the gas furnace because it had trouble turning on, the gas company started doing on-demand free inspections with exhaust analyzing devices. Turned out the roof exhaust pipe had been blocked at some time during or before residency of the two previous owners (10 years), and I'd been breathing the exhaust for 5+ years. Furnace worked very well after a local vendor who could do roof work unblocked it. Yes, do find and pay for your own inspection. Be specific for anything involving heating, cooling, electrical, plumbing, and drainage. Oh, and termites or other critters known to be invasive in the area.

  • Extra Mile Staff | April 25, 2019 at 9:46 pm

    Thanks for reading, Deborah!

  • Larry | April 25, 2019 at 3:47 pm

    Get your own appraiser especially if you are buying your new house for cash. Few hundred dollars can save you much sorrow later when you discover the hard way that you paid $10,000 to ? To much. Also appraiser can give other advise that can save you money about major repairs that may not add value to your homes resale. Surprised no one mentioned never buy. Home on a sloped lot. Homes shift and also cutting grass can be dangerous and very hard.

  • Deborah Hiner | April 25, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    This valuable information. I will use these 25 tips when looking to purchase a new home.

  • Darvin Sutton | April 25, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    You can always change things in your new home but the lot it sits on is forever. Being on a lot sitting below street level or up a grade could be a problem. Any property that sits near a creek or river is a potential problem. Amazing how often that "once in a hundred year rain" seems to occur.

  • Buying Property To Rent | April 13, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    i love what you have completed here. keep up the great writing!

  • Mapo | October 24, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    This is my third house I acquired. After I got separated I had my wishes to own a historical or at least a Vitoria era home. Searched all over for months while I moved into an apartment I rented. Finally after many trips I was able to find the house of my dreams, a house built in 1772, in good fair condition, but with a lot of work to do. So here what is my advice to you if you are buying a house under 415,000. Go FHA/ HUD if it’s your first house or your life status will win big buy doing it. I sold my house and my life status changed from married to divorced, so, I was ok to buy using this method which was great deal. The house was on foreclosure, by using HUD/ FHA the bank must fix the house for you so it comply with HUD to be in livable conditions. I got new electric box, new furnace, new water heater, few new windows done by the bank who owned the house. Once I moved in I replaced roofs, installed solar panels, removed carpets and finished hard flooring. Did some plumbing and electric to be more modernized, I installed new hood and range stove top, ( which was used in great conditions). I bought oops paint gallons at Home Depot for 9.00 instead of original price of 45.00 per gallon. I used unexpensive handyman, searched google for unexpensive roofers. I got all of these done ( excluded solar panel) for less than 11,000. Remember one thing, once you buy a house people think you are rich or you have a lots of money. So be like “ this is what I can pay you, not more than that”, if the person wants the job then they will do it for what you can afford to pay him. Do your yard work at the end of autumn or on winter when landscapers are off of jobs, it’s much cheaper too. I have one acre to clean up and it will be done at winter time so I will save money. It take a lot for us women to accomplish things in our own, but we can do it. I find it much easier for men to get good deal, so I do pai with some males once things doesn’t go right on my own. Buying a house is the best investment we can do, so do not install your TV until you have all your hints accomplished, TV can and will keep you from working around the house.

  • Gpyle | October 21, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Pay for your own inspection, don't use an inspector recommended by the seller or, especially, the real estate agent. And read the fine print in the inspection report. Most of them say that the results are "an opinion" on the condition of the house. The inspectors specifically exclude any liability for things they missed.

  • Nunyainct | October 17, 2017 at 3:00 am

    I bought a contemporary. The house itself is 2200 sq ft, the roof was 4400 sq ft because of the extended eaves...lesson learned, massive roof, massive roof bill for a complete tear down. Think out your projected expenses for necessities in addition to the wish list of other renovations.

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