Not Martha

buying a house: things I have learned

– You will come to an immediate and shockingly clear understanding of what “property value” means.

– Get the home inspected. Don’t skip this because you think you need to act quickly. (This advice comes from three separate parties, including my parents.)

– Start the garden or landscaping early. You can shop for chairs in the winter but that shrub you’ll be planting to block out the view of the neighbor’s window won’t grow itself.

– Buy all white dishes, buy dishes that are all the same, they are so much easier to fit into kitchen cabinets this way.

– If you get narrower glasses and mugs you can fit more into the dishwasher.

– You cannot move your neighbors farther away from your house, no matter how hard you want to.

– Be very grateful of quiet and polite neighbors. Greet them cheerfully whenever you happen to both be outside.

– Don’t hate on the stove in the place you live while you’re house hunting because the house you buy might have the exact same stove.

– Don’t hate on the cheap, off white formica countertops in the place you live while you’re house hunting because the house you buy might have the exact same countertops.

– When it appears previous owners have done unspeakable things to the drywall around light switches and outlets, those generic plastic extra large covers you can find at Home Depot are your friends.

– Taking the time to rewire the switches and outlets with shiny new white ones makes a remarkable difference. But, goodness, turn all the electricity off at the source!

– Taking the time to label all your breaker switches will save you a lot of time you would otherwise spend shouting “This one?!” “No!” “This one!?” “Not it!” “This one!!?” “Nope.” every single time you want to turn some electricity off.

– When house hunting don’t be too wary of the Harley parked in front of the house across the street, it might turn out to be owned by really friendly lesbians!

– If you have not met your neighbors yet a delivery of cookies with a card at Christmas will be not go unappreciated.

– Having a finished basement means all-natural air conditioning for those two really hot weeks in the year.

– Go to the block party.

– Yard work still sucks when you own the yard.

· comments [36] · 08-8-2007 · categories:the home ·

36 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dawn // Aug 8, 2007 at 5:29 am

    “You cannot move your neighbors farther away from your house, no matter how hard you want to.”
    I have dreamed of this too many times to count! It’s challenging sharing a wall with someone who plays the drums on a regular basis. It’s even more challenging when you have an infant sleeping when said neighbor is playing the freaking drums.

  • 2 Carrie // Aug 8, 2007 at 5:41 am

    I too, am just learning the reality of that last point. We bought a house across from some older rentals, and now a group of thugs just moved in across the street. There was already a minor confrontation when they asked our friends to move their car parked in the street so they wouldn’t have to parallel park. Sunday, there was a group of shirtless guys outside grilling, drinking 40’s and holding a baby. And now I’ve turned into one of those people who’s worried about the neighborhood going to hell. Sigh.

    We also only got around to doing all the electrical work you recommended yesterday (weirdly timed), after owning our house for a year. And we’ve now found that one breaker only has the light in the guest room closet on it. Weird.

  • 3 Ty // Aug 8, 2007 at 5:53 am

    -Never forget why you bought the house in the first place. There will be days that’s hard to do.

    -Get to know what your city offers to its residents. Turns out mine offers free mosquito control (supposedly to control West Nile). Call, and they will come spray your entire block for free!

    -Hope that you move in very close to a Lowe’s or Home Depot. You will be there A LOT.

    -Remember all that money you used to spend in bars? Yeah, it will now be spent on paint and new light fixtures.

  • 4 Anna // Aug 8, 2007 at 6:03 am

    Buy dishes that are all the same! No way, too boring! I love all our oddball dishes.

    Great tips though.

  • 5 Faith // Aug 8, 2007 at 6:26 am

    The Harley might also belong to a really sweet teddy of a gay man.

  • 6 amber // Aug 8, 2007 at 6:31 am

    ~buy the house next door to your father so you get loads of free labor :P

  • 7 Moxie // Aug 8, 2007 at 6:49 am

    This is great! I need the reminders often lately.

    What about when the previous owners have done unspeakable things- everywhere- with non-paintable caulking? Is there a Home Depot fix for that?

  • 8 Melissa A. // Aug 8, 2007 at 7:05 am

    Thanks for the sofa link. I’m moving from a bachelor to a one bedroom apartment in September, and will finally have room for a couch! Of course I’ll have to train the cat no to scratch.

  • 9 Nicole // Aug 8, 2007 at 7:07 am

    **You cannot move your neighbors farther away from your house, no matter how hard you want to.**

    Painfully true…

  • 10 Melissa A. // Aug 8, 2007 at 7:15 am

    Ok my comment totally meant to be in that other post! Sorry!

