You have now closed escrow and in a few short days, you will embark on the joys, trials and tribulations of homeownership. Although you may have expected of few of these, others might come out of nowhere and take you by surprise. Here are just a few of the things a new homeowner should keep in mind, for the near-and short-term, as you turn the key and enter your new home.
Your new neighbors aren’t always the easiest to get to know, but it is always worth giving a try. When you are new on the block, getting to know your new neighbors can prove challenging. If they have known one another for a long time, they might not be as eager to add another to their inner circle. Don’t despair; instead, look for opportunities to introduce yourself and make sure to be the first one to say hello; and baking cookies or muffins to deliver to your new neighbors is never a bad idea. If you have children, find out if there are other children in the neighborhood similar in age and try to set up play dates. You can also try to set up common interest groups, such as walking, running or yoga.
2. MAINTAINING THE PROPERTY.
If you were a renter in the past, you probably had a super or handyman who handled the upkeep and maintenance where you lived; but now it’s your turn. It’s now on you to make sure the property is tended to and well maintained. In addition to routine tasks such as lawn and yard upkeep, there are annual and bi-annual tasks, (usually around spring cleaning time and for winterization), that are worth adding to your checklist; or worth farming out to a professional to handle for you. Roof valleys and gutters on the home should be cleaned at least once a year; and if you live in a wooded area, you might need to add tree/moss removal services. A good power washing of any algae that has collected on the home is always a good idea. Windows are also worth your attention; they can get grimy and adding a good, thorough washing as well as examination of all screens to your spring list can help you when bug season comes along. In addition, make it a point from time-to-time to walk your home and re-caulk crevices, nooks and crannies; that can help keep you dry and insect proof. A little time and care could save you thousands in repair costs; and will help preserve your sanity.
Get familiar with the property’s covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&R’s). Usually found in planned communities; these are often implemented by governing parties such as homeowners associations. Simply put, these are the rules that govern life on the block. CCRs dictate how you are permitted to handle everyday issues, such as what improvements can be made and how the land can be used. It also covers where a car can be parked, whether or not fences are allowed and sizes and breeds of dogs that are allowed. They can also cover aesthetics such as lawn and yard upkeep and maintenance or what colors you are allowed to paint your new home. It is extremely important to get a clear understanding of what is allowed and what is not. Violating the rules could result in fines, revoked privileges such as a clubhouse or pool, or even a lawsuit.
As the new homeowner, it’s important to note that some properties come with a pedestrian clause in the form of an easement. Simply put, an easement is a patch of land or space that is available to anyone for use. Easements are also available for utility workers if there are utility materials such as electrical or telephone poles or boxes. If you are close to the easement, you may also wind up seeing your neighbors use it. Depending on the rules, an easement may play host to community events or parties, which would also take place in your personal space if the easement is nearby.
Pay attention, land is typically zoned in one of three categories: residential, business and industrial. Your biggest concern is to find out what residential zoning laws are on and around the property. Unless you want a mall, parking garage or factory built in your backyard, zoning is important. Zoning also impacts the size and type of building that can be put on a property, what schools residents are qualified to attend.
6. TAX BREAKS.
Now the good news, there are incentives in the form of tax breaks that come along with home ownership. These incentives were created with rewarding home owners in mind. A good accountant will be able to help you navigate the newest laws and deductions when it’s time to get your breaks. However, standard deductions include mortgage interest, property tax, interest on certain amounts of a home equity line of credit (or HELOC) and mortgage points.