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A First-Time Home Buyer’s Guide to Thriving and Surviving

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Congratulations! You’ve just stepped into the exciting world of homeownership! We’re here to help you navigate this new chapter of your life. Owning a home is a huge achievement and, with it, comes both responsibility and freedom. Below, we’ll be sharing essential tips and tricks to help you maintain, enjoy, and even thrive in your new home. 

Get to Know Your Home Inside and Out 

Your home is your sanctuary, the place where you go to relax, recharge, and feel safe. To truly feel comfortable and secure in your home, it’s important to get to know its inner workings. Take the time to familiarize yourself with your home’s systems and appliances. You’ll be better equipped to handle any emergencies or routine upkeep. This will this save you time, money, and stress. It will also help you create a healthier and more efficient living environment.

Now let’s dive into some specific tips for getting to know your home’s inner workings: 

  • HVAC System: Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system is responsible for keeping your home comfortable and healthy year-round. Take the time to locate your HVAC system and learn about its various components. This includes understanding how to change the air filters, which can greatly improve indoor air quality, and how to clean the outdoor compressor unit, which can improve energy efficiency. 
  • Water Heater: Your water heater plays a crucial role in your daily life, providing hot water for showers, baths, and cleaning. Identify the type of water heater in your home. If it’s gas or electric, learn how to adjust the temperature. Make sure you know how to relight a gas water heater if needed.
  • Electrical Panel: Your electrical panel is responsible for delivering power throughout your home. Locate it and familiarize yourself with the circuit breakers or fuses. Learn which switches control different parts of your home and mark them with a label or marker, so you can safely address any electrical issues that may arise. 

Establish a Routine Maintenance Schedule 

Maintaining a home is a never-ending task, but it’s also an essential part of homeownership. Establishing a routine maintenance schedule is a proactive way to stay on top of your home’s upkeep and ensure that it stays in good condition. Regular maintenance can help prevent costly repairs and keep your home running efficiently, allowing you to enjoy your living space without worrying about potential issues. 

Now, let’s dive into some specific tips for establishing a routine maintenance schedule: 

  • Monthly: Inspect your HVAC filters and replace them as needed to maintain indoor air quality. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are in working order and examine your fire extinguisher to ensure it is fully charged. 
  • Quarterly: Clean out your gutters to prevent damage to your roof and foundation, check for leaks around windows and doors to prevent water damage, and inspect your roof for any damage or wear and tear. 
  • Annually: Have your HVAC system serviced by a professional to keep it running efficiently and prolong its lifespan. Drain your water heater to remove any sediment buildup and improve its performance. Additionally, seal any cracks or gaps in your home’s exterior to prevent drafts and keep pests out. 

Learn Basic Home Repairs 

As a homeowner, it’s inevitable that you’ll encounter minor issues that require your attention. Whether it’s a leaky faucet, a hole in the wall, or a clogged drain, knowing how to make basic repairs can save you time and money. It can also give you a sense of pride and accomplishment to tackle these issues on your own.  

Here are some specific basic home repairs that you can learn: 

  • Fix a Leaky Faucet: A leaky faucet is not only annoying, but it can also waste a significant amount of water over time. To fix it, you’ll need to learn how to shut off the water supply, disassemble the faucet, identify and replace worn parts, and reassemble it. This is a relatively simple repair. It can be completed with a few basic tools and a little bit of patience. 
  • Patch Holes in Walls: Whether it’s from hanging a picture or accidental damage, holes in walls are a common issue in homes. To fix them, you’ll need to acquire basic drywall repair skills, such as cutting out the damaged area, attaching a patch, applying joint compound, and sanding the surface. With a little practice, you can become proficient in this skill and save money on professional repairs. 
  • Unclog Drains: A clogged drain is a frustrating and inconvenient issue that can be caused by a variety of factors, including hair, grease, and foreign objects. Become familiar with different drain-cleaning methods, including using a plunger, drain snake, or chemical drain cleaner. Knowing how to clear a clogged drain can save you from calling a plumber and paying for an unnecessary service call. 

Youtube and local professional websites provide great resources for educating yourself on home home improvement and repairs

Budget for Home Expenses 

Owning a home comes with many joys and responsibilities, including unexpected expenses. It’s important to be prepared for these expenses by budgeting and setting aside funds for maintenance, repairs, and emergencies. By being proactive and creating a separate savings account, you can minimize financial stress and enjoy your home with peace of mind. 

Here are some specific tips for budgeting for home expenses: 

Regular Maintenance
  • Home maintenance is an ongoing responsibility that can include tasks like HVAC service, gutter cleaning, and pest control. Set aside money each month for routine maintenance tasks. This ensures they get done on time and avoid more significant issues down the road. This can also help you save money by catching potential issues early. 
  • While regular maintenance can help prevent major repairs, occasional issues are still likely to arise. Allocate funds each month for minor repairs. Common examples are replacing a broken window ($650 a window on average) or fixing a leaky roof ($1,000 on average). By setting aside money consistently, you can avoid dipping into other funds or taking on debt to cover these expenses. 
  • Emergencies like a burst pipe or a broken appliance can be expensive and stressful. Create an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses that are not included in your regular maintenance and repair budget. Aim to save enough to cover at least three to six months of expenses. 

