I Lived With My Mom Until I Could Afford My Own House—Here’s What I Didn’t Realize

published Jul 10, 2018
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(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

A lot of my friends quickly moved out after college into apartments with other friends, but I knew that I couldn’t justify spending hundreds of bucks every month on things like “water” and “heat,” when my mom let me stay in her warm house and use her water (economies of scale!). So instead, I worked two jobs for four long years, coming home at the end of the day to the house I grew up in, saving up some cash for a down payment on a house of my own.

Once I turned 26, I realized that living at home has its downsides, so I put on my House Hunters hat and made the big move. Now, 10 years later, I realize I wasn’t as prepared for homeownership as I thought I was. Here, the six things no one told me about homeownership (and even if they did, I wouldn’t have believed them!)

1. Unless you build, your new home won’t be empty!

No matter where you live, the people who owned the house before you left at least one weird thing when they moved. I’m not necessarily talking about a body buried in the yard, but there will be something that makes you wonder what the heck those people were thinking. For instance, there is a pencil sharpener in my bedroom closet. Yes, a pencil sharpener.

2. Everything is really, really expensive.

It starts out small and after you cut the largest check of your life, everything else seems like pennies so you don’t notice it as much. A $300 countertop? What a deal! Only $2,000 for new shingles? Where can I send the check? However, this excitement diminishes as the memory of that initial payment fades along with the $20/gallon paint that you put on your deck and that extra savings you had winds up being used for things like countertops and cabinet knobs. You soon find yourself comparing the prices of weatherstripping (not as sexy as it sounds) because you’ll be damned if you’re overpaying for that stuff again. Also—just a side note—yes, everything will eventually break or need to be replaced, and it’s usually all at the same time!

3. You start caring about stuff you never thought you’d care about.

You start becoming extra conscious of everything that happens in or around your house because it’s potential money you could save! Shoes are removed because you’re the one that a) has to clean up the floor and b) has to pay for cleaning supplies or hire a professional if it’s that bad. You become captain of the Light Patrol and make sure only the necessary ones are on. Every creak and drip sends a shiver down your spine because you know that it’s probably going to cost money to fix!

4. You will become a boring neighbor sooner than you imagined.

You will eventually perfect the “suburban nod” to neighbors that will be used every time you see them outside for around the next 20 years. Most discussions will revolve around the weather or what week the recycling containers need to be put on the curb. Note: Remembering to put out both the trash and recycling on time—and before the neighbors—warrants ALL the suburban medals!

5. Actually, you just sort of become boring.

You also become a repository of boring knowledge and get excited over weird things. For example, I couldn’t tell you my bust-hip-waist ratio but I know my furnace filters are 16-20-1. Also, when you drive around, you notice things like outdoor light fixtures and decorative mulch. And bringing home a new vacuum? It’s like bringing home a new member of the family.

6. There will be a part of your home that you never, ever, use.

For as often as I go down there, a commune of hippies could be living in my basement and I wouldn’t know it. Aside from taking shelter in storms and changing the furnace filter, I avoid it at all costs—then again, maybe I should check. If somebody is living down there, maybe I could charge them their part of the rent… because as I’ve said: Everything is expensive!