How to Overcome These 5 Worst Homeownership Fears

Buying a home is a big step that, in many cases, will bring you years of happiness. But there's also a long list of things that can go wrong when you buy a house.

My husband and I bought our first home in the bliss of complete ignorance. We didn't even know enough to be afraid, but we should have. A little healthy fear of potential problems can help you prepare so you can avoid them. Here are ways to overcome five legitimate homeownership fears by employing some preventive action.

1. Pests

In my home-living experience, I have dealt with fleas, mice, ants, spiders, ladybugs, and moles. Oh, also termites. Those are the ones I know about, anyway.

Dealing with pests is a big fear for potential homeowners, and I get it. Pests are gross and invasive and make you feel dirty. They can also make you sick. You don't want them around.

There are two great facts about pests, however. First, dealing with pests, even at an infestation level, is doable and not necessarily expensive. And second, a thorough inspection before buying a home will ensure that you're not moving into something already infested.

Mind you, your standard pre-closing house inspection won't necessarily alert you to pest issues. You'll need to hire a pest control specialist to do a thorough inspection before you close on a home.

Dealing with pests when you're already in a home is unpleasant, but not impossible. You can use any of the many available DIY pest solutions or call a professional exterminator. A regular pest control service (you can sign up for a monthly plan) will keep most pests at bay and alert you to potential issues.

2. Water damage

First things first: Water issues can be a big problem. You want to know if the house you're about to purchase has any now, has had any in the past, or potentially might have more in the future. Your inspector is your friend. If you notice any telltale signs of water damage, ask the listing agent outright for all the facts. And ask the home inspector to pay close attention to those areas.

Most water damage can be prevented with a few smart moves.

Avoiding burst pipes

Winterize all your outdoor faucets to avoid the pain of a burst pipe. Buy an insulated faucet cover (less than $10) on Amazon or at any hardware store. Put it on your outdoor spigot (takes five minutes, tops). Take it off when warm weather returns.

Avoiding clogged pipes

If you have small children, or even adults with long hair, a clogged pipe is likely to happen. Purchase a drain snake and you can deal with most clogged pipes yourself. If it's something a little more serious (we had tree root issues), it can cost between $100 and $200 to have a nice person with a long, rotary, motorized drain cleaner come out and fix the clog.

When you move into a home, find a nearby plumber. Ask the neighbors for a recommendation if you're new to the area. Ask the plumber the cost to do a thorough inspection of the plumbing in the house. A plumber can let you know where clogs are likely to occur and whether there is any old or worn-out plumbing that should be replaced.

Avoiding a flooded basement

Handling a flooded basement is, as with most house issues, not a lot of fun. But it's not the end of the world, either. The best news is that most flooding can be prevented by having well-maintained gutters, a sump pump, and landscaping that directs the flow of water away from your house.

3. Mold

Mold is a scary thing when you're buying a home. Mold often grows where you don't see it, and it can make you very sick. But although mold is gross, it is easy to detect and simple to eliminate.

Most states require any known mold issues, past or present, to be included on the seller's disclosure. Mold is a potential issue for a house that is in a humid environment or that has had water issues in the past. If your potential home fits that description, and there's no mention of mold on the seller's disclosure, consider a specialized inspection. A mold inspection typically costs under $1,000 and can give you great peace of mind.

If the inspection turns up evidence of mold, get an estimate on mold remediation and negotiate with the sellers.

4. Fires

The thought of a fire is terrifying for many homeowners. The good news is you can lessen the probability of a fire by staying on top of a few important things.

Review the house inspection for any issues with wiring or electrical fixtures. Negotiate to have these issues fixed or to have the cost of the repairs taken off the price. Keep smoke detectors installed and test them monthly. (You'll want to have carbon monoxide detectors installed, as well.) Other common-sense fire safety tips include being smart about how you use space heaters, electrical cords, and heat lamps, as well as regularly having your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, your dryer vents, and your chimneys cleaned.

5. Floods

If you live near a large body of water, you may be in a flood zone. Find out when floods have happened in your area and how big they have gotten. This will tell you how often flooding is a problem and how likely a flood is to reach your home. (Start your search online, and, for more detailed information, follow up with your local City Works department.) You can prevent many flooding issues with the same practices that keep your plumbing in shape: a good inspection, a good plumber, good maintenance, and good landscaping.

Homeownership can be intimidating, but many disasters are preventable to a certain degree. Preparation and awareness are key in handling anything that comes your way.

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How to Overcome These 5 Worst Homeownership Fears

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