Being a first-time homebuyer can be the most exciting time of your life--and at the same time, be incredibly overwhelming. You've saved the money, secured a mortgage, found a home you love, and finally closed on it. But once the last document is signed and the keys are turned over, this beautiful home becomes YOUR responsibility.
No matter if you're a member of a Homeowners Association or not, you're bound to have some maintenance and repair projects pop up in your first few years of owning your home. Never fear! We've asked our knowledgeable ReStore staff to weigh-in and consulted with Mark Larson, who leads Twin Cities Habitat's Maintenance & Repair homebuyer education course, to find out what you should include in your home toolkit.
Creating Your Kit
We divided the kit into two types: your basic, "must-have" items, and an expanded kit that includes "nice-to-haves" for more involved home repair projects.
|The Basic Kit||The Expanded Kit|
If you're not a part of a Homeowner's Association, you'll also likely be responsible for the exterior care of your home. You'll need a few things to make sure you keep your home and yard maintained year-round:
- Lawn mower
- Snow shovel (we do live in Minnesota!)
The best tool?
Mark says that your smartphone is the best tool you can have in your "toolbox".
"You can Google anything now, and easily find “how to” videos to walk you through what you'll need and how to execute just about any home project. You just want to make sure you watch the video in its entirety and that the video has been created by an expert."
Common maintenance & repair projects
In addition to having the right tools in your kit, it might put your mind at ease to have an idea of some of the most common types of repair projects you might need to perform. Mark says that minor plumbing (think leaky faucets or fixtures) and spackling are pretty typical repairs that are needed in the first few years of homeownership. That's because these areas take a lot of wear and tear and if your home is newer, it may "settle" into the foundation over time.
If after watching a few do-it-yourself videos or consulting with friends and family, you still feel uncomfortable performing the repair, you should trust your gut and call a professional. When calling on subcontractors, beware of scammers. A good process to follow when looking for a professional service provider is to ask for referrals. Inquire with neighbors and friends, coworkers, or consult sites that vet and rate service providers, like Angie’s list or HomeAdvisor. It's also always a good idea to research the company's record with the Better Business Bureau.
Other maintenance & project preparations
Have a checklist for maintenance--both external and internal, and post it in your garage and utility room. Some good maintenance reminders to include are:
- Checking gutters every fall: clearing out leaves, sealing cracks, and replacing broken pieces
- Sealing up cracks in your exterior to keep dirt, bugs, and other wanted elements out of your home
- Checking your exterior following storms and addressing any damage
- Shutting water off to your home exterior in the fall to avoid frozen or burst pipes
- Changing air filters on a regular basis
- Seasonal chores like raking, mowing, and shoveling
For plumbing projects, make sure you know where to shut your water flow off and on, and always turn water off before you start any sort of repair.
You can also learn some basic and advanced project and repair skills at local workshops. Community colleges will offer public training sessions from time-to-time, and local hardware stores often offer workshops on smaller fix-it projects on weekends. These classes can be immensely helpful and help build your confidence in making other repairs.
"I always tell families not to be intimidated," Mark said. "You have to try. That’s the only way you’re going to learn. There’s always someone who can fix it, if you don't get it quite right. That’s the only way you can start gaining confidence."
Looking to start creating your kit?
Stop by either of our Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity ReStore locations to pick up some of your basic tools and materials for your first project!