As some of you might recall, I joined the homeowners club at the beginning of May.
Now four months into home ownership, I'm still attempting to figure out exactly what I got myself into. The last time I wrote about the progress on my house, I was building up my bravado, talking about all the great weeding I planned to do this summer.
Well, summer is at its end. And my yard is still a terrifying jungle, teeming with strange bugs, reaching vine and every sort of weed you can imagine. I've now convinced myself that I can't do any real changes to the yard until the weather cools in October, when I can safely tear out all the weeds and replant what I actually want to keep. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself is going to happen.
While seeking respite from the heat during my weeding hiatus, I found myself once again focused on indoor projects. I returned to my curtain-making attempts, but my beautification efforts were halted when I reached the second floor and discovered fresh water stains on the window sill. My suspicions were confirmed when I found water dripping from the top sill while it rained.
Naturally, my first reaction was to blame the inspector. "He should have caught that; the other owners should have fixed it," etc. Basically, "grumble, grumble, grumble."
Never mind the fact that I noticed those stains during the inspection (and didn't ask about them) or the fact that I again wondered about the stains as I washed the window frames in May. Disregard all of that. No blame on my part!
As it turns out, leaking windows are only a symptom of other exterior problems. And thanks to my inattentiveness and the house's vacancy for a year, I almost had a huge problem. But after a patched roof, rotten wood removed and replaced, peeling paint scraped and repainted and a slew of cash gone, the problem is fixed.
This whole experience was an eye-opener to the realities of home ownership, which I admit I am still learning about. So to get a better understanding of the ins and outs of my house, I found a great book at the library, "The Holmes Inspection: Everything You Need to Know before You Buy or Sell Your Home" by Mike Holmes.
As a tie-in to his show, "Holmes Inspection," the book covers a broad range of details to keep in mind when reviewing the condition of a house. While the title makes it sound as though it is only useful for buyers and sellers, it's also helpful for current homeowners wanting to know signs of potential damage to their property.
The first two chapters explain the need for a home inspection and the importance in approaching it slowly to prevent mistakes. Holmes discusses what inspectors do and don't watch for and emphasizes that the inspector should be selected carefully. He talks about the average price of an inspection and reminds the reader that every house, regardless of age, will need at least some work done.
The best reality check for me was summed up at the end of Chapter 2, reiterating what most inspectors will state in their reports: "'A second-hand property normally requires 3 percent of the total property value in repairs, replacements and maintenance in the first year of ownership.'"
Truer words were never spoken.
After the initial overview, Holmes launches into the components of a house to be monitored during an inspection. He starts with the exterior and then leads into the interior and the mechanical elements. His tips scattered throughout the book are loaded with great facts, such as "10 things to know about older houses," "The best time to buy" and "Deciding what to fix first."
"Deciding what to fix first" definitely caught my attention, because I initially jumped ahead to Step 6 (walls, trim, etc.) and ignored Steps 1-5 (safety, structure, exterior condition, efficiency and major upgrades). From now on, I'm going to listen to his tips and work from the outside in, just like he suggests.
The final section of the book equals in value to the book's other contents, including the real life case studies, inspection overview and tips combined, in that it offers checklists to use in various house situations.
It offers questions to ask the real estate agent, inspector and their references; suggests documents to have on hand when selling your home; presents questions to ask the seller; and includes questions to ask about the various interior, exterior and mechanical elements of your house.
With utility for just about anyone involved in the housing market, this book helped me gain a more realistic perspective on how to approach my future home repairs and provided me with enough answers to settle my doubts and fears about home ownership. I might still be a novice, but I'm up for the challenge. Let's see what the next season brings!
Amber Castens is an adult and teen services librarian at the Urbana Free Library, where she is also the technology volunteer program coordinator.