Budget for all the things
September 27, 2011 10:49 AM   Subscribe

When buying your first house, how much did you budget for decor/paint/furniture/etc right up front?

We're still 1 - 2 years out from buying a home, but I'm working on our budget.

The houses we will be looking at will be 2 bed, 1 bath, 850 - 1100 square feet. If we need appliances such as refrigerators/stoves/washer & dryer, we will almost undoubtedly get them from craigslist or a re-store or something like that. Our decor style in general is refinished thrift store pieces + antique store finds + IKEA + DIY stuff - so on the lower end, with room in the budget for artsy/crafty upgrades. The yard will be small, most likely less than a quarter acre, although we will definitely be putting in plants and shrubs, a small veggie garden, etc. If we have a lawn we will again get a used, simple mower although I am open to a service as well. We don't have any yard tools currently as we've always lived in apartments.

If there are actual repairs to be made (anything that would be done with a contractor, say) count that as a separate figure.

Okay, so clearly y'all can't answer this question in detail, but how much did you want/need for fun decor and fixing up money right when you moved in? I'd rather spread out my purchases and buy stuff as needed throughout the first year or two, but I know that right after moving in I'm going to want to have some fun and make it our own. Does 5k sound reasonable?

Bonus question, I've accounted for a down payment, 6 months of living expenses (not just mortgage, the whole shebang), Uhaul rental, and 3k for closing costs on an approximately 120k house. Anything else I'm not thinking of?

My budget and I thank you.
posted by ohsnapdragon to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
5k sounds like a lot; You're going to need paint, supplies, and curtains upfront. Everything else, you'll want to wait until you settle in and see how you're really using the spaces. My immediate move-in budget was around $300.

Also, take that UHaul rental out of your budget and replace it with professional movers. Really.
posted by coryinabox at 10:53 AM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

How much furniture do you own, will you need? Do you need a lawn mower, hedge shears, snow shovel, regular shovel, rake, other outdoor tools? These were our big changes when moving from a condo to a house. Our lawn hadn't been mowed in weeks so the lawnmower was actually one of the first purchases. $5k doesn't sound unreasonable to me, but you will probably find that you can get by with less, but the sky is the limit. Home Depot will probably send you a nice coupon for some decent percentage off one shopping spree. Don't spend it the first weekend.
posted by caddis at 11:03 AM on September 27, 2011

We probably spent about $1000 right when we moved in, on paint, a lawnmower, some garden tools, curtains, carbon monoxide detector, new light fixture for the bathroom, etc., plus we needed to buy a fridge (all of the other appliances were included). We didn't need to buy any furniture because we had the basics already, and will furnish the extra bedrooms when we need them. We were gifted with a great set of power tools and hand tools, but if you don't have them, definitely budget a couple hundred dollars for that.
posted by Safiya at 11:05 AM on September 27, 2011

Response by poster: We have some furniture but it's all kind of meh and mismatched, and hey it's our first house! So we will probably be buying a new-to-us bed frame, couch, living room chairs, kitchen set, dressers, etc. This is mainly why I feel I'll need more than the few hundred for paint, curtains, etc.

The yard care stuff sounds so unexciting to me so I'm really leaning towards getting what I need for gardening and hiring a service for the rest.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 11:13 AM on September 27, 2011

I would say $1000-$1500 or so. Try to negotiate the appliances into the contract if you can -- even if they aren't in the listed as going with the house. Everything is negotiable! You could even see if the seller would leave you the mower and window treatments. You can also ask for cash back at closing. We sold our 2-bedroom, 1000 square foot house for 150k and gave the seller 1k back ... which she then used to make her own improvements.
posted by Ostara at 11:14 AM on September 27, 2011

I have purchased a few new construction homes and even then, I ended up spending about $5K+, but I think it is really a preference thing. Do you want to paint, put down new floors, what kind of flooring, shades for the windows, new locks, weather stripping for the windows, storm doors, weather stripping for the doors, silicone for the windows, doors, kitchen, bathroom(s), new toilet seats, shower curtains, so many things!

