Lessons in Home Ownership

We are about to sell our first house – or as we like to call it, the “House of Hell.” Over the course of four years, we have repaired or remodeled the whole thing. It has been one crazy adventure in Murphy’s Law. I would like to offer this up for anyone that wants to buy a house. This is what I leave this experience knowing:


  • When a seller offers to leave you a large appliance, it might be because it doesn’t fit through any opening of the house without removing the doors.
  • The devil invented wallpaper so he could spend his afternoons watching people try to remove it and tally how many commandments they break.
  • When the manuals and the books make no sense, realize you can find a tutorial on using just about any tool on YouTube.
  • If many things are broken, make one room your Tool Station Central.
  • It doesn’t matter how little the branch seems before you cut it off the tree, when it hits the ground it will be eight times larger than you thought.
  • 25-year-old carpet and padding will come up very easily, but will leave more dirt and dust than the Sahara can hold on everything in your house when you remove it.
  • If you have the option between a tool with a cord and a tool without a cord, choose the tool that runs on batteries.
  • Self-leveling concrete does not always self-level. Sometimes it begins to harden in the bucket and makes giant lumps all over the floor.
  • Banks do not just have 30,000 pennies on hand on any given day for your brilliant art project floor idea.
  • No room is perfectly square.
  • When a tornado picks up your neighbor’s tree and crashes it through your fence, it becomes your tree to dispose.
  • Don’t plant a tree over your sewer line if you want to have working plumbing.
  • Not all fascia board is perpendicular to the ground.

Beauty tips:

  • Liquid Nails is really bad to inhale or get on your skin, but if you do accidentally get it all over your hands, and then you somehow also get white caulk under your nails, it’s the cheapest, longest lasting French manicure you’ll ever have.
  • Martha Stewart’s precious metals paint line does not come out of your hair unless you cut it out. And hair is the only thing it covers evenly.
  • Always wear gloves. Always.

People skills:

  • The only thing you have in common with your realtor is that you want a house and they want a sale. Double check everything they tell you.
  • Most people that say they have “renovated their [pick a room]” are lying. They have actually hired contractors to renovate for them and do not understand the difference between paid labor and manual labor. Do not take their advice, it is not based in experience.
  • An adult that wants to help you renovate but has never used a power tool is like a toddler that wants to help you bake a soufflé.
  • Don’t use the clever nicknames you have invented for your neighbors out loud when your windows are open to ventilate your projects.
  • If your dog doesn’t like someone, you probably shouldn’t let them into your home.


  • When you buy a house, even a brand new one, have an “unexpected expenses” account ready with thousands of dollars at your disposal. When you think you’ve set aside enough, put $10,000 more in it.
  • Assume the repair will cost more than you thought it would. Just add some zeroes to the end until you think it is highway robbery. Now you have a good cost estimate.
  • Don’t finance anything you can’t pay for today. Finance for the convenience of paying it out in interest-free installments, not for the necessity of having something now that you can’t afford.
  • When the gas company/plumber digs up half of your yard to look at/find the pipe, it is your financial responsibility to re-sod it.
  • You can never tip enough if you are fortunate enough to find a skillful and honest plumber. They are oh so very rare.
  • A bathtub is only held in place by the drain and the first row of tile around the top. Don’t let anyone charge you thousands to remove one. You can do it in an hour with a $13 tool and collect $25 from the local scrap yard for the metal.

Time management:

  • Don’t try to renovate the whole house at once. Take it room by room.
  • If you think it will take one weekend, plan for it to encompass at least three months to four years.
  • Paint with primer already mixed into it saves you days of work (No literally, days).
  • Gutters are not a one weekend project. They are not a two weekend project either.

Self Discovery:

  • Given the right adversity, you’re way wimpier than you think you are.
  • Don’t assume something is over your head just because you’ve never done it before. If it looks safe enough, put on some old clothes, gloves and eye protection and try it. If it goes wrong, call in the professionals.
  • You’re much bigger than the spider. Seriously. You can take it.

Common truths:

  • Some home warranties are good. Some home warranties are lousy. Usually the good ones are the ones you pick out and the bad ones are the ones a salesperson – like your realtor – pitches to you because his realty company and the warranty company give each other kickbacks.
  • Don’t be comforted by the word “warranty” after any service is completed. Read through it and make sure it will actually protect you.
  • Not every guy with a name tag and a logo on his truck is a trained professional.
  • Every house has asbestos in it somewhere. Even if they finished building it yesterday.
  • There is more than one kind of grout.
  • There is more than one kind of concrete.
  • HGTV lies. Lies. Lies. Lies. Lies. Lies.
  • Don’t touch up paint after a few years have passed. It won’t blend in anymore.
  • Find your own independent inspector. Never use the guy your realtor recommends.
  • Neighborhood associations are better and more powerful than an HOA, and they don’t charge dues or give you frivolous tickets.
  • Never underestimate the power of power tools.

Now, go forth into the deep deep waters that are home ownership. May the force be with you and the spiders be few.


4 thoughts on “Lessons in Home Ownership

  1. Pingback: Closing on our house | The Bold Bluebonnet

  2. Pingback: A year later | The Bold Bluebonnet

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