So if you’re a millennial who has somehow managed to convince the financial powers that be to give you a mortgage – heartiest of congratulations to you. Once you’ve packed up your belongings, survived moving day, and have been handed the keys to your very own home, you might be itching to get renovating (once your back and fingernails have recovered). With that in mind, I’ve put together what I consider to be key tips for new homeowners.
I know when we secured our mortgage, we spent months dreaming of how we’d fix up our new home. All the additions we’d make, the makeovers we’d do… We spent hours in homeware stores getting excited over cushions and area rugs. It’s such an exciting time!
Live in it
It’s so tempting to immediately rush off to the hardware store for new paint, garden furniture, and a big scary mallet for bashing walls in like on Extreme Makeover Home Edition (say it with me: move that bus!). But here’s the thing: you really don’t know what things are urgent or a priority until you’ve lived in it.
Something we think is a priority (like painting the bathroom to cover up the previous owner’s bold choice of lime green) can actually wait, in favour of something you didn’t realise was an issue (such as squeaky floorboards). So hang back on the project planning for a few months, and let the house tell you what it needs.
Sleep in your guest bedrooms
We’ve all stayed at a friend of family member’s house for the night. Sometimes it’s lovely, and other times you cannot wait to get yourself out of there. It’s so much easier to create an inviting space for your guests if you know first hand what it needs. Perhaps it’s blackout curtains to prevent the sunrise from burning their corneas into a crisp, or maybe you haven’t realised that there’s no outlet for them to charge their phone. These things present themselves to us so quickly when we spend the night.
As an absolutely minimum, definitely make sure you include power adaptors, a full length mirror, bedside lamps, and extra blankets. And if you live in a mosquito heavy area, some repellant on the bedside table is a good idea.
Work with your budget
Unfortunately, many of us have little spending money left once the move has taken place, and all of the expenses that come with purchasing a house have been paid. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get started on making your home something special.
Once you’ve listed all of the things you want to buy/DIY/renovate, take a moment to categorise each list item. I recommend something like this:
- Free or very cheap to accomplish
- Small DIY projects and home purchases
- New furniture, large DIY projects, investment decor
- Construction work and renovations
There’s no reason why you can’t begin phase 1 projects right away, which will serve as fantastic momentum until you have more money to spend.
Thrift it up
South Africa isn’t the best place to find thrift store gems – we have a history of donating old belongings to the poor and disadvantaged people we know personally, rather than giving it to a charity. However, there are many good bargains still to be found at your local charity shop.
Try to imagine each item in your home as you search the shelves – you’d be surprised how much better a 70’s vase can look when it’s not next to an old teddy bear and a pile of magazines from 1993.
Lastly, if you find something you like but it’s not in the right colour, consider spray painting it, recovering it, or repurposing it. You can find amazing quality photo frames, light fixtures, and even occasional chairs. You just need to know how to look.
Ask the neighbours
When you’re finally ready to get stuck in, be sure to ask your neighbours if they have any recommendations for contractors, supply stores, or any other tips and tricks up their sleeves. Chances are, they’ve already worked on their homes and know just where to go and who to ask.
Look back and smile
If you’re looking around at your outdated kitchen cabinets, the bare curtain rail, and the chipping paint on the skirting boards – don’t! Take a deep breath, and look back at just how far you’ve come. Being a homeowner is a huge accomplishment, and you’ve likely had to work very hard to get to this point. Enjoy marching out onto your lawn in your underpants, wagging your fist and the proverbial kids on your lawn.
I really hope these tips for new homeowners give you a sensible starting point. Whether you’re just about to move in, are starting to house hunt, or have been in your new home for a while now, I wish you all the best in creating your dream nest. If nothing else it’s the start of you living your life with the purpose you’ve intended.