I would suggest what you think you would want to change, replace or add when you look at houses. The list should be of things that you would change/add/replace regardless of what the condition of the house is. Go online to Lowes or Home Depot or the home improvement store is in your area, create a shopping list and plug in all of the items you would need to update your home. From there, you can get a rough estimate of what you will end up spending.

I would suggest that you don't buy new furniture until you are moved in unless you are completely throwing away all of the furniture that you presently have. You may change your mind on what you would like or want when you look around for a few days.

Please hire movers. You will be very happy you did. It isn't worth moving things yourself. They pack and move so much faster and better than you can ever imagine. We hired movers and they did everything in less than two hours. Ruin your back with the unpacking!

OH! One more thing! Usually, there are housewarming packages from the local post office when you move into a new neighborhood. The package will have all sorts of coupons and things for home improvement and furniture stores so get that before you go out and buy things. You will love that you can save 10% of your paint purchase or whatever else!

Happy house hunting!!
posted by Yellow at 11:14 AM on September 27, 2011

We've lived in our hose a while and are just now getting around to replacing the window coverings that came with the house. Holy cow that stuff is expensive. Hundreds of dollars for a single bedroom. I don't want to think about the living room. Leave yourself all kinds of room in your budget for that.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:25 AM on September 27, 2011

No, we never lived in our hose, silly. We moved directly into our house.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:26 AM on September 27, 2011

It may help people to know where the house is. Different people have different expectations about how much stuff costs due to regional variations in cost of living, etc. Hard to say whether $5,000 is an appropriate amount.

To me, it sounds rather low, but then I live in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the US.
posted by dfriedman at 11:28 AM on September 27, 2011

Without being flippant, whatever we budgeted was not enough. There were so many things we just never considered. Barbecue, lawn mower, new vaccuum, etc. The little things add up. Going to Bed, Bath and Beyond to get soap dishes and crap for the 2.5 baths cost more than I was ready for.

Having said that, it sounds as if you are being conservative so you will be ok. Also, know that prices today may be less than they are two years from now.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:29 AM on September 27, 2011

Watch out for the things you can't plan for. I was hit with a very unwelcome £1000 of surprise expenses when I moved into my first house, ten years ago. The carpets were infested with cat fleas, and rather than live with fleas for months ("Oh," the council exterminator said airily, "this spray will kill the adults, but it won't touch the eggs, and your hoover won't get them either, so you'll definitely have another wave of adults when you put the heating on in the autumn...") I replaced all the carpets. That solved the problem, though carpet tiles were all I could afford. Then, less than a month after I'd moved in, there was a gale, and a very heavy fence fell down across my elderly neighbour's drive. Turned out the posts had rotted through. I wasn't equipped to fix it myself (couldn't even lift it!) so I had to get someone in to do it.

Initial expenses that I'd expected included tools, bookshelves, a replacement light fitting, lightbulbs, paint, a replacement toilet seat, a washing machine, a table and chairs, a fridge-freezer and a roller blind. I used old curtains that my parents had finished with instead of buying new ones, and borrowed other furniture (and garden tools) from friends and family. Some of the other planned expenses (furniture, mostly) had to be set aside for some months while I saved up that £1000 again.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 11:31 AM on September 27, 2011

replacing the window coverings that came with the house. Holy cow that stuff is expensive. Hundreds of dollars for a single bedroom. I don't want to think about the living room. Leave yourself all kinds of room in your budget for that.

Making your own curtains saves you lots of money. And it's easy — they are just big rectangles.

I budgeted nothing for repairs or renos for my first place, which was probably a mistake. Especially when upon moving into first place, a condo, I had only a set of bedroom furniture, basic kitchen supplies, and one chair. I used to invite my guests to "have the seat". But I got by, though my apartment looked bare for awhile. When I moved into my house, I had quite a bit of money to spend (nearly 10k), and it hardly seemed to go anywhere. But then my place neeed so muhch work.
posted by orange swan at 11:39 AM on September 27, 2011

5k sounds reasonable. One of the things that you probably won't have include tools; you will need to buy some basics (a GOOD drill driver set, hammer, screwdrivers, plumbing wrenches, yard tools, etc.) because you can no longer call maintenance and have them fish your earring out of the U-bend of your sink. (Ask my girlfriend how she knows.)

