Lessons We Learned from Buying and DIY'ing Our First Home

Monday, July 22, 2013

Anyone who has owned a house knows how much of a complete PAIN in the hiney they can be. They can be money drains. Renovations will give you headaches and mental breakdowns. But if you work at it, you also know that a well-loved and thoughtfully decorated home is such a blessing to the whole family.

We spend 90% of our time at home, so that is the place that we feel deserves the most money, energy, and creativity. Sure, we could save that money and go on vacation or go out to eat more or buy nicer cars, but quite frankly, we are happy homebodies who would much rather be having a movie night on the couch, playing in the backyard, baking cookies in the kitchen, or sleeping in our own beds.

We also know that you learn A LOT from purchasing your first home. Mostly what not to do ;). And since making a house into a home is so important to me and my family, I thought I would share a few hard-learned lessons we learned from purchasing, renovating, decorating, and loving our first home.




1. Location, Location, Location.

If we had to do it all over again, I would have focused a lot more on the neighborhood and school district we were in before buying our first home. We both just  focused on the house, which is important (obviously), but definitely not the complete picture. Look at the area you are in, what there is to do, what the schools nearby are rated, and how well-cared for your neighbors homes and yards are. Being picky with these things (while exhausting at times) will truly payoff in the amount of neighbor friends you have, how safe you feel in your home, and your homes' resale value. This sounds like an obvious one, but I know of many people who overlook it.




2. Study Your Potential Neighbors.

I touched on this one a bit in #1 but want to elaborate. While we liked our old neighborhood on the whole, we did have issues with one of our next door neighbors. First, they had a dog that barked ALL the time--even in the middle of night. They also did not take care of their yard very well...which for an OCD nut like me is no good. Plus it's hard to sell your house and take care of your own yard when the un-mowed lawn and weeds next door distract from all of your hard work. I know this may sound super picky (or snobby), but these things do make a difference in how much you will love your own home. Do your potential neighbors have a ton of cars parked in and around their driveway? Do they have a dog who barks all night long? Do they neglect their house's appearance? If so, these may be red flags. If you're going to invest potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars into a home, I say that it's best to check out those who are going to be around you as well.





3. De-junkify Before The Move.

This is something I probably should have done more of with this move. Give yourself several weeks to pack, and as you are packing only keep the things that you use often, love a lot (family heirlooms, keepsakes, etc.), or find very beautiful. If it doesn't fit one of those descriptions, throw it out, donate it, or sell it. If I could have done this move over again, I would have scheduled a garage sale the Saturday before we moved. We could have made some extra cash and saved myself and B some very stressful trips to the dump and Goodwill!

4. Pick Your Battles. And Who Will Fight Them.

In our old house, I had the mentality that "We will do it all and we will do it right away!" when it came to renovations. WRONG. That thinking right there is your ticket straight to exhaustion, frustration, money-wasting, and lots of fighting with your spouse. Instead, pick a small handful of projects that you can realistically handle when you move in.  Also, pick what will be done professionally, and what you can do yourself. You CANNOT do it all. Give some of it to a pro, it will save your sanity.



We scoured Pinterest and carried around samples for weeks before deciding on quality floors for our 2nd home.


5. Research and Live In Your Current Home.

This can piggy-back with #4 because if you try to do all of your renovations at once your are bound to regret some of them. In our first home, we painted every. single. room. right away, and put in a new sink, countertops and backsplash. We also bought a wholelotta furniture and decorations to fill the rooms. Bad. Very bad. We ended up re-painting every. single. room. AGAIN and always regretted our choice of countertops. And all that furniture and d├ęcor I bought? Sold it. Donated it. Threw it in a closet and cried. It took me about a year and a half, maybe a little longer to really figure out what my style was and how I wanted our home to function. Give yourself some time to live in your new house as it is....let your tastes evolve, and really think about how you use each and every room and how you can make those uses efficient, cost-effective, and beautiful all at the same time.



