Just Bought a House? This Realtor Wants You to Tackle a Supereasy Project First
All homeowners can benefit.
Published Oct 21, 2023 1:25 AM
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When real-estate agent Cassidy Iwersen purchased her Fort Worth, Texas, home in the fall of 2021, she started renovations right away. The project was full of firsts: overseeing a major makeover, living in and working on an older space (it was built in 1883), and creating a house book. We know what you’re thinking: She wrote a novel during all this? No, it’s not a “real” book but rather a binder full of essential information about her home and the work she put into it, ranging from permits to paint samples.
Need to write a check for a contractor? House book. A friend asks how much your bathroom reno cost last year? House book. Want to read over your inspection again? You get the picture—it’s in your house book! “I reference it all the time,” says Iwersen. “Some contractors have laughed when they see me pulling things from it and tease me about being organized, but everyone agrees it’s a great idea.” Keep reading to learn why Iwersen thinks every homeowner should make their own.
So…what exactly is a house book?
Put simply, it’s a tool to help keep all your home’s records in one place and, as Iwersen recently shared with her Instagram followers, “streamline your home maintenance and accounting.” It will also help if you ever decide to list your house: You won’t have to sift through years of emails and credit-card statements—or worse, try and rely on your memory—to prove your investment in the value and upkeep of your home.
Iwersen’s preferred way to organize is with a binder, inspired by her days as an editor and event planner. “We would make a binder for a story or for an event as a way to keep all information—inspiration, vendors, receipts—in one portable place,” she says. She is also a fan of stationery brand Mrs. John L. Strong’s House Directory notebook. The book is a tad fancier than a binder (it’s covered in espresso linen), and the intent is to serve as more of a hub for important dates and contact information.
What should go in a house book?
There are basics everyone should include. Documents you receive pre- and post-closing—including your sales contract, inspection reports, and any estimates for work done during the inspection period—should definitely go in the book. From there, compile records of any updates made to your house. We’re talking warranties for new appliances; paint swatches annotated by room; business cards for any vendors who have visited and/or provided estimates or bills; a referral list of subcontractors; and detailed notes of each project: dates, receipts (personal runs to the hardware store count, too!), and total cost.
Iwersen emphasizes the importance of including your information in chronological order—your house book should read like, well, a book. If a stranger picks it up, will they be able to understand everything you’ve done as they flip through from start to finish?
Finally, use this as a place to safely store your spare house key (just in case) and a checkbook. “Some vendors still charge a small percentage fee to use a credit card, which can add up on a large project!” notes Iwersen. She says some of her most organized clients have even provided details like sample utility bills, names of their neighbors, and favorite local restaurants.
Is it really worth all the trouble?
Keeping a house book is mutually beneficial for the homeowner and any potential buyers. If you decide to sell your home, you’ll have something concrete to reference when you get questions like, “So when was the last time you had your roof checked out?” They’ll gain trust as well as a wealth of information. “It will be easy to rattle off all of the improvements (and put years and dollar amounts to them),” notes Iwersen. “Potential buyers will have an appreciation of the maintenance and get the instant impression that [the home] has been well cared for and tended to.”
As far as a house book’s potential to increase your home’s value, “it certainly can’t hurt!” says Iwersen. There are of course many factors that go into determining a list price, but having your binder handy could nudge it up or, at the very least, help the sellers and broker feel confident about that price. “Real estate is emotional! Buyers want to feel good about the price they are paying—and if your Realtor is quickly able to point out all the improvements and upgrades, then buyers feel like they are getting something of value,” says Iwersen. A house book also just might speed up your timeline. “It could potentially encourage buyers to put an offer on it sooner, too, if they feel that there won’t be any major surprises coming during the inspection period,” she adds.
Where should I keep it?
Iwersen stores hers in her kitchen’s built-in desk so it’s easily accessible. If you’re someone who prefers the cloud to a physical file, digitize it! There are pros and cons to both methods, but what’s most important is starting your file and continuing to add to it. When you go to sell, it will create less back-and-forth with your Realtor: “They won’t need to bug you about when something was replaced and if it is under warranty or about the age of the major systems every time a potential buyer inquires,” she says.
When should I make one?
Even if you are many projects deep and years into owning your home, it’s never too late to get organized. You’re going to have to collect records eventually, and chances are you won’t have the time or mental energy when you’re going to sell, especially if you’re in a rush. “You can feel the difference when you tour a home that has been cared for versus one that feels a bit neglected,” says Iwersen. Create your house book to back up that feeling.