Home Improvement

First Time Homebuyer, What to Do!?

By May 8, 2019 16 Comments

We are in the process of buying our first house! We’ve passed the inspection phase, and we’re pretty sure everything else is going to go swimmingly. Super nervous though because while we can move in and live comfortably, it needs some love.

That said, I have 0 DIY skills, 0 tools, and 0 equipment because I’ve lived in an apartment my whole life. I’ve got until May 31 until we close, and a month overlap between our lease and our new house, which gives us a nice buffer.

I’ve been reading this sub religiously, and now I want to maybe start being proactive. We’ve got some money available, potentially 5-10k comfortably, to do some immediate improvements/fixes/purchases when we take ownership.

Any advice on equipment purchases, tool brands, or things I should focus on or prepare for would be super helpful!

Here’s some basic information about the house and some stuff we’ve got going on:

* 4 bedroom, 1.5 bath, no master bathroom
* 1600+ square feet.
* Dutch colonial built in 1976
* Water heater is from 2014
* Roof is from 2016, quality shingles
* Furnace and AC unit are both over 10 years old
* Unfinished (previously carpeted before a 2016 water intrusion) basement with poured concrete walls
* Kitchen with cheap vinyl cabinets (was a rental unit) that we eventually want to remodel top-to-bottom
* Upstairs full bath definitely in need of renovation
* Good sized yard with several mature trees
* Seemingly adequate grading, gutters, and drainage, to be determined, nothing serious pointed out in inspection
* Sump pump with battery backup system
* Wood windows probably from when the house was built, all functional and in good condition
* Painted deck that’s all chipped up, seen better days
* Dried mold residue on underside of roof in attic signaled to inspector that I need additional soffit vents and some baffling
* A mystery gas line that goes out into the yard
* Small gaps in siding vinyl siding in a few places
* Back patio door chewed up from a dog, needs repaired/replaced
* Ductwork and a condenser? in the attic from a previous attic furnace (since removed) that probably can be removed as well.
* Fallen insulation in crawlspace.

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  • hyperstationjr says:

    Not sure what you should do first but having been in a similar situation in the Fall, I will say that month overlap will probably not be enough. Or rather, I wish I budgeted more time for overlap when I moved…

  • Ryanh0190 says:

    Try and look for any work that was previously done and check for permits if needed.

  • wanklez says:

    If there is a tool Library in your city, get a subscription to that. Otherwise, make yourself well acquainted with the used online marketplace where you live. Buy name brand tools for the jobs you need, but don’t bother buying new.

    Pick a name brand for battery powered tools and stick to it. DeWalt, Makita and Bosch are all top knotch. Ryobi is cheap but ultimately disappointing in my experience.

  • beenyweenies says:

    >*That said, I have 0 DIY skills, 0 tools, and 0 equipment because I’ve lived in an apartment my whole life.*

    This is everybody when they buy their first house so don’t worry about it.

    One random piece of advice – it’s tempting to go stock up on tools and other stuff, but resist the urge. find a quality set of “the basics” (e.g. hammer, screwdrivers, tape measurer, etc), a good cordless drill and maybe a corded drill (cordless won’t have the HP needed for some tasks). But don’t go spending money on other tools until you actually have a specific need for them. I went overboard and purchased probably a thousand dollars worth of tools I rarely if ever use. Not a sound investment.

    Also, I would strongly suggest you focus your initial efforts on must-complete projects – anything that is a health or safety risk, things like interior painting or major repairs that will be much tougher to do once all your furniture is moved in, and any other projects that are best done before moving in. For example, the outlets and wall switches in my home were super outdated and I knew that shutting off the power and doing wiring would be safest and least difficult in an empty house. Not a major need, but was best done before moving in.

    Most of the other projects you listed sound like things that can be done any time. My advice would be to stick to the must-do projects, then turn your attention to things that don’t cost much and are more about sweat equity, so that you can sit on your cash. It’s very easy to get house poor very quickly.

    EDIT: One more thing – if this isn’t already done, go through the breaker panel and map out exactly which outlets/lights are running on which breakers. This will be hugely valuable down the line.

  • AmateurSparky says:

    I always advise waiting at least 6 months before doing any major repairs. You can paint or other cosmetic things that you know you want to change, but I would advise against any major renovations until you live in the place for a few months at least.

    The reason for this is that you may think something bothers you now such as the look/layout of the bathroom, but may come to realize that the layout of the kitchen just isn’t functional for you from living there and using it.

    I would also hang on to that money for unexpected maintenance costs. If your HVAC system fails in the heat of summer, do you have the money socked away to replace it without a huge hit to your credit cards and paying massive interest rates? Keep at least a few months worth of an emergency fund handy.

  • thebeginingisnear says:

    Very exciting time! I will caution that it is not a done deal until the agreements are signed and the keys are in your hand. That being said there is some great advise here already.


    – Paint asap before unpacking

    – redoing the caulk around trim and fixtures can go a long way if it looks old and worn

    – a new showerhead and bathroom mats/curtains can go a long way to making an older bathroom feel nice

    – what shape is the deck in structurally? You might be able to power wash, sand, and re-paint/stain and give it a second life

    – Buy tools used if you can but secondary markets vary a ton depending on what part of the country your in.

