Saving for a home is something to be proud of, especially in today’s market. Not only are you getting pushed around by hard-to-read economic numbers and media uncertainty about the housing market, but now interest rates have climbed. 

I understand that it doesn’t help for me to tell you that, “Historically, a 7 percent mortgage is pretty good.” Yet, it is part of my job to ensure clients are as informed as possible about what lies ahead in their homeownership journey. In sum, there’s a lot more to ownership than a down payment and your interest rate, which is why the happiest home buyers we know are also the most prepared for what comes after closing. 

One of the mistakes I see first-time home buyers make is trying to do much, too soon. No house is perfect. There will always be things you wish were different, but start small. Paint and carpet is relatively cheap, but each is a highly effective way to quickly change up a home’s look. They don’t require a multitude of contractors or weeks of living in a cloud of drywall dust. In fact, depending on how much space you’re altering, you could be done in a couple of days. Save the big stuff—kitchens, primary bathrooms—for down the road. It’s best to get a firm grip on your true, recurring monthly costs before going into more debt or exhausting savings on cosmetic upgrades. 

Be ready for all kinds of minor repairs. And by minor, I mean things you can do, or easily learn to do on your own. Toilets tend to break often, as do automatic garage doors and garbage disposals; basically, mechanical systems that see tons of use. YouTube and a friend who has owned a house for a while are great resources for the everyday items that threaten to monopolize your weekend. In time, you’ll be the person someone calls for this kind of help.

Appliances will certainly find a way to enter the “surprise cost” category of home ownership. (This is one reason why agents highlight new appliances in listing marketing.) In many cases, a few new parts and a local repair person can solve your problems. But, if your home came with older versions of name-brand items, expect cost escalation. Large, global brands are often dependent on parts made elsewhere, which can translate to ordering issues, shipping delays and surprisingly high costs. It won’t always be the case, but be ready for it. Also, this is why we real estate agents prefer to keep a list of local, trusted vendors. 

There’s a reason why Progressive Insurance’s “new homeowners turning into their parents” campaign has been so effective—it’s because it’s true. Sure, you’ll want to play with the thermostat for a few days, just because you can, but when the financial impact of that first cold month reaches your checking account, you’ll understand what dad was adamant about protecting. Over time, utility costs can be pretty predictable as seasons change, and most service providers make it very easy to review usage and find ways to save. Managing utility costs usually comes down to ongoing awareness. You don’t need to check-in every day, but at least know what it is you pay each month, especially if your bill is paid in some automatic fashion. 

It helps that we live in/around Maplewood, Short Hills and South Orange, New Jersey, housing markets that tend to be out from under the specter of extreme weather. Thus, our homes are less prone to sudden, exterior damage. Major systems like foundations (flooding) and roofs (tropical storms) get very expensive, very quickly. 

There are a number of software products homeowners can use to track their repairs, upkeep and general home maintenance schedules. Some also include advice and recommendations for long-term home value monitoring and general financial wisdom. If you feel some technology can help, give these a look. I would emphasize that some may require more work than is needed, and that those with a mobile companion app are likely better options.




Home Manager



Don’t let this blog’s topic put you off course. No one who has ever owned a home has gone without the hassles and costs associated with upkeep. However, many do enter the world of ownership without such expectations. 

So now you know. 

The Allison Ziefert Real Estate Group is a top producing real estate team based at Compass in Short Hills, NJ. We are local market experts, specializing in real estate and homes in Maplewood, South Orange, Millburn/Short Hills, Montclair, West Orange, NJ and the surrounding towns. We are driven by earning great testimonials and referral business from happy clients. You can read our testimonials here.