There is one amusing truth about almost all first-time homeowners. They used to be renters. Renting is a natural part of the American adult lifestyle and an assumed stage in almost everyone’s life. You live in your parents’ house (whether or not they were renters), then the entire span of going to college, building your initial career, and deciding on your ‘home city’, and putting together a downpayment is spent renting. For some people, this is five years, for others it’s twenty. But chances are if you have recently bought or are planning to buy your first house, you know what it’s like to answer to a landlord and share the frustrations of millions of other renters with the commonplace but unfriendly restrictions.
Buying a new home is one of the biggest victories in a modern adult life.But many first-time homeowners find themselves unprepared for the significant transition from being long-time renters to being permanently responsible for a real property. While there is no one to call on for major structure or appliance repairs, there’s also no one to tell you what you can and cannot in your own home. In fact, freedom is one of the biggest changes between being a renter and being a homeowner.
For fun, and to help you get a grip on how much freedom you really have standing in your very own home, let’s look at our top ten favorite things you can do as a homeowner that you absolutely could not as a renter.
1) Punch Holes in the Walls
Every landlord is different about how they want their property to be treated, but we’ve all had at least one landlord who was so afraid for the integrity of their walls that even posters were banned. Tenent desire for decorated walls can go hang but nothing hangs on their drywall. Sure, hanging nails are tiny and barely leave a mark and yeah, a little putty and touch-up paint would have done the trick but if a single family photo is seen on your walls, some landlords will go ballistic.
But this is your home. You can hang whatever you want on the walls. You can hang them with railroad spikes if the drywall holds out or you could completely rip out interior walls and replace them with oversized framed prints of your favorite paintings if you wanted to. More realistically, you can have fun hanging art, family photos, and curtains to your heart’s desire with no one to answer to but yourself for those negligible little nail holes.
2) Replace the Fixtures
How many times have you lived in a fairly decent little home or apartment only to realize that the plumbing and light fixtures were both chosen for the cheapest possible meaterial and design? Tiny, low-quality, and painted in something shiny that peels away over time, you didn’t have the freedom to choose something better and simply have it installed. But now you do.
Love everything about the house but the faucets and handles? Simply skip on over to the hardware store (or it’s online shop) and pick a set you do like. You can DIY install them yourself or call a professional to do it for you. Think your living room needs more light than that old chandelier can provide? No problem. You can choose anything from old brass lantern fixtures to lights that look like trendy abstract art sculptures. You can even replace the cabinets and handles.
3) Build Stuff in the Backyard
If you have kids or have even been a long-time babysitter for someone else’s kids, the delight and imagination of small children somehow always seems to inspire construction projects. In rental houses and apartments, this urge must be limited to play houses made of cardboard boxes but with your own home, you have the freedom to build all sorts of playhouses, tree houses, jungle gyms, and swings sets without worrying about deconstructing them when you go or leaving them behind.
Of course, you can also build adult-things too. Many people who rent wish they could use their yards for DIY projects like new sheds or a lovely hexagon bench around the backyard tree but these kinds of permanent projects just don’t fly in rental homes. With your own house, you can get into carpentry, metalworking, restoration projects, and anything else because it’s your backyard. You can build things there, make a mess, clean it up, and create delightful projects that will stick with you and your kids for years.
4) Throw Wild Parties
If there is one thing every landlord hates, even the cool ones, it’s wild parties. Even if all your friends are well-behaved, even if the music is set to a reasonable volume and no one throws up on the carpet, landlords see every friend holding a drink and every stylish Saturday night outfit as a disaster waiting to happen. Wild parties may be officially off the list but many renters struggle with serious landlord disapproval even from tame but well-attended parties.
And now, as a homeowner, there is no conflicting interests standing in your way. While you will be responsible for any cleaning or repairs, you can also judge your own friends and party-throwing ability for yourself. Throw all the parties you want! Whether it’s a New Year’s Eve blow-out or just a regular backyard barbecue with a few friends, you are finally free to party when you want, how you want, as long as it doesn’t get the cops called.
