25 Unwritten Rules That First-Time Homeowners Should Know About

Published 9 months ago

Owning a home is a dream for many people. The stability and safety it brings is something we all need in our lives. However, making such a big decision as investing in a home can come with many pitfalls. 

In fact, homeownership can quickly become a nightmare if you don’t know what you’re getting into. Folks online gathered to share the lessons they learned the hard way when they bought their first home. Scroll below to read the most valuable advice folks shared on Reddit that they wished they had known before and what they would have done differently if only they had known better. 

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Image source: chronic_insomniac, ping lee

I bought a townhouse on a beautiful golf course. The views from my home are magnificent, but they are out there before dawn 7 days a week doing maintenance. The biggest, loudest equipment I’ve ever seen (or heard) plus weed trimmers and blowers. I don’t golf and the maintenance never crossed my mind when buying this place.


Image source: -make-it-so-, Avi Waxman

Buying in an HOA. Never again.


Image source: sonia72quebec, Michael Tuszynski

Could have bought the adjacent lot, it wouldn’t have made a big impact on our mortgage payment, but we didn’t. So a crazy couple build a house there and we were stuck with them for years.


Image source: solarslacker, energepic.com

Going with an inspector the realtor recommended. Regret it every day


Image source: richardelmore, Bidvine

Started too many DIY projects at the same time, demoed. a bathroom for remodel, removed doors from kitchen cabinets to be replaced, started removing wallpaper we didn’t like, removed old beat-up base trim, etc.

Result was we felt like we were living in renovation project for several years. Should have done one project at a time rather than getting carried away.


Image source: Sure-Refuse-2914, Andres Siimon

I didn’t call before I dug…hit a gasline. Such a doofus mistake and one I’ll never make again. Gas guy was super cool about it though after I admitted my shame. In the end, came out pretty unscathed both physically and financially thank goodness.


Image source: Imrindar, Bill Wilson

We became enamored with a vaulted ceiling in the open concept living/dining/kitchen area when the other option was an additional room over the garage. Hindsight being 20/20, I’d live with a 10 foot ceiling and take the extra room.


Image source: MrsTaterHead

Realtor told us that the sellers would be really offended if we asked for a home inspection. Bought the house in October without an inspection. The following spring, one of the gutters fell off because the subroof was rotted. Oh, to be that optimistic again.


Image source: SeramaChickens

Buying that cute little cabin wayyyy out in the mountains. Can’t work from home as the internet sucks, commute to any job is at least an hour. Buying groceries takes an entire morning and healthcare is 90 minutes away.


Image source: Cyrano_de_Maniac, Blue Bird

Didn’t stay on top of the cosmetic things over thirteen years. The carpet was a bit worn, but no biggie. Could stand to replace the wallpaper in the bathroom with paint, but no biggie. Never did rehang that towel bar but I was a single dude, so no biggie. Refrigerator works but occasionally makes a noise like a clucking chicken, no biggie. And on and on. Filled multiple handwritten pages.

Until I wanted to move. All those no biggie issues became about nine months of doing not much else with my weekends and evenings.

With my current house I now stay on top of that stuff. Never again.


Image source: ChippyVonMaker, Annie Spratt

Two story house with all the bedrooms upstairs and the laundry was at the opposite end of the house on the lower level.

The builder suggested moving the laundry to the second floor since it was a floor plan change they’d done before.

My mother in law talked us out of it because it would change the guest room layout.

Regretted that decision every time I carried laundry baskets up and down the damn stairs.


Image source: LCK124, Damon Lam

Ignoring that weird running water sound we couldn’t identify. We were *very* young, very stupid homeowners and after checking around inside and out we just shrugged and figured it was one of those weird things where you could hear the water in the pipes. Nope. Three days later my mom came to visit, heard the noise, opened the hatch to the six or seven foot high crawl space we forgot we had, and discovered our brand new indoor wading pool courtesy of a busted outdoor spigot that we didn’t know to winterize (did I mention we were young and stupid??). Thankfully fate smiles on the truly foolish. The pipe was fixed, the water seeped into the ground over a period of time, and all was right with the world. I still don’t know who builds a house with a “crawl space” the could double as an unfinished basement.


