Becoming a homeowner is an unexpectedly emotional process. I wasn’t raised in a house my parents owned, so purchasing my first home felt like a huge accomplishment. I felt so much pride when this dream finally came true, especially because not many people in my community talked about buying a home.
Even though most of my family migrated to the US mainland from Puerto Rico back in the early 1950s, we had been working hard to “make it” in this country for decades, yet buying a home always felt like an elusive goal so when I embarked on this journey, those first steps felt so important, momentous. But the whole process that followed surely felt like a whirlwind.
Everything seemed to move fast and slow at the same time, and because our first house was a major fixer upper (that’s what we could afford) there was always something to be done leading up to closing and for months after we moved in. Looking back, there were definitely some things I wish I had known about being a new homeowner. Here are just a few of them.
Make Sure the Community Feels Like Home
Yes, moving into a new home in a new neighborhood has its own set of worries but let’s talk about something many of us don’t think about – our community/vecinos. Growing up, I remember playing with the neighborhood kids, and knowing almost everyone on our street by name. As an adult, preparing to buy my forever home, I wanted to feel like I was buying a house in a community where I could get to know my neighbors, and know that everyone was looking out for each other.
Community is important, and I want to be able to build long lasting relationships with the people around me. When I reminisce about my mother and my family growing up, I remember she always had someone on speed dial that could jump to help if we needed it. That’s the thing about our culture, we’re always ready to lend a hand when someone needs us and the bonds we make are strong. So even though not all — or even most of my neighbors are Latino — I’m so grateful I was able to choose a neighborhood, where the neighbors feel like a community.
For this reason, when we were looking at houses, we tried to wave to or even chat up vecinos, we drove around to see where the parks and community space were located in proximity to each house and we stopped in at local restaurants and shops, so we could talk to locals to get a good feel of what life would feel like here.
Yards Don’t Just Look Lovely & Lush All On Their Own
It’s grass, it just grows fresh and looks green and nice until winter, right? No, absolutely not. The grass does grow, and it grows and it grows and it grows. You will need to cut it and edge it and seed it and water it, and do all sorts of other maintenance on it. Then there’s the plants. The prettiest yards are landscaped with flowers, shrubs and bushes, and all of those areas will need weeding and watering and possibly even regular pruning. I remember that even though my parents didn’t own the house I grew up in, they always made sure there were flowers planted out front and a vegetable garden growing in the summertime. Tending to the yard was a show of how much they cared and how happy they were to be a part of the neighborhood.
Now, I too understand that feeling of wanting to create a space that reflects your appreciation, and can be a landing spot for family and friends to gather and create memories together. I can’t wait to roast our first lechón in the new backyard and watch my kids run around and play among family members while salsa blares in the background, just like I did when I was a kid.
These things take time though , and lots of trips to Lowe’s to pick up all the grass seeds, mulch, outdoor plants and tools you’ll need to get it all done. Thankfully, you can get everything in one place, since it’s time you probably don’t have much of if you’re busy working so you can pay that brand-new mortgage.
The Herd Mentality Is Real
Especially if you buy a house in the suburbs. You’ll see your neighbors’ holiday decorations and you’ll want some of your own, you’ll see everyone’s shiny vinyl fences and you’ll think you need one of those too. Angie down the street had her driveway refinished? Maybe we should too. The need to fit in will creep in, especially since we all want our homes to be just as beautiful and welcoming as the one across the street. It will, eventually, but try not to get caught up with the “keeping up with the García’s mentality.”
DIY Projects Require Lots of Patience
One of the most exciting parts of moving into your new home is being able to work on all of the fun and creative DIY projects you’ve always dreamed of. Now you get to add your own twist and flair! With DIY projects comes lots of planning, purchasing and of course, patience. So, if it takes you longer to complete a DIY project than you originally anticipated, don’t stress out too much about it. DIY projects are meant to be fun and rewarding, so take your time with it and try to map out the closest Lowe’s in case you have no clue where to even begin. Paint, tape, tiles, grout, drills, levelers – so many supplies I didn’t even know I needed.
You Should Have Contractors on Standby
No matter how handy you are or how many YouTube videos you’ve watched, as a new homeowner, you are almost surely going to face some problem you can’t fix on your own. Remember when I said get to know your vecinos? Yes, you will likely need help at some point. And unless you have a local tío or primo that’s a Pro at these things, it’s a good idea to keep a list of reliable contractors on hand, including a plumber, an electrician, an HVAC company and a general contractor or professional handyman.
You Don’t Have to Do Everything All at Once
On that note, I want to remind you that you don’t have to get every project or renovation done at once. Prioritize, pace yourself and take your time. I did too much at once and burned out too fast. Your wallet and your sanity will thank you if you spread things out a bit.
All in all, buying a new home is exciting, overwhelming, stressful but so, so rewarding. Seeing my kids step foot into our home for the first time brought back so many memories of my previous homes. This one is ours now and now we get to make it our own. I look forward to all the memories we create, all the family pictures we get to hang on the wall, all the Nochebuenas in our sala and our cocina, all the birthday parties we get to throw.
One thing the Navarro family says is, “A home wouldn’t be a home without the memories.” And I couldn’t agree more. Creating memories in our home is one way that we pass on our values and our culture to our children, and I know that they will remember all the meaningful moments we’ve shared in these special spaces when they grow up. I love seeing Jaime and Cassandra’s bond and how they work on projects, bringing in their Mexican culture and heritage into their home. I hope I get to do the same with my children whenever they have their own. I will share stories of mami and abuela, of my beautiful Puerto Rico in our sala and cherish our home with all of our memories, as the Navarro’s do too.
Check out their video below to see more about their story and how hard work, family and creating memories in la sala are so important for them.