Looking back, I spent $3300 at home improvement stores in the first month of owning my house. However, I already had about half of the tools I needed. That did include an extension ladder and a $400 lawn mower. Since purchasing the house almost two years ago, I've spent $30,000 in materials, tools, and labor, but that included several new windows, re-siding, and gutting the main part of the house down to the studs. I DIY almost everything.

One of the things I would suggest you do before you move in is paint the bedroom you will be sleeping in, the bathroom you will primarily be using, and the inside of all of the closets on all surfaces. I'm not kidding about the closets; I would use plain white eggshell paint that's of a good quality (Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, etc.). It seals in the smells left by any previous occupants and all their dust and stuff. I would also suggest, if possible, replacing the shutoff valves on plumbing (under sinks, etc.) and all of the supply hoses (to toilets, etc.) if they aren't stainless steel braided or if they are older.

If you would like, I am not a home inspector, but I'm an experienced renovator -- feel free to MeFi mail me with other questions. I'm willing to look at pictures and help you identify problem areas before you move in.
posted by SpecialK at 11:43 AM on September 27, 2011

Hardwood floors: If you need work done, do that before you move in.

Painting, not so much, unless it's beyond ugly. I like to see how the light plays in a room with my stuff in it before making a paint commitment, even though I know people usually tell you to paint while it's empty.

If you have to buy your own fridge, don't cheap out. Noisy refrigerators are hell.
posted by sageleaf at 11:48 AM on September 27, 2011

My house didn't need any work except that we wanted to redo the interior paint in 2 rooms. According to my amex bill: $757 home depot; $353 crate and barrel; $287 best buy; $247 target, $120 restoration hardware; $105 apple store; and <100 each at ikea, radio shack; amazon. We didn't get any additional furniture or yard tools. Ymmv.
posted by moammargaret at 11:51 AM on September 27, 2011

I'd say you'll probably need $1500 right up front, and will use the rest of that $5000 budget (and more) within the next few years.

I'm excluding the repairs/upgrade and insulating we did when I say we spent $1000-1500 on immediate stuff. Paint. Tools. Curtain rods (curtains are expensive but easy to make; curtain rods are harder to work around). Cabinet organization doohickeys. A weedeater. Not much furniture, we postponed that.

Within the next 1.5-2 years, we bought a 2nd hand dining room set, replaced our ratty old sofa, got a futon for the guest bedroom, repainted the stairwell (didn't bother to do it before we moved the furniture) established a raised-bed garden, planted shrubs, bought a grill and various other "niceties", easily added up to another $4000. We also discovered the chimney was in trouble, did some structural reinforcement in the besement and attic, and replaced the washing machine when it broke, at about $1200 each (oh, look, $3600! whee!)

In short, $5000 is more than you need for the first 3 months, but barely enough to get everything completely (cosmetically) settled, which might take you quite a bit longer. You sound like you're already living a comfortable apartment lifestyle, so I'd recommend not replacing things just because it sounds fun to "upgrade", but only buy what you immediately need, or what is much easier to do sooner than later (i.e. replace flooring, paint walls). Let the furniture questions wait until you've been living in the house for a while, and know what you really want. Not just "real adult couples who have houses have matching dressers" or "I've always wanted a leather sofa and now we will buy one for our new house," but "I think our old white sofa is a little too squat for the space and a little too light-colored now that we've painted, and it would be nice to get something with smaller arm-rests so it won't block the window, but I sprawl here with my iPad all the time so I want something cozy. Let's shop for a tuxedo-style 6-foot taupe leather sofa." Be patient.
posted by aimedwander at 11:52 AM on September 27, 2011

I personally would try to budget to re-do the floors before you move in. Not doing ours is probably my biggest regret with my house. Laying floors is a real pain in the ass once you've moved your furniture in, so if you can get it out of the way up-front, it will make things much much easier in the long run.

