In case anyone isn’t up to speed on this life event of mine yet, I bought a house last year in September of 2015. Not too long before that, I had moved into an apartment of my own to avoid common law marriage with a good friend of mine and roommate for eight years (wait, how many years before common law kicks in?). Then after a little over a year at the apartment, I couldn’t take it anymore, the thought of spending that much money on rent that could just as well be a mortgage payment and a much nicer dwelling of my own that I had 100% control of what it looked like, smelled like, and felt like. At thirty-two years old it was time to grow up and be a home owner. I also didn’t ride a bike till I was like twelve, so this was about par for the course.
I hadn’t yet really thought of myself as the home owner type. I wasn’t a big fan of household projects and fixing stuff and spending that much money on things that weren’t on Amazon, out of a bio-hacking blog, or that didn’t fit into a golf bag. But as soon as I made the decision that I was tired of an apartment – and looked at a series of townhomes before deciding that wasn’t the ticket either – I started to take ownership, or pre-ownership rather, and pride in the whole process. By the way, if anyone needs a real estate agent, Charlie Fazio is the the man.
After a few weeks of searching and a few days of negotiating, I finally got a near perfect house for me, and I’m sitting in it right now, typing on my computer, staring outside across my deck to the gate of my fence that is propped up against the rest of the fence rather than attached to the hinge where it belongs. And with that we have a perfect segue into the first of many things I have learned about home ownership in a fast five months:
1) When the forecast calls for 50 mph winds, make sure your fence gate is locked
From the first walk through of the house, I knew that the lock on the gate was slightly off kilter, but it was a minor problem at best. Then when I moved in, I noticed windy days would sometimes shake the lock loose, and the gate would fly open a little bit. I thought to myself, “I ought to fix that before we get any really big winds because the flapping and banging could get annoying.” About a month later we got a near tornado that blew through in the afternoon, and I imagined the worst, but when I got home, the gate was fine. Disaster avoided!
Little did I know that later that night we were about to get 50 mph straight winds blowing through town. And I woke up in the morning to find my gate lying in the grass next to the fence to which it was once attached. I now have a springtime project to work on when it warms up outside.
2) The best way to get a straight guy into interior decorating is to make him buy a house that he is about to live in…alone
The key here is “live in alone.” Had I gotten a house with a girlfriend or wife, I don’t think much would have changed. I’d have put my two cents in here and there and answered a few of their questions, but I wouldn’t have put too much thought into it, and, let’s be honest, they wouldn’t have really wanted it anyway (although they say they do and act upset when you aren’t getting into it enough). I’m stereotyping again, but stereotypes don’t create themselves!
Anyway, now knowing I was going to live here, sign up for freakish amounts of debt, and have to potentially show this to other people and say “This is mine,” something took over me. Suddenly I had spreadsheets and screenshots and notes and ideas…you would have thought I had been asked to design the new addition to the Guggenheim (Anyone? Costanza? Pretending to be an architect? Seinfeld?).
3) If you want to see your eighteen-year-old sister more frequently, buy a house and tell her she can help coordinate the decorating
To be fair, I didn’t really have to tell her or ask her, she pretty much solicited the job as soon as word got out that I was even looking at homes. Nevertheless, it provided some cool brother/sister bonding time. And she did a pretty damn good job helping me combine my typical…uh…unique ideas (like making my living room look like a space-age combination of an aquarium and an art museum) with something more practical and made out of stuff you can actually buy in stores. I’m still looking for a baby coelacanth, though, if anyone knows where I can acquire one.
4) Bathtub drains are a pain to get out
I don’t care how easy the YouTube videos make it look, this sucks. And it’s not necessarily that complicated in terms of figuring out the process, I was able to get through that pretty easily on the second of two drains replaced that day, but that last part of twisting the thing and breaking the seal on nineteen-year-old plumbers’ putty…DAMN! Thankfully I have the most broad-shouldered, beastly Asian friend who beat the thing into submission over the course of thirty minutes. It cost him a liter of sweat and some of the skin on his hands. It cost me $30 for the tools and hardware and $15 to feed The Asian. Please, don’t get your panties in a wad about political correctness; he enjoys the nickname.