Image source: jayellkay84, https://unsplash.com/photos/-1l0iZaM8ms

Buying a house that needed a new roof. HOA requires specific tiles, which were on backorder. Homeowners insurance got dropped because the roof wasn’t replaced. By the time it was, the insurance agent ghosted me. It’s been nothing but a nightmare.


Image source: TonyTried, Scott Graham

The biggest thing my wife and I learned was financial. Just because the bank tells you that you can afford anything up to a certain amount doesn’t mean you should go up to that amount. Sure we enjoyed the house, but we couldn’t really afford to do much. We couldn’t afford new windows that we desperately needed, we couldn’t afford to go on vacations, couldn’t afford to upgrade much of the house etc…. If we ended up staying there we wouldn’t have been able to afford to replace the roof when it would have needed it or handle expensive car repairs. We ended up moving to a more affordable house and now we have some money to start investing for retirement and to buy me a newer vehicle.


Image source: Cucalope, Lisa Fotios

Doors come in different sizes. Fun facts.


Image source: zoinks_zoinks, John Arano

Before making an offer I didn’t visit the house on weekend nights. I may have realized the scale of parties that get thrown in a neighbors house, and that would have saved me grief. Neighbors move, things change…. But look really closely at the neighbors before making an offer.


I had a new home and not didn’t have hardly any furniture or kitchen stuff. I thought I should remedy this immediately by putting all the stuff on cards. Ended up taking years to pay it off, and much of the stuff I bought, I ended up not really liking or using.

Image source: Head-Plane-48


Image source: RMW91-, Charlotte May

I tore out very high quality appliances just because they weren’t stainless steel

I tore out great vintage bathroom tile that seemed dated but I now wish I had kept


Image source: SteveKraynakJr, Alvin Engler

Thinking all of our neighbors would be neighborly.


Image source: hermitess, ready made

Didn’t check the air filter for the HVAC when I moved in. When I went to replace it *almost an entire year later* (that was my second mistake), there was no air filter. Previous owners must have removed it without replacing, so the HVAC system was just raw dogging the air in my condo for an entire year.


As someone who did not grow up in the US, I did not know the difference between vinyl and hardwood flooring. The new construction home I bought had hardwood floors mentioned in the listing (it still has) but the builder gave me cheap vinyl floors and my realtor (who was also selling those new construction homes) did not feel the need to point it out / fix it or get me a deal!
Second, my realtor convinced us that 3 bedrooms + lounge area was better than 4 bedrooms. Builder got to save some money by not having to build a dry wall and completing a closet installation by leaving that area as an open lounge. We did not know any better and thought that a lounge with my TV, guitars and Xbox would be a great idea! I later realized the amount of equity we lost by not building it as a 4 bedroom instead.

Never worked with that realtor again. She still keeps sending us gifts from time to time. As first-time homebuyers from a different country of origin she should have educated us about these options when we had asked.

TL:DR – developing the right filters and mental model to screen your realtor (as a buyer) is invaluable.

Image source: mavewrick


Image source: Spuckler_Cletus, charlesdeluvio

Starting projects I didn’t know how to finish. Those were tough lessons. As some point, it’s best to give up and call a pro.


Image source: Dewalt-Shampoo, Kelly

Didn’t take care of the bushes and trees in the back. I assumed the rain would take care of them and I could trim as needed.

Almost everything was taken over by Ivy and killed, and everything else died because we didn’t prune enough.


I failed to notice that there weren’t any closets in the house. AT ALL.

Image source: LD50_irony


Image source: secondrat

I didn’t realize my first house was in a flood zone until it came up at closing. I should have walked. But it was all I could afford.

Shanilou Perera

Shanilou has always loved reading and learning about the world we live in. While she enjoys fictional books and stories just as much, since childhood she was especially fascinated by encyclopaedias and strangely enough, self-help books. As a kid, she spent most of her time consuming as much knowledge as she could get her hands on and could always be found at the library. Now, she still enjoys finding out about all the amazing things that surround us in our day-to-day lives and is blessed to be able to write about them to share with the whole world as a profession.

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advice, buyer, first-time homeowner, home, homeowner, homeownership, tips
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