What We’ve Learned After Two Years As Home Owners

Jess Ann Kirby styles open shelving in her kitchen with pastel glassware, flowers and art.

The last day of March marked two years since we’ve been in our house. TIME FLIES. Since that day we’ve refinished the floors, painted the ceilings and walls, replaced the interior trim, painted the exterior, replaced the rear siding, built a deck and pergola, built a mudroom, gutted and renovated two bathrooms, renovated the kitchen, replaced the downspouts, painted all the doors, replaced all the hardware throughout the house, installed a sliding door in the living room, planted a garden….I think you get my point, we’ve done a lot. Every time we finish a project we start a new one, and even when we felt like we were “done” or should take a break we’d discover something else to renovate (right now it’s the basement), thankfully our house is small. We have really enjoyed this process and it has been incredibly rewarding to buy a house and turn it into a home we love. We’ve also learned a lot along the way, and I wanted to share some of those lessons today. If you’re looking into buying, check out this post with 10 things to know when buying your first home.

Don’t rush.

We were pretty good about taking our time with most things but I occasionally got antsy and made impulse purchases. Basically everything I bought impulsively ended up being a total waste. It’s hard to know what you want and need in a space until you’ve lived in it for a bit. When we bought the house we were set on changing the pellet stove to a wood burning stove. Then we realized how energy efficient and affordable the pellet stove is (which is why the last owners put it in). We changed our minds on other things, which leads me to my next point.

When in doubt, paint it white.

Having a blank slate (or in our case a muddy brown/yellow slate) is exciting. Getting to choose paint colors and do whatever we wanted to the walls was something we were never able to do in all the apartments we lived in over the years. But we changed our minds a few times and ended up having to re-paint, and ultimately used white for most of the house (we still LOVE our blue kitchen cabinets). Not saying you have to paint your walls white, but if you can’t decide and want to paint right away, white is a great starting paint. We love Wimborne White from Farrow & Ball.

Everything costs more than you think.

If Craig hadn’t done the work himself, we wouldn’t have been able to afford it. Aside from paying an electrician for a few things and a plumber for a small job, Craig did all the labor. It adds up really quick. Last summer, Craig really wanted to build a deck, in order to do that, we needed to replace the siding on the back of the house first. No big deal right? How much could it possibly be for shingles? A freaking lot, that’s how much. Before even looking into the cost of replacing them, Craig started ripping off the siding. Then we realized just the cost of shingles (for the back of our one level, small home) would be around $7k minimum. An expense we weren’t anticipating on top of materials for the deck and pergola. We ended up using rough cut cedar and doing board and batten siding because we couldn’t afford shingles. It worked out, but we should have planned better. Every project we’ve done has cost more than we’ve anticipated. And if someone else is doing the labor, keep in mind it will probably take longer than you think it will too.

The investment is usually worth it.

To expand on the above, cutting corners and buying cheap usually isn’t worth it. Instead of doing things that would initially save us money, we saved up so we could spend more. For example instead of building a deck from pressure treated wood, we waited until we could purchase mahogany. The same goes for paint, fixtures, kitchenwares, furniture, etc. Initially we went and bought some cheap stuff from IKEA and almost all of it has broken or been donated. That’s not to say you can’t find good things at IKEA and that you should splurge on everything, but the things you use everyday and have the most wear and tear, it usually pays off to spend a little more on quality. The most expensive isn’t always the best, but there’s usually a good middle of the road option.

Jess Ann Kirby completes her backyard renovation with the tavola teak table from article

Less is more.

With the exception of plants this is true for pretty much everything, including space. Granted there’s only two of us and we’re not planning on having kids, but you really don’t need as much space as you think. We lived in apartments for years so were used to living in small spaces, but our apartment before we bought this house was actually bigger. We thought we wanted more land, we thought the house might feel small and we’d want to build an addition, but we’ve realized it’s fine just the way it is, and it’s a lot easier to maintain. All those things you don’t think about, lawn care, snow removal, and just general house upkeep add up in time (and money if you’re paying someone else to do it).

We couldn’t live without a garage.

So this probably sounds a little random but now that we’ve been here for two years we realize how much we do actually need a garage. When we were house hunting it was sort of a “nice to have but not required” thing on our list. We even made an offer on a house that didn’t have a garage (which we of course didn’t get, thank god). The fact that our house is small probably plays into this, but our garage is kind of a lifesaver for storage and projects, especially with all of Craig’s tools, bikes, surfboards, lawnmower, etc. I guess my point is, there were things we thought we did and didn’t need when house hunting, but the one thing we’re so glad we have, is a garage.

There are no rules.

The beauty of owning a home is the fact that it’s yours. You can make decisions about how you want to paint, decorate, renovate, etc. Of course I don’t recommend doing anything super drastic that’s going to hurt the potential of selling it again, but trust your gut and don’t be afraid to take risks. We painted our kitchen blue and used butcher block countertops at a time when everything was white and marble. Granted the butcher block was a budget decision, but we LOVE our kitchen and it’s one of the best parts of our home. There’s so much talk about decor style and trying to put everything into a category (mid-century modern, farmhouse, beach cottage, etc) but you don’t have to follow that. Our house is a mix of different design and decor styles but in my opinion, it all works well together.

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  1. Renee says:

    Yes this is all true. My husband and I are constantly taking on new projects (our house turns 96 this year!) and my biggest advice to friends jumping into a remodel is to multiply by 2, then round up. This goes for time it will take, money that will be spent, and trips to Home Depot!

  2. This was such an interesting read! I move into my first home in the next few months and I’m so excited!

    I hope you have a great Tuesday,
    Michael
    https://www.mileinmyglasses.com