One year ago today, Maria and I took the plunge and closed on our wonderful house. It’s been quite a year since then. We’ve painted, renovated, and made a bunch of repairs, both small and large. We’ve been chipping away at our mortgage. We almost literally bumped into our home’s prior owners and had them over for lunch. And now we are looking forward to finding space for the newest addition to our growing family. With all of these changes in such a short time, we couldn’t help but include you in the celebration as we look back at our first year in the house.
The Day We Bought Our Home
Let’s start at the beginning. One year ago today, Maria, Dessa, and I headed up to Birmingham (a super-cute town just a few miles away) to close on the purchase of our new home. When we got there, we met the sellers, William and Laura. They were a couple about our age and expecting their first baby in a few months. They loved the house, but were planning to move west for a great job opportunity for William. Then we commenced to sign about a million pieces of paper to close on the sale of the house and borrow money from our mortgage lender.
Afterwards, the three of us headed over to the home along with our mortgage broker, who happens to be a good friend of ours (Hi, Dustin!), to do a quick tour and take a few photos. It was a little very chilly that day, as it often is in Michigan in early April, and snow actually started to fall while we took the photos, so we were super quick.
After that, Maria and I said goodbye to Dustin and set up a card table and folding chairs in the dining room so we could have a celebratory picnic-style dinner in our new home. While we were preparing a salad, we opened the refrigerator and discovered that William and Laura had left a bottle of champagne as a gift, which was incredibly thoughtful of them.
We may have had the keys to our new house, but we weren’t prepared to move in or stay the night, so we packed things up after dinner and headed back around the corner to our rental house for the evening. We went to sleep that night full of anticipation for the painting, renovations, and packing that lay ahead as we prepared to finally move into our new home.
A Visit with Our Home’s Prior Owners
Fast forward to two weeks ago. We were talking with our neighbor (confusingly enough, also named Laura) and she told us that she saw William and Laura out for a walk in our neighborhood with their baby boy! You can imagine our shock because we had no idea they were still in the neighborhood (let alone the state of Michigan). It turns out that there was about a year delay in William’s job opportunity because of unforeseen construction issues, so in the meantime they decided to rent a house here in Royal Oak because they loved the city so much. Since they were still in town, Maria and I decided to invite William, Laura, their baby, and our neighbor Laura over for lunch. They all came over on a Sunday and we had a delightful time.
We had some homemade pizza and visited for a while. Before they left to put their son, Graham, down for a nap, we took a quick tour to show them the house and what we have done with it. I hope and believe they were happy with how little we have changed and liked the revisions we’ve made. Honestly, the house was already beautiful the day we moved in; we just tweaked a few paint colors to suit our tastes and did some small renovations to get more use out of a couple awkward spaces.
William and Laura will be finally heading out west in May and we wish them the absolute best on their new journey.
A Look Back on Our First Year in Our House
We’ve only been here a year, but it was a pretty big one, both personally and financially. In the past twelve months, we have made a number of improvements to the house (many of which were anticipated, but there were definitely a few expensive surprises thrown in). Home ownership is pretty amazing, but we are so glad we waited until we were on solid financial footing with money set aside for home improvements in our savings account before we decided to finally purchase a home. Otherwise, it would have been a much more stressful first year in the house.
Here is a quick summary of some of the improvements we’ve made this past year:
- Painting (about $1,000 and a lot of time on our part)
- Converting a small hallway into a closet (about $4,000)
- Creating a walk-in closet in the bungalow (about $4,000 and probably our favorite improvement so far, even though the custom closet we had planned is on hold indefinitely)
- Fixing loads of electrical issues and adding outlets ($2,000)
- Repairing a gutter (about $1,000)
- Removing a sick tree before it dropped a limb onto one of our vehicles ($2,000)
- Insulating the exterior walls ($2,700)
- Replacing a water heater ($4,000+)
- And a whole bunch of other small renovations
We still have a long way to go on the house, with lots of decor and furniture that we would like to purchase, as well as further renovations like a bigger front porch and new landscaping (and maybe a renovated basement or building a garage one day). In the more immediate future, Maria and I are really going to have to work to figure out where Baby #2 will sleep since there are only two bedrooms on the first floor, Dessa is a light sleeper, and we’re not ready to be on a different floor from the kids yet. But we’ll figure that out one way or the other; we have no choice, haha!