5) Have Big (and Unusual) Pets
Take a look at almost any lease in the country and you are sure to see a pet clause. Some landlords are actually pretty cool about family pets but many of them are incredibly strict on how many pets you can have, how big they can be, permitted species (cats, dogs, or both), and sometimes they even ban specific breeds. Landlords have been known to come around with a scale to weigh your pets or a measuring tape to prove that they are too big to stay with you and they have tried to evict pets while still holding tenents to their lease agreements.
No one who loves their family pet or pets wants to go through this kind of hassle and as a renter, you probably learned to get a sense for the landlords that would not be friendly to your absolutely necessary animal companion(s). But as a homeowner, the power is completely in your hands. Not only can you have an entire herd of enormous great danes if you want to, you can also invest in stranger pets like pigs, iguanas, or a very long-lived tortoise.
6) Host Guests and Roommates
Leases also tend to feature very specific rules about who can stay with you, how long they can stay, and when it’s necessary for a guest to become a part of your lease. In some cases, landlords will outright refuse to allow you to have a roommate or help a family member out by letting them stay in your home for a few months. This can be an incredible hassle for renters because it effectively removes some of the residential flexibility that comes from renting in the first place and limits how hospitable you can be to those you care about.
As a homeowner, however you are limited only by the safe occupancy laws of not completely over-stuffing a building. For a single-family home, maximum occupancy is probably between thirty and two-hundred depending on the size, which even at the low end is more roommates than you could need or want. With your own home, you can always offer a place to crash to friends or a room and a few months of space for your mother or your college-age nephew.
7) Run an Airbnb Room
If you have ever met a landlord who is OK with vacation-subletting with an Airbnb room, you have known a rare gem among stones. Most landlords are vaguely uncomfortable with the idea of you making money off of their investment property even if they can’t think of any real legitimate reasons to stop you from renting your spare room out as an Airbnb venue. Many landlords have gone so far as to re-write the lease before renewal to prevent these kinds of behaviors.
But hey, you’ve got your own house now and unless it’s against actual city regulations, you can rent out whichever parts of it you want. This can be sharing economy vacation rentals as with Airbnb or you can even take on boarders.
8) Repaint the House
Ever live in a rental house with a subtly unpleasant choice in paint color? Or perhaps the paint used to be a nice color but the years and possibly low-quality paint has resulted in less than a less than welcoming palette. Or sometimes, you just want to add some fresh new color to the walls but there is always the landlord to contend with. While a few landlords are cool about wall paint, most are either solidly against it or require you to return the walls to their original colors before departure.
In your own home, one of the greatest moments is realizing that you can paint the walls any color you want. You can hire an interior designer or let your own personal designs run wild. you can have accent walls, blackboard walls, murals, let the kids choose their own room colors, or simply select an attractive color scheme that compliments your personality as a homeowner.
9) Plan Big Renovations
No renter, no matter how good their rapport with their landlord, gets the fun of DIY or even contractor renovations. Want to install a kitchen island or open up the living room and kitchen to create one big living area? As a homeowner in your very own house, you absolutely can. Many homeowners choose to entertain their love of DIY renovations with an annual home improvement project that is not only fun, it can also steadily raise your property values.
10) Build Equity
Finally, perhaps the best thing about making the transition from renter to homeowner is what it does for your finances. You may not feel the power of equity building up immediately as your ‘rent’ money is now going toward a mortgage, but keep an eye on your credit score. While rent disappears into nothing, the more you pay on your mortgage, the more your equity and actual personal wealth increase. Soon you’ll be able to use that equity as backing for loans, strength in credit-check negotiations, and of course you’ll eventually own the home free and clear meaning your only expenses are a few annual property taxes and maintenance.
Being a homeowner isn’t just about finances, responsibility, and settling down. It’s about gaining the freedom of living on a property you own and therefore being able to truly shape your own lifestyle and home choices. For more information about first time home ownership, contact me today!