  • 11 megan // Aug 8, 2007 at 7:55 am

    Dawn – That is why we spent so long looking for a freestanding house, except we’re the ones with the drums!

    Carrie – Sorry to hear about your thugs. We have a few troubles houses on our block as well.

    Ty – Oh, so true, so painfully true.

    Moxie – I’m afraid I don’t know of a fix for that.

  • 12 Anonymous // Aug 8, 2007 at 7:58 am

    buying a house: things I have learned…

    clever tips for buying and getting settled in a new house…

  • 13 Dixie // Aug 8, 2007 at 8:15 am

    Oh geez, how I relate to this post, especially the neighbor parts!

  • 14 courtney // Aug 8, 2007 at 8:39 am

    I second all of these, but also must add.

    Don’t spend every cent you can spare on a nice comfy couch, because the day it is supposed to be delivered your fridge will die.

    Buy one of those wagner paint sprayer things if you have alot of doors and such to paint (especially doors with slats), the $80 is totally worth it.

    No matter how sunny it is, the minute you take down your old back door to replace it, the sky will turn black, and it will start violently thundering and lightening.

  • 15 Michelle // Aug 8, 2007 at 8:45 am

    Oh, so great. This list should be given with every housewarming gift, I love it!

  • 16 D // Aug 8, 2007 at 9:06 am

    Ah, the noisy neighbors. This is universal problem that plagues all of us. Our current neighbors remind me of the entire cast from the Canadian series Trailer Park Boys. They smoke and drink on the front, play loud music all the time and, in general, are just ignorant and disrespectful.

    Worst part about it is that one of them is an officer/fireman so there is nothing we can do. Other neighbors have called the police and when and if they do come, the police just end up chatting with them like old friends and nothing changes.

    I like the tips, they are so true.

  • 17 nazilam // Aug 8, 2007 at 9:17 am

    Yuppers on all those accounts. Our block party rocked yesterday, kids, magic tricks, good wine and great conversation.

    I feel at 16 years in the same house we’re the old people on our block. There are tons of kids and youngsters….


  • 18 fillyjonk // Aug 8, 2007 at 10:45 am

    Also remember that neighbors can and do change, if you live in a place for more than a couple years.

    I went from a good neighbor (who wound up going into a nursing home) to the neighbors from Hell (my good neighbor’s house became a rent-house and got rented to a pack of 8-10 party animals who partied EVERY NIGHT until 3 am and trashed the place. I later heard that they were evicted over the MAJOR RAT PROBLEM that developed in their house because no one took out the trash, ever).

    Fortunately, neighbors from Hell often wind up getting evicted if they’re renters.

    (That said: if you have a choice, you might not want to buy in a neighborhood with lots of rent houses. Especially in a college town. Unless you like loud surprises at 2 am.)

  • 19 L // Aug 8, 2007 at 10:50 am

    Here here on the neighbors. We love our block so much, that we are moving… but just down the street 4 houses. It was either that or remodel.

    I’ll add one as well… don’t buy a new dining set until you measure the dining room. We narrowly avoided buying this gorgeous 8ft table that we fell in love with… good thing, as it wouldn’t have fit!


  • 20 Carrie Anne // Aug 8, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    I could not agree more about the yardwork. Our house was practically abandoned for over a year before it sold. God, the weeds…

    We were fortunate with our neighbors. The only irritating ones around us moved a few weeks after we bought the place. We knew they were moving before we purchased our home. Their moving was a big selling point for me.

  • 21 Tina // Aug 8, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    Never buy a house from a man who openly admits
    “I’m not handy…”
    Oh, the things you’ll find.

  • 22 Amye // Aug 8, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    Thank you. I’m apartment/house hunting now, and your site makes me less depressed about the prospect, because you can always make the inside nicer. IKEA is amazing.

  • 23 Jen // Aug 8, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    LOL How funny…We just bought a home and carefully scoped all these things out, too!

    Finished basements are WONDERFUL. My parents didn’t get A/C until I was about 18, and we spent many hours in the very cool basement during hot, humid Michigan summers.