5) If your dad is willing to get up in your attic to help you change your bathroom vent fan, then you won the lottery of dads
Over Thanksgiving I asked my dad if he would help me install a new vent fan (of course equipped with a red, infrared heat lamp, cause it’s awesome…they don’t sell those in stores anymore, but you can find them online through Home Depot for $55). I had no idea what I was actually asking him to do. I was asking him to get up in my 35-degree attic, crawl through three feet of insulation while walking on hidden, narrow ceiling joists, sit his ass on a 2X4 for two and a half hours, and bust out an old system before installing the new one while I worked from underneath trying to avoid insulation showers.
How long does it take for a person to go bat-shit crazy while sitting on a 2X4 up in a cold attic surrounded by itchy, shredded fiberglass insulation? About two and a half hours because I tried to ask him a question and adjust something at that point, but there was no stopping that freight train from moving back towards the ladder and getting the hell out of there. I was able to figure out and adjust the rest from underneath.
This post is basically turning out to be an extremely long “Thank You” letter, which is okay, because they all deserve another one. I can throw The Asian’s brother-in-law in there for helping me move and my old roommate for helping me paint one day. While I’m at it…
6) If your mom, aunt, and brother are willing to paint and stain for you while you’re at work, again, lottery winner
My mom and my brother repainted the living room after the first color didn’t quite turn out the way I had hoped. Then they painted the kitchen. Then they painted my bedroom. And they did a pretty sweet job. And then my mom and my aunt did the staining on my new windows. And why, you ask, were they doing all this? Well, mostly because they’re nice, partly because my brother was “paying rent,” and also because of #7:
7) I am allergic to paint fumes
I painted with my buddy and old roommate for a few hours the first day, and it completely knocked me on my ass. It felt like I was breathing in poison that was burning my throat and lungs all the way down, gave me a headache, and made me nauseated. And I was sick for about a week afterwards. I guess when it comes to painting, I’ll always have to contract.
8) Four trips to Lowes in a day is not only possible but actually quite common
You can make lists all you want, but you’re never going to make it in one trip. You get home, you start working on something, and you find out you also need a special sized screw, or you bought the wrong model of shower knob that has bearing instead of a something else it’s supposed to have and it’s Delta not Kohler or whatever, and you underestimated the amount of painter’s tape you needed, and you forgot you were actually out of this, that, or the other. I counted all the receipts the other day, kind of like the medal count during the Olympics, and when all was said and done, here were the winners:
Lowes – 18
Bed Bath and Beyond – 7
Home Depot – 5
Ace Hardware – 4
The Home Store – 3
Sherwin Williams – 2
*The above results also include exchanges and returns
Congratulations to Lowes surpassing Michael Phelps as the most decorated Olympian of all time.
9) You really DO have to change your furnace filter at least every two months
Yeah, yeah, I was actually on top of this one, but I had decided to do an experiment. For just one period I wanted to go three or more months just to see how bad it actually got, if it were really all that necessary to change an air filter each month. Then I woke up one morning in early January, the first really cold day of the year, and my house was 56 degrees. Is my furnace dead? Is the thermostat broke? No air was coming out of any vents upstairs, yet when I went downstairs, it was still getting some heat, so that seemed weird. Then it hit me…check the furnace filter. There was a large enough dust bunny on that thing to feed a pack of wolves for a week. All that buildup was preventing enough air flow to keep up with the extremely cold temperatures. So now I change my filter once a month.
10) Snow blowers rule
I bought a snowblower with one of my seventeen trips to Lowes. Bring it on, Mother Nature.
So there you have it. For those of you yet to purchase a house, hopefully a few pointers to keep in mind. And for those of you who think you aren’t cut out for it or just aren’t the home owner type, you might surprise yourself. But if you do it, go all in, my friend, and do it right! And make sure you have a Lowes or Home Depot close by.