4 Money Mistakes I’ve Made as a First-Time Homeowner

published Nov 5, 2021
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Owning a home comes with a flood of financial responsibilities. Aside from the obvious expenses associated with furnishing and decorating, there are a number of hidden costs to consider, like routine pest control, landscaping and yard maintenance, HOA dues, and more.

As a first-time homeowner, I’ve made countless mistakes with my money. Many were small and insignificant, while some are bigger — and cringeworthy. Here are the most important ones to note so you can avoid them.

DIY Repairs 

After my husband and I bought our first home, we got to work fixing and renovating things on our own. Most of our DIY projects were a success, but not every repair or renovation task should be done without help. 

When our garbage disposal broke, my husband and I agreed he could probably repair it himself. After multiple trips to the hardware store and weeks of trial and error, we finally gave in and called a plumber when I realized water had been leaking under the cabinet and onto the floor as I washed the dishes. 

The plumber handled a repair in a matter of minutes. Apparently, the pipes that connect the sink drain to the garbage disposal needed to be completely replaced. If we had just called the plumber initially, we would’ve saved time and money. The subsequent water damage ended up costing us more money in the long run. Hiring a professional gives you the kind of piece of mind money can’t buy. 

Choosing Cheap

If you’re trying to save money on home repairs and updates, cheaper materials will sabotage that plan. When we had water damage in the kitchen from a leaky dishwasher, we replaced the floor boards with laminate since they were among the most affordable options. 

Over a short period of time, they became scratched, worn down, and dull-looking. After our dog knocked over her water bowl and they started to bubble from the moisture underneath, we finally decided to replace all the hard surface flooring in the house with higher quality luxury vinyl. While they cost more, they came with a fantastic warranty, and years later, the floors look just as good as the day they were installed. 

Underestimating Costs 

When we had new floors (professionally) installed, I based our budget on the cost of the labor and materials alone. I failed to add a cushion for those numbers. So when black mold was discovered under the tile of the bathroom floor, and when it became clear that our toilet was slowly leaking after each flush, I had to quickly reevaluate our resources. 

We had to use money that was set aside for other home updates to buy a new toilet and cover mold remediation. Even simple renovations can end up costing more than expected due to unforeseen circumstances. Always overestimate your budget when planning a new home project.

Keeping PMI for Too Long

Private Mortgage Insurance, or PMI, was a requirement for the type of home loan we qualified for through our lender. This is a premium you pay that covers the cost of your property in case you default on the payments. It’s designed to protect the lender, not the homebuyer. 

I ignorantly kept paying this monthly premium for four years. The cost was wrapped into the monthly mortgage note and handled through our escrow account. Thankfully we were able to refinance the home at a time when interest rates were extremely low, but if I had refinanced after the first or second year, we could’ve dropped that monthly payment and had more money in our pockets for other expenses.