By Joseph Aminzada, Habitat for Humanity
What makes a house a home?
Well, let’s think about it.
If you were to use your own home as an example, you could probably point to any number of material items whose presence in your home transforms what is an otherwise ordinary condo into your own personal happy place. Perhaps you have a treasured piece of art, a lucky rabbit’s foot, or, if you’re like Nicolas Cage, a prized collection of comic books.
If we dig a little deeper, we soon realize that it is not the presence of these items themselves that turns a run-of-the-mill house into a home. It is in fact, that sense of attachment that you share with these items in your home that puts your soul at ease and turns that same, standard cookie-cutter dwelling into a home.
Your home is where you can truly be yourself, in your element, surrounded by your prized possessions and most importantly, by your loved ones. In short, your home is where you feel security.
But what happens when that security disappears, and, even worse, when that same cause of security actually becomes detrimental to one’s peace of mind? Unfortunately, that is a question that has become all too pressing for many homeowners in 2019.
When it comes to owning a home, many believe that simply being able to make your monthly mortgage payment is an appropriate barometer to measure whether you are financially fit to own a home. Tragically, like most things in life, it is not that simple.
Many families are finding it difficult to keep up with the numerous unforeseen costs that go into home ownership; things like home maintenance and repairs are often overlooked and tend to rear their ugly heads at inopportune times, leaving home owners to feel blindsided.
In some cases, these expenses can become so great that homeowners are struggling to keep up with these costs, causing them to resent that very same home that brought them so much joy when they purchased it. It is becoming so common that there is even a term coined to express this phenomenon: House Poor.
Thankfully, there is no shortage of information on hand to help identify and address some of the oft-overlooked costs you can expect to encounter when owning a home. Whether you’re already a home owner or someone trying to get their ducks in a row before embarking on the home-buying process, you are sure to find some utility in these tips aimed to inform you on some of these expenses, as well as how to prepare for them accordingly.
1. Don’t be a stick in the mud. Budget.
This may seem like the most glaringly obvious of tips, but its importance cannot be overstated. Avoiding becoming House Poor becomes exponentially more difficult when you don’t have a concrete paper trail of what’s coming in and what’s going out. When drafting your budget, it is important to remain honest and transparent.
Be sure to be as detailed and as thorough as possible. When it comes to expenses, there are many obvious examples, such as your mortgage payment and your utilities. However, be sure not to overlook all the auxiliary things that make your home unique, like your monthly grocery bill, transportation and your monthly subscriptions like Netflix and HBO. If you have a family, be sure to account for the expenses incurred from your dependants as well.
If you need help getting started, a quick google search will get you in contact with a multitude of virtuosos eager to hold your hand as you create your very first household budget.
2. Be proactive.
In this case, the best defense is a good offense. Implementing changes to your spending habits before disaster strikes will leave you in better shape to take on whatever challenges you may face as a homeowner. Everyone knows an armchair financial planner who would recommend having 3-6 months of living expenses neatly tucked away under your mattress in case of an emergency but for many, that just isn’t practical. It is recommended that one save 1% of their household’s annual income to set aside as a nest egg should something catastrophic occur.
3. Maintain your home.
Making a point of giving your home the attention it needs is the most effective way to avoid catastrophe altogether. Much like our bodies, it is important to remain attentive when addressing the state of your home and to nip things causing you discomfort in the bud.
For instance, if you were to notice that the air in your home were to be a little more stuffy than usual, then perhaps it is time for a new air filter. There are even some subscription websites that’ll send you things like a new air filter when you’re scheduled to replace your existing one.
4. Be consistent; A little goes a long way.
Speaking of air filters, something as simple as swapping out your air filter every 3 months can save you up to 15% on your heating and cooling bill at the end of the year. Fixing a drafty window can save you a few bucks on your heating bill. Addressing a leaky sink or toilet can reduce your water usage by GALLONS per day. Alone, these changes can seem insignificant, but together, they can lead to big savings in terms of time and money per year. The most important thing is to get started and to continue to make small adjustments to further allow your home to operate as cost-effectively as possible.
Still on the fence as to whether buying a home is the right option for you and your family? Visit https://www.habitatsouthernab.ca to gather information on the many affordable housing options that may be available to you today!