The other house-related item that we have been working hard on is paying down the mortgage. We’ve talked about it a number of times before and our goal for this year is to pay down $10,000 extra in mortgage principal. As you can see from our handy chart (which Dessa clearly wants to help color in), we’re well on our way, having already chipped off an extra $1,000 this year and we haven’t even used our tax refund money yet, which will cover a big chunk of that $10,000.
Overall, it’s been quite the journey in our new home. We bookended the year with William and Laura, the house’s earlier owners, paid buckets full of money for home repairs and renovations, and have worked our butts off to chip away at our mortgage quickly. And now we get to look forward to bringing a new family member into our home this October. I can’t think of a better gift for our second year in our wonderful house.
I’m currently looking to buy in the RO area and am hoping to find a house as cute as yours!
Rob Gavin says
Good luck in your search! It’s a wonderful town; we love it so much.
Maria Gavin says
There are ALWAYS cute ones coming up in the market! Somehow, the best ones always show up at sponsored content in my Facebook feed and I always click over to see them, even though we have no intention of moving into a different house. Hopefully you will find a home that you love as much as we love ours!
CJ | A Well-Read Tart says
Congratulations on your first year in the house!! Home ownership is such a (wonderful but expensive) journey. :-) We’ve been in our house 3.5 years, and we’re still slowly tweaking things in it to our liking. Our house was very move-in ready, except for some paint colors, thoguh we also had some surprise costs our first year (and second year. And, oh, hey! the third year, too! lol). It’s all worth it, though. We use our credit card (which we do pay off in full every month) to rack up rewards points, and we use the rewards points to get gift cards, which we then use to make smaller cosmetic changes to the house. For example, we recently replaced all the cabinet doorknobs in the kitchen and the hardware in the bathroom; these didn’t NEED to be updated, but they sure do look nice now! We also just painted our office/”man cave” using gift card money for paint, tape, and brushes/rollers. Again, the room didn’t need to be painted, but my husband really wanted a place to display his sports/sci fi/gamer stuff, and the wall color in there already just wasn’t doing it for him. Using the rewards points/gift cards makes us feel much less guilty about making cosmetic changes, and since it takes time to rack up the points, we have a lot of time to seriously consider what changes we do want to make. I hope you continue to have fun making all the little changes in your beautiful house for years to come!
Maria Gavin says
Thank you so much for your comment! I completely agree that home ownership is a great blessing, but oh so expensive. And I LOVE those unnecessary cosmetic changes. If they are relatively inexpensive and let you enjoy the house more, they are worth every single penny. We don’t use credit cards, but it sounds like you are really making them work to your advantage, which must feel great :)
Wow! What a year! I also have had the opportunity to shoe old owners updates to my current house. I am sure they would have loved that master closet!
Am hoping that you are not getting an excessive amount back from you tax returns. If it is more than a few hundred dollars, it might be worth examining your withholding amounts with your employer. Financially, it is advantageous to get any excess money in your paycheck so that you can make use of it right away, especially if you are saving in in any way, because then you can get the interest benefit instead of the government getting it! Sounds like you will use your refund to pay down your mortgage – this is something you could be doing monthly with the money, and get immediate advantage, instead of having an excess withheld and then paying it all at once when you get a refund! 🙂
Maria Gavin says
Hi Irene, it was absolutely a lot of fun to have them over. Our tax returns tend to be all over the map and I know that every financial expert would tell us that our return this year is way too big because we are giving the government an interest-free loan. The nature of our online business is so unpredictable, that we never really know what to expect. The spring that we got engaged, I was certain that I was doing everything right with my quarterly taxes and ended up owing the IRS $7,000. It was in the middle of wedding planning and trying to figure out our plan for paying off Rob’s $180k of student loan debt. Needless to say, that was not a good surprise. We never want to be in that situation again, so we overpay on our quarterly taxes because we just never know what to expect. Last year, we were pretty sure we would be getting a hefty return and we ended up getting back about 1/10 of what we expected. There were so many new tax laws this year, we thought we would be ok, but we kept overpaying just to be sure (and it worked out that we are getting a big return.) It’s just one of those crazy things that we try our best to plan well, but at the end of the day we’d like to have a good surprise than to find ourselves owing thousands of dollars.