By budgeting and setting aside funds for home expenses, you can enjoy your home with greater peace of mind and avoid financial stress. Consider creating a separate savings account. You can also use UCCU’s Savings goals within the mobile app. This helps for home expenses and make regular contributions to ensure you’re always prepared for unexpected issues. By taking care of your home proactively, you can protect your investment and enjoy it for years to come. 

Save on Energy Costs 

As energy costs continue to rise, more and more homeowners are looking for ways to save money on their energy bills. Fortunately, there are many small changes you can make around your home that can add up to significant savings over time. In addition to being budget-friendly, these changes can also make your home more eco-friendly and sustainable. 

Here are some specific tips for saving on energy costs: 

  • Seal Gaps: Air leaks around windows and doors can be a major source of energy loss, leading to higher heating and cooling costs. Inspect your home for gaps and seal them with weatherstripping or caulk. This will help to prevent drafts and keep your home more comfortable year-round. 
  • LED Bulbs: Lighting can account for a significant portion of your home’s energy usage. Replace incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient LED bulbs, which can reduce energy consumption and save money. While LED bulbs may be more expensive upfront, they last longer and can provide significant savings over their lifespan. 
  • Programmable Thermostat: Heating and cooling your home can be a major energy expense. Install a programmable thermostat to regulate your home’s temperature and lower energy costs. These thermostats can be programmed to adjust the temperature based on your schedule, so you’re not wasting energy heating or cooling an empty house. 

Connect with Your Neighbors 

Building relationships with your neighbors can be a valuable asset in creating a safe, welcoming, and vibrant community. By connecting with those who live around you, you can gain a sense of belonging and mutual support. Neighbors can also be a valuable resource for local information and even assistance in times of need. 

Here are some specific tips for connecting with your neighbors: 

  • Attend Events: Participating in neighborhood gatherings such as block parties, community meetings, or local events is a great way to meet your neighbors and stay informed about local happenings. These events provide an opportunity to connect with people who share a common interest in improving the community. 
  • Join Social Media Groups: Engaging with neighbors on social media platforms like Nextdoor or Facebook can be a great way to share information and resources. These online groups can also help you stay connected and informed about local news, events, and emergencies. 
  • Offer Assistance: One of the best ways to connect with your neighbors is by offering your assistance. Lending tools, providing a cup of sugar, helping with yard work, or offering to watch someone’s children for a few hours are all great ways to build a sense of community and foster positive relationships. 
  • Local Connections: By connecting with your neighbors, you can create a stronger, more resilient community where everyone feels welcome and supported. By attending events, joining social media groups, and offering your assistance, you can build positive relationships and gain a sense of belonging within your community. Additionally, by working together with your neighbors, you can address local issues, make positive changes, and create a safer and more vibrant neighborhood for everyone. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help 

Owning a home can be a complex and challenging endeavor, but you don’t have to navigate it alone. As a credit union member, you have access to a variety of resources and support to help you manage the financial aspects of homeownership. Additionally, seeking the help of local professionals and community members can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the process. 

Here are some specific tips for asking for help: 

  • Credit Union Support: UCCU can be a valuable resource for assistance with home-related financial questions or concerns. Utilize our resources for guidance on topics like refinancing or a home equity line of credit. We can also help you create a budget or savings plan to manage your expenses with the UCCU Mobile App and meet your financial goals 
  • Local Experts: For specialized advice or service recommendations, seek the help of local professionals like contractors or inspectors. They can help you identify potential issues with your home and recommend solutions to address them. Additionally, they can help you make informed decisions when it comes to making repairs or renovations. 
  • Community Connections: Your neighbors and community groups can be a valuable source of information and guidance on issues specific to your neighborhood. They can provide insights into zoning regulations, local service providers, and other important information to help you navigate homeownership more effectively. 

One Step at a Time

As a new homeowner, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities that come with this new role. However, by following the essential tips and tricks outlined in this article. You can embrace your new role with confidence and enjoy your new home to the fullest. 

By taking a proactive approach to maintenance, you can ensure that your home remains in top condition. This can help avoid costly repairs down the road. Establish a routine maintenance schedule, learning basic home repairs, and budgeting for home expenses. These are all important steps in this process. Additionally, connecting with your neighbors and seeking out resources and support can help.

A solid financial plan is also essential for homeownership success. Create a budget, save for emergencies, and utilize resources like UCCU and local professionals. You can stay on top of your finances and achieve your homeownership goals. 

In conclusion, Embracing your new role as a homeowner with confidence is key to enjoying a happy, comfortable home for years to come. By following these essential tips and tricks, you can navigate the challenges of homeownership with ease and enjoy all the benefits that come with owning a home. Congratulations on your new home and best of luck on this exciting journey!