Joe DeVito, like many other New Yorkers who wanted more space to weather the pandemic, headed north and bought a two-bedroom house in the Catskills in late July.
He learned almost immediately that there were no turnkey properties. At first the outdoor wood-burning stove didn't provide enough heat for the 1,700 square meter house, then the dishwasher had to be replaced, then sick trees had to be felled, the land had to be leveled, and he had to build a proper driveway.
It was a crash course in home ownership for Mr. DeVito, 46, a content and marketing manager for the New York Mets who still rents an apartment in Astoria but now spends most of his time in the Delaware County house he's for Bought $ 230,000. And now that the region is transforming into cooler weather, he and other first-time home buyers like him must learn to deal with unexpected but seasonal home maintenance issues and costs.
Does the house have or need storm windows? How much firewood do we need for the season? When and how do we clean the gutters? Should we have known the kettle was on its last legs? How do you prevent a house from getting drafty?
The doctrine that every piece of equipment and fixture has a limited shelf life and that maintenance costs add up quickly has already arisen for Mr. DeVito, especially because the previous owners of the house appear to have relied on D.I.Y. repairs around the house.
He also noted some strong differences between urban and rural life. "We are spoiled by many of the 'amenities' that the city and our buildings offer," such as sanitation and snow removal, he said. And country life, he found out, is an exercise in patience. “It takes weeks for someone to fix the equipment. Even Amazon packages take 10 days, not two days. "
He suspects that this could be the reason why previous owners often took repairs into their own hands. "If you hire someone for any small need, you will go broke while waiting far too long for something to be done," he said.
"The first year costs can be very steep," said Sarah Gerecke, former assistant secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Housing Counseling and now director of SSG Community Solutions, a residential and community development consultancy based in New York City.
Ms. Gerecke warns buyers to exercise caution when securing new homes and to seriously reconsider the urge to skip home inspections or improve their listing without fully understanding the significant cost of servicing and maintenance.
One option: HUD-certified housing counselors who have been specially trained to help consumers – especially low- and middle-income families – deal with the inevitable vicissitudes of home ownership. They help homeowners create feasible home budgets and plans for unexpected disasters, as well as providing tutorials for simple house maintenance tasks. Pre-purchase counseling and education are more common, says Ms. Gerecke, who stated that most HUD counseling is available to everyone for free, although some educational programs charge a small fee.
For recent transplants who want to connect with their new community, an app like Nextdoor is a way to connect with locals to share information, goods and services. Stefany Elliott, a public relations professional, found the app invaluable for “getting to know our neighbors and the neighborhood in a pandemic”.
Ms. Elliott, 36, and husband Spencer Elliott recently moved from a rental apartment in a concierge's building in Gramercy Park, Manhattan, to a three-bedroom home they bought for $ 465,000 in Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey. The couple spent a few thousand dollars replacing a broken refrigerator and stove oil pump, and upgrading the fireplace and chimney for the season. They also bought a $ 300 smart video doorbell so they could be prepared to no longer have a doorman to greet visitors or take packages.
The app was the most helpful for solving more everyday questions. Within weeks of moving in, the couple successfully asked questions about local events, vets, solar panels, and where to get fresh cut flowers.
The significant traffic from similar apps like Sweeten, Thumbtack and HomeAdvisor (a brand affiliated with Angie's List) connecting home service professionals with homeowners and their projects underscores the nationwide competition for contractors and craftsmen.
Customer demand for verified contractors for Sweeten increased 104 percent in the third quarter of 2020 compared to the same period last year. Thumbtack reported a 138 percent increase in device installation in the Tristate area of New York compared to the previous year.
“Our professionals are busier today than ever,” said Mallory Micetich, a HomeAdvisor communications representative, who says the industry is currently experiencing a shortage of available service professionals in all areas.
Online brands like Family Handyman and Better Homes & Gardens provide seasonal maintenance checklists with helpful prompts about cleaning the gutter, maintaining the stove, and sealing drafty windows. "First-time home buyers don't think about or plan for major emergencies," said Ms. Micetich, who revealed that the average cost of major plumbing or weather-related emergencies is often $ 1,200.
This was a lesson that Daniel Glass, a lawyer, learned the hard way.
In mid-July, Mr. Glass and his fiancé Jordan Brodsky left their temporary home on Long Island and closed a two-bedroom house in Falls Village, Connecticut, in the city of Canaan, Litchfield County. They paid $ 550,000 for the property on the Housatonic River. Shortly after they moved in, the air conditioning stopped working.
