The Truth About Becoming a Homeowner in Your 20s
In December I will be turning the big three-zero, and while I have many milestones to still look forward to in the future, such as marriage and travel, there is already one major life experience I am incredibly familiar with, and that is buying my first home. After graduating from college and a brief shot at city life in New York, I realized I missed my Southern roots too much and moved back to my hometown in North Carolina. Here, I secured a good job and over time realized this is where I definitely wanted to be in the foreseeable future. Once I came to this epiphany, I became very interested in the possibility of buying a small place for myself instead of renting an apartment indefinitely.
The reasons were all there: I had my job, I had all my family and friends nearby, the market had well-priced availability within my budget, and I knew I did not want to do any more big moves involving a packed-to-the-brim U-Haul anytime soon. So the search for a small home that I could call my own began. While the process of searching for a home is quite an emotional experience in itself, I finally came across a charming Cape Cod in a Google search, and as they say, the rest was history.
Now, more than three years later, I am still as happy as ever in my house, which is now known as "the cottage" among my family and friends. And while I know that the choice to buy was ultimately right for me, homeownership comes with many unknown variables, always surprising you in ways both positive and negative.
Several months in, I began to see a clear difference in my life as an apartment dweller vs. my new role as a homeowner. Everything, and I mean everything, slowly started becoming about the house. I was sinking any extra money I had into the house in one way or another, whether it was for a new bathroom light fixture that needed replacing, curtains for my sunroom, or even just the costs of A/C for a space larger than a typical one-bedroom place.
Having my name legally tied to a physical place forced out a level of care and dedication in me (and my wallet) that took precedence over many other fun things I used to actively enjoy.
It took me some time to really figure out a good balance, but I will say this, I definitely used to have a better wardrobe.
Not only did the financial demands significantly increase for me, but the daily act of maintaining a house was a complete leap within itself. Plain and simple, it is hard work and extremely time consuming. My to-do list is constantly flooded with home-related chores, and it never seems to get any shorter. Plus, the absence of a landlord is a big, big deal.
When a nest of mice caught fire and caused my outdoor heating unit to shut off in the middle of January (what are the chances?), that became my life for the next three days. You just never know what kind of off-the-wall situations might happen that you will have to fix, devote time to during the workweek, or pay for unexpectedly. It can be frustrating at times, but I promise it is always interesting.
Through all of the trials and tribulations of the last few years, though, there have been so many more high points and happy moments for me. First of all, I love knowing that I am actively investing in myself and in my future each and every month when it's time to pay the mortgage. Understanding that I am setting myself up for different options down the line is both empowering and reassuring, no matter how many annoyances might pop up along the way. For this alone, it is absolutely worth it.
However, along with this, there was one huge bonus of homeownership for me, and that is what it has done for both my confidence and creativity. I attribute my cottage to what first ignited my passion in interior design and home renovation, things that I never knew I enjoyed before. With each and every new project I have tackled over the years, I have grown more and more into a stronger and more self-assured person.
Managing a small space of my own and making it beautiful over time has been the biggest gift and one of the brightest highlights of my 20s.
Since the days the keys were first placed into my hands as a younger, single version of myself, the cottage has seen a lot of changes. My boyfriend now lives with me, and we have happily added one wild Border Collie to the mix, much to my cat's dismay. While those raw first months of frustration, confusion, and excitement of homeownership are now behind me, I still look at that time so fondly. I might have been relatively young to dive into such a big responsibility when I did, but the lessons I have learned since simply can't be matched. And yes, I would absolutely do it all over again.