• Homeowner Etiquette

Responsible Homeownership 101

November 13, 2020

So you’ve done the hard work — you got financing, found a home and moved all your stuff. Now it’s time for fun and relaxation, right? Well, before you mix up a pitcher of Mai Tais, there are a few more things to add to your to-do list to care for that new investment. And while these tasks aren’t traditionally considered rip-roaring fun, they will enable you to enjoy that home for years to come.

We encourage you to slow your roll and not tackle everything at once. To help manage the load, consider creating a homeowner’s binder (physical or digital) where you can create a maintenance schedule that spreads out the to-dos in a manageable way and keeps track of everything from appliance warranties and paint chips to service providers.

The Inside

  • Safety: To protect your home and your loved ones, make sure you have working fire extinguishers (and that everybody knows how to use them), as well as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. There should be a smoke alarm inside each bedroom, outside sleeping areas and on every level of your home, including the basement. Carbon monoxide can be even more dangerous than 
  • Regular Maintenance: Regularly change your smoke alarm batteries (every six months) and air filters (every 90 days). You’ll also want to take good care of your pipes, HVAC and sprinkler systems so they take good care of you. Since these are often seasonal projects, we have created handy-dandy maintenance and home improvement lists for early fall, late fall, winter and spring. Yes, we were feeling industrious and wrote two for fall – although it looks like we failed miserably on making that summer list. Check back in a few months, we’ll get right on that. 
  • Home Inspections: A home inspection was probably part of your home purchase. But if you’ve lived in the house for more than five years it’s probably a good idea to get another, especially if you haven’t visited your attic or crawlspaces recently. Or ever (because honestly, those places can be real creepy).
  • Sustainability: There are many things you can do to your home to make it more environmentally friendly, helping the planet and potentially saving some cash. Some are more expensive, like adding solar and using recycled building products, while others are as simple as unplugging the appliances you’re not using and closing your curtains at night to keep the cold out. This applies to your yard as well. We live in a desert, where water is finite. Incorporating water-saving features into your landscaping will save you money and keep your yard beautiful in the heat of summer.

This tip has less to do with being responsible and more to do with getting the most enjoyment possible out of your home.

  • Home Improvements: Many of us wait until we’re ready to sell our homes to paint and do other upgrades. When you think about it, this makes no sense. You should do the things that you can afford to do now in order to maximize your enjoyment of your home. Many home improvements (like paint) can be done inexpensively, especially if you provide the labor. And the more expensive projects can be budgeted for, so you’re not putting all that time and effort into making a home lovely just for someone else to enjoy.

Related: Homeowners Insurance – The Necessity We Love to Hate

The Outside

  • Fire-Proofing: As we’ve been reminded way too often in the last few years, we live in wildfire land. Follow recommendations for fire-proofing your home, like clearing brush and creating a defensible space around it.
  • Sidewalks: Surprise! As a homeowner, you’re responsible for the maintenance of the sidewalks surrounding your home. This includes keeping them clear of obstacles, including tree branches, roots, and children’s toys, as well as shoveling snow. And as long as you’re shoveling, it never hurts to show your neighbors some kindness and clear their sidewalks too (see Neighbor section below), particularly if they’re older or overwhelmed.
  • Yard Maintenance: If you have a stand-alone home, you probably have a yard. With a yard, often comes weeds and trees that need to be taken care of. There is an obvious aesthetic benefit to this but having good curb appeal can also bring you joy and increase the value of your home.
  • Fencing: Good fences protect our kids, pets and yards. They also add to the overall look and feel of our homes. You can add years to your fence by giving it a thorough cleaning at least once a year. Wood fences can rot and stain over time, so you’ll want to spray them with a water-repellant sealant every year or so. And if you’re inheriting an older fence you may want to give it a boost of wood preservative to seal it. Regular maintenance will keep that fence standing in one of our brutal Nevada windstorms.

Related: Come Home to Happy

The Neighbors

Having good relationships with our neighbors makes life overall much more pleasant, and it’s nice knowing someone is keeping an eye out for you. It’s also much easier to handle neighborhood situations with people you already know.

Most of these tips follow the Golden Rule — treat others the way you want to be treated.

  • Noise: Not everyone loves Queen as much as we love Queen. Weird, right? If you’re wondering if your music is too loud, go outside and listen from the property line, or ask your neighbors. If you need to blast Bohemian Rhapsody while you work on your fence, headphones are a great option (but keep the ‘mamma mias’ under control).
  • Lighting: Yes, lighting can be good for security, but it’s also bad for star-gazing and relationship-building. Take a walk around your home at night and notice where your lights are shining. If it’s in your neighbor’s window, you’re going to want to make some adjustments — and not to the neighbors’ sleeping habits.
  • Pets: Being able to own pets is one of the joys of homeownership, but they do come with their own set of responsibilities. As far as homeownership is concerned, we have an obligation to our neighbors to keep our furry family members quiet and non-disruptive, to pick up after them and to keep them on a leash when they’re not in your yard. If you’re feeling extra charitable, pick up other pet owners’ leave-behinds on your daily walks.
  • Neatness: Keep your yard neat and don’t let your toys, bushes, or sprinklers spill over into your neighbors’ yards.
  • Parking: While the street is technically public space, you’re not going to win any friends (or influence people) by continually using the space in front of your neighbors’ homes for your extra cars, boats and trailers.

Related: How To Be A Good Neighbor

Homeowners Associations

Some people love HOAs and some people hate them. We have no opinion one way or the other, except to advise you to know what you’re signing up for. If you move into a neighborhood that has an HOA, you’ll need to understand and abide by the rules. If you want to take on more responsibility or have more say on what those rules are, volunteer to be on the HOA board. If you move into an HOA-less neighborhood, you’ll have to deal with the neighbor’s extra cars, boats and trailers directly.

If you’re ready to take on the responsibility of homeownership, but you’re coming up short on the down payment, check out the Nevada Housing Division’s Home Is Possible (HIP) programs that offer bonus money or a reduced interest rate to low- and middle-income Nevadans. And there are extra bonuses in there for veterans and teachers!

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