    – I’ve been very happy buying Ryobi for my garden tools and less used items. But for things that are heavy use I would recommend getting a higher tier like Makita, Milwaukee, dewalt, ridgid. The only benefit to brand loyalty with these things is interchangeable batteries and easier to keep track of warranties… but those are big benefits.

    – save receipts on large purchases and tools! You will utilize the warranty for something at some point. Stash all the receipts in a ziplock bag somewhere in the garage.

    – save a chunk of that money for the inevitable HVAC or water heater failure. The hidden expenses of home ownership will surprise you so don’t blow through your safety net.

    – putting in light dimmers (make sure you have compatible bulbs) is sweet.

    – will you be cleaning the gutters or hiring out? If DIY buy a ladder that is tall enough to get you where you need to go. (those trees are gonna drop tons of crap at certain times in the year)

    – Tape measure, square, Drill/impact driver, level, flashlight, drill/impact bits, screwdriver, hammer, adjustable wrench, high quality caulking gun, latex/nitrile gloves, eye protection are essentials. As you go along you will figure out the other 1000 tools you need to own but you can get a lot done with those.

    – You can teach yourself A LOT via youtube and this subreddit.

    – If your gonna DIY something, consider what the worst case scenario is. If there’s a possibility of death or irreparable damage to the house call a Pro.

    – Known where your water shutoff valve is.

    – buy fire extinguishers and place them in critical areas.

  • grumble11 says:

    Some stuff is way easier when the house is empty. If you want to fix the floors or paint the house, do it then. Same for taking out popcorn ceilings.

    I recommend waiting on most things until you are settled in the home for a few months. Your opinion of what must be changed will differ greatly from how you feel now.

  • walkswithwolfies says:

    I would seriously consider transforming one of those extra bedrooms into a master bath/closet/dressing room.

    This will make your day-to-day life more comfortable so that when you are tired of fixing all the things that need fixing you can retreat to your finished space, take a shower and relax.

  • Windbag1980 says:

    Do not buy a single cheap tool. With our first house I went nuts with Harbour Freight, thinking “I’m just a DIYer, it’ll last long enough for my purposes.” Every single one failed before I was done with it.

    For power tools: brands that are still reputable but affordable are Bosch and Makita. Milwaukee and Hitachi are for professionals. DeWalt and Ridgid are OK but will disappoint you in the long run. I have had a couple Ryobi items and they were junk; dunno if they are any better nowadays.

    For power tools you will want a cordless drill and driver. A miter saw can substitute for a circular saw if you are only doing light work, whereas a circular saw makes a crappy miter saw. A sawzall makes many tasks far easier.

    You will want a hammer, screw drivers and a half decent 4′ level. And string. *String makes things straight*.

    Prying tools are surprisingly important. You can make a lot of use of various sizes of prybars.

  • Windbag1980 says:

    And I posted a few minutes ago, but I was interrupted; I wasn’t done.

    You challenges will be the things you don’t think of, like dealing with logistics, mess, and garbage.

    You will want a shop-vac of some kind, even if it is a tiny one.

    You will want a step-ladder.

    You will want at least one garbage can, and I highly recommend contractor garbage bags that fit your can.

    You will want at least one drop cloth to protect your floors. Paper / ram board also works.

    For materials in and garbage out, you can go two ways. Either you have a truck or a vehicle with a trailer, or you get everything delivered and get dumpsters. A really light utility trailer can be enormously useful. I used to pull a converted camping trailer with a Corolla.

  • ma_fille says:

    Good advice already posted. The mystery gas line may be for a fire pit or a gas grill.

  • pdxkwimbat says:

    Paint before unpacking.

    Outside if this don’t worry about doing too much too fast. I had a home with the same specs. I spent a whole year changing it just to sell it. Nothing brought value. It was only cosmetic. What I learned is. Feel comfortable just living in it. Painting though is highly suggested prior to unpacking.

  • plantstand says:

    Built in 1976 (not 1979 oof), so you could have lead paint/varnish/etc. Might want to get someone to do an XRF test on everything before you do anything that would make dust.

  • bmlsayshi says:

    Water heater shoooould be good for 10 years but that depends on if the previous owners took care of it. Have a plumber come out and flush it and take a look. Doesn’t have to be right away but should be done once a year.

    If it’s tankless it will last longer but the filter still needs to be cleaned every year or so.

    HVAC should also be serviced once or twice a year. Clean filters and coils and such.

    Get your dryer vents cleaned out. Lint builds up, especially if it’s an older home. Additionally use a washing machine cleaning tablet once every couple of months on a cleaning cycle.

    Don’t forget to buy fire extinguishers!

  • dleonard1122 says:

    [I like this list](https://www.reddit.com/r/HomeImprovement/comments/azllui/new_home_owner_todo_list_part_deux/) which another redditor graciously put together.

  • bmlsayshi says:

    I almost forgot an important item! Depending on the value of your new house, and if your situation is anything like mine, you’ll want to save a large chunk of that savings for when the property tax bill arrives.

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