First-time home buyers need to know the true costs of home ownership

From maintenance costs to insurance, first-time home buyers need to be prepared for the costs associated with owning property. Picture: Freepik

From maintenance costs to insurance, first-time home buyers need to be prepared for the costs associated with owning property. Picture: Freepik

Published Jun 10, 2024


Buying your first home is an accomplishment, however once the boxes are unpacked and the new home excitement wears off many first-time buyers find home ownership to be much more responsibility, according to Cobus Odendaal, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty.

Odendaal said as a new homeowner all the responsibility and costs of maintaining the property now fall squarely on their shoulders and it can be very daunting.

“It’s easy to be overwhelmed when problems and unexpected expenses arise, especially during your first year of home ownership, and the only way to handle issues with minimum stress is to be prepared from the get-go,” Odendaal said.

Here are tips to help you be proactive to deal with your new obligations.

Be prepared for maintenance and repair costs

Odendaal said one of the biggest shocks for new homeowners is how expensive it can be to keep a house in good condition, as the organisation and management of any repairs are now their responsibility.

Experts generally recommend budgeting 1% to 4% of a property’s value annually for maintenance and repairs.

Homeowners should line up reliable contractors for when something needs to be fixed rather than having to phone around when you have a crisis.

You can try to tackle small projects yourself but it’s important to be able to call in the professionals for major issues.

Establish where everything is located as soon as possible

Where do you switch off the water supply? Where is your drain access? How do you access the geyser? Where is the roof space situated?

Odendaal advises homeowners to have an idea of where things are located in their home to avoid running around like a headless chicken when their home is flooding because they have no idea where the municipal water tap is situated.

Get comfortable with DIY and YouTube

According to Odendaal, your first year of home ownership is the perfect time to start learning basic home maintenance skills through books, online tutorials, and YouTube videos.

You can learn things like caulking unclogging drains, sealing wooden decks, and fixing wonky door hinges.

Learning these skills will not only help you save money, but you will also gain useful skills and confidence as a homeowner.

Odendaal said homeowners need to be honest about their limitations and should not try anything overly dangerous or complicated until they ready. The right tools and safety gear are musts too.

Prioritise an emergency fund for home repairs

Realising that you have to fork out money to take care of expensive repairs like a burst geyser or faulty electrical wiring before you have built up any savings is one of the worst feelings.

Odendaal said prioritising an emergency home repair fund from day one is crucial for first-time buyers.

Start putting aside a monthly amount as soon as you have decided to buy property or at the very least when you move into your new home.

Understand your home’s efficiency and cost

According to Odendaal, the utility and efficiency costs for your new home may depend on the property’s size, age and construction quality.

During your first year of ownership you should carefully track the cost of expenses like electricity, water/sewerage, and internet as they can serve as a realistic baseline going forward.

You can try to improve energy efficiency through insulating, upgrading appliances and systems, small changes can sometimes yield substantial long-term savings.

Stay on top of seasonal and annual maintenance

According to Odendaal, homeowners need to be diligent about necessary seasonal and annual maintenance tasks.

This not only maintains the condition of the property but also helps you discover any issues before they become big, costly problems.

Maintenance tasks that you need to keep an eye on include:

∎ Cleaning gutters, downspouts, and drainage areas.

∎ Checking for cracks/leaks and recaulking windows and doors as needed.

∎ Testing alarms and replacing batteries.

∎ Pruning and trimming trees/bushes, etc.

Creating a simple checklist and setting calendar reminders will help ensure nothing important gets forgotten.

Make sure you are properly covered

Take the time to choose the best building and household insurance that is suitable to your specific needs and update your insurance policies every year.

Don’t forget to inform your insurer when you are going to do renovations or make improvements to ensure that it can be covered by your insurance.

IOL Property