Tips for First Time Home Owners

A lot of my friends and colleagues are stepping into home ownership for the first time. In the interest of being DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself), I’m posting my thoughts here!

Much of this comes from the School of Hard Knocks. I’ve been a home owner since 2005 and it’s taught me a lot of different ways to screw up a house or be surprised by yet-another-new-thing-to-fix. I would have loved it if someone had given me a cheat sheet, so here’s my stab at it.

Operational Excellence

Much online help for home ownership focuses one making a laundry list of “things to do” that you may not realize need to be done. That’s great, and I advise finding content like that, but it doesn’t address the need for operational excellence. After all, much of home ownership falls to 1 or 2 people. That’s a small team with a lot of single points of failure. You need all the automation you can get!

Treat your home as something that requires constant operations to maintain. Any time a materially impactful new system is brought into the home, such as a furnace, roof, appliance, deck, or other electronics, use a process to add this to your operational checklist.

I suggest:

  • Scan all the documentation and store in an online vault.
  • Search YouTube for informational videos on maintenance, operations, and repair to get an idea what you’ll need to do in the future.
  • Based on your results, set any reminders necessary for maintenance, such as changing filters or scheduling cleaning, in a task tracking system.

Below is an example using my preferred tools. Switch them out for whatever you want.

Documentation in a Vault

Let’s say I purchase a new clothes washing machine. The manual and warranty is attached to a plastic bag that hangs off the back. This is hard to reach and often gets discarded. So, I scan the documentation (or find an online copy) and warranty information and store in Google Drive. Everything I do ends up here, so it’s a single source of truth that is shared among the family.

Failure to do this results in pain.

Everything breaks eventually. Having documentation and warranty information in a consolidated place makes stressful times (something is currently broken!) into something simple and straight forward. It also makes it so that anyone can dig up the needed information and address the situation, which empowers them and allows you to scale.

As a bonus option, keep a ledger of your vendors. I use a Google Sheet. It contains the vendor’s name, account ID, contact number, purpose (some names are goofy enough that this is necessary), and how they are paid (autopay, contract, cash, etc.). I probably visit this sheet 1-3 times a year, but every time I do it saves my bacon.

Research and Plan

Most any “thing” you acquire is going to need maintenance, such as cleaning, and consumable parts, such as filters, in order to operate at peak efficiency. The typical home owner neglects these tasks and waits for the “thing” to either indicate a fault or cease functioning. Or, they hire some 3rd party service to do it.

These are all bad ideas.

Instead of waiting for things to fail, I propose an alternative. Check YouTube to see what the maintenance process looks like. Chances are extremely high that someone has created a tutorial video explaining how to do any task you can imagine. This advice got me through the early days of home ownership. Being able to see episodes from home improvement shows and enthusiasts taught me much of what I know today. It’s a community of passionate folks who want to share what they know with each other, and I love it!

Another idea is to visit your local hardware store. Many of them offer free workshops and classes on really cool topics. I learned how to lay, set, and grout tile from a workshop at Home Depot. It was free.

For everything else, just read the owner’s manual. There’s no shame in not knowing how something works.

Be curious! There’s tons of stuff in a house that are confusing or mysterious to you, but I promise – it’s all pretty simple once you open your mind and seek the knowledge.

Schedule the Tasks

My family uses Todoist to schedule tasks as a group. It’s an easy way to setup chores, assign them to folks, and then get that dopamine hit when you check off a task!

For the washing machine example, I add “clean the lint exhaust” to Todoist. I give it a high priority, as lint buildup combined with heat is a great way to set a house on fire. I then schedule the task to repeat once every 3 months. I go ahead and include a link to a YouTube video showing how to detach the exhaust hose, just in case, and toss it on the chore list.

And that’s it. I never need to think about or worry about this task again. It’ll just magically pop up every 3 months, and then I’ll do the thing and forget about it again.


I like it this way. There’s nothing to worry about in the future, and operations are now automated. If you suffer an issue, return to your file vault to see what to do about it and involve the right support or repair vendors.