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A year ago, they invited me out to breakfast. Over sticky sweet pancakes, they announced that they were ready to start house hunting. For many years now, they had heard me preach process and preparation. They had been patient, they were now prepared and it was time to set the process in motion. Anniversaries are good times to take stock, and so I asked what might be helpful for those considering first-time home ownership.

• They are glad they kept purchase price and home size modest. Margins make for good living.

• Household management, maintenance and budgets have learning curves.

• Houses and yards require maintenance. Maintenance is not optional, and it is usually more than expected.

• Learn when to just call the handyman.

• Learn when to just do it yourself.

• A two-stall garage is an unexpectedly nice thing to have.

• Improvements are optional but also can be more expensive than expected.

• Paint, carpet and window treatments pack a big bang for a relatively small buck.

• Painting time is a great time to have great friends.

• Low-dollar curb appeal touches: new mail box, house numbers and planters make a big difference.

• Learn how to maintain your yard.

• Learn when to call a lawn care company.

• Save dollars by borrowing seldom-used tools.

• Meet your neighbors; walking a dog helps. Good neighbors matter.

• Buy stock in a leaf and lawn bag company. You never, ever have enough.

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• Buy shovels and rakes. One is not enough.

• Also, buy a wheelbarrow.

• Because 10,000 pounds of pea gravel is a very big pile of gravel.

• It requires a good barrow, a weekend and two strong bodies to move it all.

• Some things you only do once.

• But it makes for a fabulous fire pit to host your family around on a beautiful Thanksgiving weekend.

• Some things are priceless …

… Like an evening enjoying sticky sweet s’mores over that brand-new fire pit in a place they call home sweet home.

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L Magazine editor

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