"After going into apartments – and having a super to call for things – we were unable to find anyone to investigate and, if necessary, make repairs," said Mr. Glass, 35. that a mouse had chewed through wires that were causing a coolant leak. After a week and $ 1,000 out of pocket, they had a working air conditioner again.
In early August, a brief but devastating tornado and hailstorm caused significant damage to trees on their property and part of their home. The power went out for two weeks and the damage from the storm cost several thousand dollars. While the house has a built-in propane gas generator that will run all electrical systems, it had to be turned off while the lines were being repaired. "It turned out to be useless in this situation," said Mr. Glass.
He warns anyone moving from apartment to house to budget more and plan for the worst.
"Life in a rural area became increasingly intense – it was difficult to find certain services like roofers or contractors, especially without electricity or internet," said Glass, adding that the remote location meant fewer options available and that there was no support meant being new to a network that they could still rely on.
Experts recommend proactively creating a list of home professionals such as electricians, landscapers, and plumbers.
Megan Jo Collum, an agent at Country House Realty in the Catskills and Hudson Valley, has made a habit of asking salespeople for a list of approved service professionals when they close so newcomers can get used to their surroundings. "That way, buyers get a bit of local 'Rolodex' services from people who have a recent history with the home so buyers don't start from scratch," she said.
Buyers who are clients of Amy Rosen, an agent at Ruth Gale Realty in Phenicia, New York, have also requested information on how to gird a home for changing seasons and against determined wildlife. “I'm always asked for advice on waste management, which is a hot topic here. Bears come into play easily if you don't know the tricks! " She said.
Ms. Rosen recommends disposing of garbage at the last minute on the morning of the pick-up day or taking it straight to the dump, which often requires a small fee per bag and means more time in the car, another aspect of rural life.
There are also services like Home Sweet Hudson, a Rosendale, NY rental company operated by Vanessa and Ray Vargas that can help local and remote property owners outsource tasks like house maintenance checks and repairs, snow removal, and pest management. Prices start at $ 50 per hour.
The falling leaves and the incoming chill of winter let others see that they may be preparing for seasonal shifts a little late.
In July, 41-year-old Katie King left a rental apartment in Brooklyn's Prospect Lefferts Gardens with her husband and two sons, ages 6 and 4, and moved to a four-bedroom cabin in New Jersey with a wood-burning fireplace and views of Lake Shawnee for that they paid $ 300,000.
"It's colder here, that's surprising, and the preparation for the seasons was different," said Ms. King of the property, 40 minutes west of Manhattan. Although they were recently able to get a cord of firewood on short notice, $ 275 for a month or two of delivery, they are already planning for the future. "We now know that next year we'll have to order months in advance before the cold season hits."
This is an assessment by Igor Tumasov, 30, sales manager at IBM Watson, and his fiancée Ally Tam, 29, who works in venture capital. In April, the couple closed a two-bedroom house in a remote part of Mount Tremper, New York, near Woodstock, which was built in 1973. The earliest time the boiler can be serviced is January 2021, an unexpected setback in planning. "Now I know for next year," said Mr. Tumasov.
Reaching out to the neighbors was an analgesic for Katie Deedy, founder of Grow House Grow, a bespoke wallpaper and tile company, to adapt to full-time country life.
Although Ms. Deedy, 39, and her husband William Robison have owned their Stockport, NY, Columbia County cottage since February 2019, a closed lot they bought for $ 75,000, the pandemic has a number of vital actions taken immediately Bringed home repairs that were in motion.
At the end of March, the contractor they had used suddenly disappeared. “Two weeks after we gutted the kitchen in March, we were suddenly under quarantine and lived there all day. No sink, no stove, it was crazy, ”she said.
When she runs her business all day without WiFi and puts her 10-year-old daughter Ruby into a remote learning routine, the pressure to improve the functionality of the house around 1890 increases. A $ 100 plastic sink provided a temporary solution.
A few weeks later, their water heater blew and they also needed a new washer and dryer. It's an entirely new and expensive reality for longtime Brooklyn tenants who had been doing piecemeal repairs to cottages over the weekend. The house now also needs gutters, updated windows and a new roof.
Since her daughter's school was out of the way all day, the family spends about five days a week in the hinterland. Due to the lack of available contractors and the impending winter weather, Ms. Deedy and her husband have swapped places with neighbors. In exchange for helping install a wood-burning stove, they help a neighbor put new siding on their home.
"Because of Covid, we were able to establish very special relationships with some of our neighbors," she said. "We help each other and have allowed ourselves to do some work that we couldn't have done due to the shortage of contractors." They are amazing. It really is the silver lining. "
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