Not sure as to actual amount, but my husband and I had about $15k ready when we bought our house, and ended up spending all of it. A very large chunk of that went to paving our quarter-mile driveway and buying new kitchen appliances, though, so I think you should probably be fine.

Mostly, I would just make sure that whatever you budget, you keep some extra after you've moved in and gotten settled; you never know when something may need to be repaired right away (e.g. a water heater needing to be replaced), and it's good to have the money on hand when it happens.

On preview, seconding what aimedwander says about living in the space for a bit before making any major furniture decisions if you can.
posted by ashirys at 12:08 PM on September 27, 2011

I spent around $1000 for paint, some new furniture, locks, a few other things I can't remember. it all depends on how you approach things, if you are a thrift store/DIY sort of person, then you won't need much more than that. it's good to figure out ahead of time what you don't like about the place, and then divide that list into 2 categories

1 - things that have to change before I spend one goddamn minute in that place (pink bedroom with hot pink trim? oh hell no)

2 - things that you can live with for a bit - it's often really good to live in a place for a while before doing big changes - you will get a much better sense of how a house works and how it can be improved to suit you.

that being said, budgeting in $5000 is still a great idea, so you have some funds ready in case items from categoiry 2 suddenly become 1's, or for unexpected repairs
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:15 PM on September 27, 2011

We budgeted a whole lot more, but knew we were into some big-ticket items like a new bed and bed frame, chairs, sofa, and a bunch of bookcases to replace the old ones that were on their last legs. That budget also included money to turn the formal dining room into a media room, which involved getting an electrician to run a cable outlet, ethernet outlet (our house came pre-wired for ethernet everywhere but that room), surround-sound wires, and to install a ceiling fan.

We also budgeted for an exterminator to come through before we moved in and treat the house and yard -- we'd been battling roaches and fleas (the latter brought in by squirrels in the attic) in the rental we had and we wanted anything that came over in our stuff to meet flaming chemical death.

We haven't spent all the money we budgeted yet, but it's so nice to know that when we finally decide to buckle down and buy (for example) new blinds to replace the dog-chewed ones in the media room that came with the house, we've got the money already there.
posted by telophase at 1:56 PM on September 27, 2011

Any house should be in swept-clean, move-in condition, and if not, this should be part of the price. You'll usually need lightbulbs, tp, cleaning supplies, brooms, rake, ladder. If you don't have tools, you'll need a cordless screwdriver, and a well-outfitted toolbox. You can budget 1,000 to start.

The rest depends on the house. It might have pretty fresh paint in colors you like, hardwood floors in good condition, and mini-blinds in every window facing the street or a neighbor. Great. Or, it might need a complete paint job in every room, new carpet, and have a lot of big windows with no coverings. It might have a gas furnace in good shape that doesn't need maintenance, or need heating oil, and a furnace cleaning. They may leave behind nice curtain rods, or pull them out when they leave.

Get a fierce house inspector who will detail everything the house needs. Everybody will inspect the roof, but a great inspector will check the gutters. Gutter cleaning cost = $X. That cracked window in the 2nd bedroom will cost $X to repair. Furnace needs a tuneup, etc. For any house you seriously consider, assess the extra expenses to repair absolutely everything. I bought my house knowing that it needed a new bathroom immediately and a complete new kitchen within the next several years, and I budgeted accordingly. Because of the inspector, I got the seller to fix window flashing, a rotten door sill and some minor repairs.

If the house has a washer, dryer, fridge, stove, etc., in good working condition, request that the sellers leave them in place, as well as any window coverings or fittings.