    About the Harleys…all kinds of people ride ‘em, from the stereotypical leather-wearing Harley guy (who can often be a very nice and extremely helpful person if you get to know him) to friendly lesbians to…well, my pastor. lol He and his buddies all have Harleys, and you would never pick one of them out as Harley owners. Ever. They have a blast…though Mrs. Pastor is not fond of the goatee he grew to “match” his ride. :P

  • 24 Haven // Aug 8, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    I agree with Michelle above, this list should be given with every housewarming gift. And, possibly the housewarming gift could be some sun jars for when the power goes out due to all that faulty wiring from the previous homeowner…

  • 25 Jennifer // Aug 8, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    Re do the floors BEFORE you move in if they need it. No matter how much it costs.

    You’ll never do it once all your stuff is in the house.

  • 26 thea* // Aug 8, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    so so true about not hating the fugly white formica counter tops… i swear karma will bring them back to you just for that. ^_^

  • 27 cindy@staged4more // Aug 8, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    such simple yet SAGE advices!

  • 28 Anita // Aug 9, 2007 at 9:34 am

    All too true! You have learned well young Jedi. ;-)

  • 29 Rachael // Aug 9, 2007 at 9:49 am

    skinny glass – not only can you fit more in the dishwasher, but you cant fit more on the cupboard shelf.

    we’ve been trying to move the neighbours for the last year!

  • 30 mel // Aug 9, 2007 at 10:10 am

    i can totally relate. buying a house means using your time and money in a whole new way. btw, trees are 75% off at lowes right now! i just got a japanese maple and magnolia tree there for $15 EACH!

  • 31 Patty // Aug 9, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    When selling your house declutter-declutter-declutter it makes a huge difference

    Buyer really do notice the 23 air freshners in the house and yes—we do ask about them.

    When getting a contact for your house get local lenders they understand areas that are going through regentrification better than ones out of state.

    If your buyer says they got their loan “off the TV from eloans” beware! Ask them to get a local loan. I speak from experience here.

    When buying a house make sure the well works. Yes, some of us have wells.

    If you move from the city to the boonies it takes time to adjust to the wild life. Noisy neighbor verses deers in heat.

    Get a generator if you are in the boonies.

    Peacocks are REALLY BIG and STUPID

    Chipmunks are not cute in the garden

    Become friends with the neighbors. My first year in the new place on Memorial weekend we had a party. We invited every neighbor in the boonies and everyone came had fun, lots of beer, even the previous house owners came. It is now a tradition and the neighborhood has gotten closer. We look out for one another. Very different from the city, where yes, there were gunshots outside my house from a drug deal gone bad.


  • 32 leslie // Aug 9, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    Try and schedule that closing/moving date for when you’re not 34 wks pg w/twins, but in the event that you cannot, it’s still really do-able b/c the movers are terrified that the least problem will send you into a patented sit-com style labor.

    Oh, and I used color coded tape for pretty much everything e.g. dr was blue tape w/blue tape on the doorframe– so I could nap and/or pee while they worked.

  • 33 gena // Aug 9, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    another thing- don’t use those online lenders/mortgage people. with the subprime market going ballistic, you do not want to run the risk of reading about your lender filing bankruptcy. go with someone you know & trust. a lot of those online people add fees and extra charges, so the rate sounds good, but you get to the closing table and there’s $600 in extra fees, or they won’t give you a loan commitment letter. also, try not to have your closing on the 1st, or end of the month, or right before any major holiday, because if something can go wrong at closing, it will. then you are stuck waiting to close and everyone is off for the holiday. inspections are always a lifesaver. so are home warranties on the systems/appliances/etc in your home- if they are available to you from a reputable company. i’ve been in real estate for a while, and it’s the little things that make your transaction go smoother.

  • 34 Brian // Aug 10, 2007 at 5:34 am

    “Remember all that money you used to spend in bars? Yeah, it will now be spent on paint and new light fixtures.”
    Ty, you are sooo right about that!

    Moxie, primer is your new best friend. Go for a good one like Zinser.

    Don’t assume the ceiling fan and ceiling fan light are on the same breaker!

    Label wires when replacing three-way switches. Why don’t I do this?

  • 35 Deb Schiff // Aug 10, 2007 at 6:32 am

    Great list. I totally agree, especially on the light covers. My husband and I replaced all the light switches and covers as well as the outlets and their covers because the people who previously owned the house had painted over them. Now that we’re close to putting ours on the market, people always remark how clean everything looks. We also painted all the trim and ceilings the same shade of Acadia White (Benjamin Moore) in the whole house. That also gave everything a clean, natural flow.

  • 36 Shibooya » Blog Archive » Why Don’t I Mind My Own Business? // Jul 15, 2008 at 9:13 am

    […] currently appreciating Megan’s list of things she has learned while buying a house, it gives me a lot to look forward […]

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