I planned Parker's room piece by piece and used both high and low end items to make up the space.


6. Think of your home as a "High-Low Project", and fill it with things that are meaningful and loved.

Have y'all ever seen that show on HGTV? It's a great show, and it teaches a very important lesson: Not everything in your house has to be something re-made from Goodwill. Not everything has to be from One Kings Lane or Restoration Hardware. Choose pieces for your home that you LOVE, no matter the price. If the $1 basket from a thrift shop is just going to be "good enough" after you've worked your spray paint magic on it....don't get it. If you feel like you need to buy that mirror that you just "like" from West Elm because of the brand....step away. I've learned (and am still learning) that a mix of high-low pieces that tell a story and are truly l.o.v.e.d. is what makes a beautiful, comfy, and well-lived-in home. Please be picky. I have donated a whole closet of "good enoughs" and "likes". Don't make my mistake-- If it takes you a year to find that one thing that you absolutely love, that is completely okay! Oh, and please invest in good couches...I swear they make or break a living room right off the bat for me!


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So, now that's you've made it through my novel (HIGH FIVE), what are your thoughts? I've learned a lot and have fixed many of my past mistakes with this new house, but there is always more knowledge to gain. I would love to hear the things you have learned from renovating a home or moving into a new one. Do share!



28 comments:

  1. Really great advice! One thing I would to waiting and taking time to decorate and fill the home is to also see how it functions - you may want a towel bar but after seeing the kids dump them a million times, realize you need hooks. Stuff like that:) Great post, cant wait to see pics of your new home!

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    Replies
    1. Amen, Rebecca! That is SO true! Thanks for commenting!

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  2. Welcome back! So glad I checked your blog again. And no, you are not being snobby about your previous neighbor's lawn. I am dealing with the same issue with one of my neighbors since they don't keep up with their lawn and their carelessness is creeping onto my lawn (plague and weeds) after my lawn was just re-sodded. Ugh! I actually contemplate on writing them an anonymous letter, hahaha. Can't wait to see the progress on your new house and hope good things for your shop! Congrats!

    Rita

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Rita! Oh man, those neighbors drove me insane. I seriously can't handle it--that makes me feel better that you feel the same way!

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  3. This is all really great advice! I can't wait until we have enough money saved up for a move and I can actually use it, hahaha. Although we are *totally* the people with a thousand ugly cars in front of our house. "Perks" of being a mechanic's wife, haha.

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    1. Thanks! Haha, well I think it's a bit different if fixing cars is your actual job. It's not like you're torturing your neighbors by blocking their driveways all the time--I think you're okay!

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  4. I get what you mean. Those two processes are difficult in their own right. It's a good thing you are good with at least one of them. :) Placing a bid during an auction pushes your limits. It eventually brings out your how deep is your desire for the house. And I think it is far more comfortable than putting a tender offer and then helplessly waiting for what happens. Avril@Georgia Churchill Mortgage

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  5. Thanks for the excellent advice, Katy! You’re absolutely right about how most house-hunters tend to focus solely on the house and overlook the environment. I guess it’s the lack of planning and organization that make them neglect these crucial aspects. Levi @ Virginia.ChurchillMortgage.com

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  6. I love this blog because it is user friendly with appreciative information ,it is also a big help for those who would like to Purchasing your first Home. Before purchasing your home, make sure you read this article to avoid some common mistakes for purchasing a home.

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  7. Use positive self-talk. Remind yourself that you researched the pros and cons of the purchase, and made the best choice you could. homes for sale chantilly

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  8. Thank you for sharing valuable lessons, Katy! While it’s exciting to contemplate about finally having your own home, the process is not something one would like to think about. With the lack of preparation and careful consideration, you may find yourself never wanting to deal with any house-hunting experience again.
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  10. Thank you! This was extremely helpful! I have a mentality that when we get into the house, I want to have it done, but it's not practical and I'm bound to make mistakes. Thank you for reminding me that it will take time to find a look we love!

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