There's usually a hidden budget item - prepaid interest. Mortgages are paid in arrears, that is, you pay the monthly mortgage payment for the previous month. So, in closing costs, you pay interest for the current month. A closing date early in the month will be more expensive that later in the month, because there's more interest. Then, your 1st month in the house, there's no mortgage payment. That really helped a lot when we bought our 1st house.
posted by theora55 at 2:33 PM on September 27, 2011

Depending on how much you need to do, $5K sounds reasonable to me.

In the first 3 months of buying my 3 bdrm 1 bath house, I spent $3800 on household stuff. I did a big Lowe's shopping spree for stuff (tools, ladder, all the yard stuff including a mower and edger). I painted all of the walls (except the kitchen) and ceilings in the house -- definitely do the biggest rooms before you move in if at all possible. I brought ceiling fans for the bedrooms and curtains for all of the windows (but no blinds). I changed the locks on both doors and had my dad put in a peep hole for the front door. I brought some large indoor plants at that point. I only brought two pieces of furniture (a kitchen table and a used recliner), no appliances, and did no renovations (though my bathroom and the fence need it).

I spent $150 the first spring on outdoor plants and $950 total over the past 3 years on lawn stuff. After 2 years of mowing, I now pay a guy to do it and think it's money well spent.
posted by bluesapphires at 7:32 PM on September 27, 2011

It all depends on what you're comfortable with and how your new place is set up. The first place I bought I didn't change anything. It was a condo and pretty comfortable. I invested in a masonry drill bit to put some bookshelves on my exposed brick wall, my boyfriend at the time painted my bedroom for me and it was good.

My second place was kind of a mess. My boyfriend at the time ripped up all the carpets and actually ran the floor sander through the entire upstairs and we varnished it all together. My grandmother bought me a new boiler so that I would have heat. The whole time I was there I wished that I had the money to put a pellet stove on the tile platform in the corner of my living room.

My current place, before I moved in I paid about $3K for a full paint job and carpet. However, I'm in a studio now, so YMMV. I'd love to get a new refrigerator at some point, but I don't have family and such right now who are willing to buy stuff for me - it might take me some time. In the meantime, I'm going to buy a new kitchen faucet and a duvet cover since they're more crucial.

The moral of this story is figure out what your priorities are for any given house and any given improvement. Do you have friends or family who can help you with bits and pieces? What is your comfort level with doing work or maintenance yourself?

Also, consider the fact that if you have a garage you may want to start buying tools - I know I wish I could do that.

Overall I love that your budget is so complete that you're even including money for your landscaping and a lawnmower. You are way more prepared for home-ownership than most first time homebuyers. Best of luck.
posted by bendy at 11:35 PM on September 27, 2011

In our first house ten years ago, we never went to The Home Despot and spent less than a hndred bucks -- whatever the purpose of the visit -- for a full year. Major capital expenses (roof, siding, deck, floor refinishing) followed once a year for a a while.

When we moved again a year ago, we did a LOT of spreadsheet work to figure out what we could afford. When those weeks of planning were done, we took another ten grand off the table so that that, once we moved in, we could deal with surprises that we and the home inspector missed.

We haven't yet found any major trouble spots, but that extra money has meant we could upgrade the faucets & toilets without batting an eye (financially), and that we were able to replace the grotty bedroom carpets with hardwoods when we learned it would help one of the kids' allergies. We also knew we didn't have enough furniture for the rooms we were buying, and we are planning to spnd an unknown quantity on new furniture (as well as replacing some of the old stuff).

tl;dr is how much money? MORE money
posted by wenestvedt at 5:36 AM on September 28, 2011

We just bought a place, and in the first three months we bought paint (to repaint the whole interior = around $800 for both paint and supplies like dropsheets, brushes, etc); flooring (high end laminate) to replace the carpet in four rooms = $2500; rugs = $400; a sofa = $1000 and a bed = $700 including the mattress. We will probably buy some new plants for the garden now that spring has come around, and we'll need a new washing machine soon. We spent $400 on unexpected repairs (heating and dishwasher) right after moving in too.
posted by lollusc at 8:18 AM on September 28, 2011

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