If you’re a first time home buyer, chances are you may be thinking back to all the real estate lessons you think you’ve learned  courtesy of HGTV. Not surprisingly, reality TV homeownership won’t properly prepare your for the real deal.

If you’re gearing up for your own journey into homeownership, turn off the TV and gather ’round. We’ll fill you in on a few things you should know beforehand, and a few surprises (some happy, some frustrating) that you might encounter along the way.

1. A beautiful yard takes work 

Even if you don’t have a green thumb, landscaping and yard maintenance are forever on the to-do list.

Each spring, spraying weed killer, attempting to conquer the weeds. The there is the mowing and edging.

You’ll slowly start to learn which plants can endure abuse, neglect, and the climate where you live.

When you’re house hunting, keep in mind that those beautiful lawns you see—and that outdoor space you covet—come at a steep price. Either your time and frustration, or a hefty bill for professional landscapers. This is one reason why many people opt for a minimalist landscape design. Either in size or style, like xeriscaping.

2. You might get a bill for neighborhood improvements

Your property taxes should pay for every improvement to the neighborhood, right? Not necessarily.

For instance, when neighbors come together to petition the city for say… a speed bump, the cost could be passed on to homeowners. Don’t be surprised if you and your neighbors get a bill in the mail for things like these. Surprise!When you’re preparing to buy a house, make sure you budget for homeownership expenses—not just repair and HOA costs, but those pesky fees that crop up when you least expect them.

3. Brush/trash removal? It works differently in every city 

As kids, we all spent many a fall weekend scooping leaves into yard waste bags that we left on the curb for pickup. But when own a home you’ll begin to realize that different cities handle trash and brush removal  differently, if the city handles it at all.

Some places expect the residents to haul everything away, while others provide brush removal services a few times per year or on a designated day of the week. Check with your city to find the ordinances and regulations where you live.

4. You’ll want to clean (or hire someone to clean) your nasty windows

Window maintenance may not be on your radar as a renter, probably because there are rarely more than a few windows in an apartment. But when you become the proud owner of many, many windows—and all of them get coated in a thick film of gunk from years of neglect. This tends to be one of those things that kind of creeps up on you. One day your windows are clear and shiny; then before you know it you can barely see out of them at all.

This is something that can be maintained by the homeowner  IF you’re willing to devote an afternoon to it and don’t mind getting your fingers dirty. But some homeowners find they’re getting nowhere fast, and have no way to safely clean some of the the exterior windows.

If that’s the case, it’s time to swallow your pride and hire a professional window washer. It may be some of the best money you’ll spend.

5. DIY renovation is equally rewarding and soul-crushing 

Being frugal and ambitious means you can accomplish a lot on a small budget. But acting as your own general contractor can become a full-time job. Simple pleasures like “having a social life” or “Friday night with Netflix” became distant memories. It’s easy now to say it was all worth it, but at the time, I daydreamed about winning the lottery and hiring a team of pros to handle our rehab.

6. My impulse to check real estate listings lingered for a while

When you first started house hunting, you probably obsessively searched for new home listings every day, poring over MLS descriptions and swiping through photos.  Your impulse to follow the market won’t disappear overnight.

It’s can be surprisingly challenging to turn off your home-buying brain after months of being on high alert.

7. You’ll never want to go back to sharing walls 

You might like your neighbors fine but you’ll like them even more because when you can’t hear them. Gone are the days of people above you making bowling sounds late at night.

Now, you can enjoy the sweet, sweet silence of detached living—no adjacent neighbors blasting music or loudly quarreling. All the yard work in the world is worth it for this level of quiet.

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