A Fully Unqualified Guide to College House Ownership

by Carter Francis

This previous Sunday I found myself in a rather unique position as a college student.  Truth be told, it was not too unique of a position for me: I found myself in Lowes purchasing a gas stove.  Just another in a line of exciting college purchases such as a sink, toilet, bathtub, and a roof.  Moral of the story, get a good landlord!  Mine sucks.

Of course, my landlord is also myself…francis

I am the second child in my family to attend Iowa State; my brother is three years older, and buying a house was his idea. I still don’t know if I should thank him or not.  I’ll spare you the details, but a 50-year-old house that has had college kids living in it since its creation is lucky if it hasn’t been burned to the ground.  My grandparents fronted the money for the down payment and the rent from the other tenants helps pay the mortgage. Financially, the move was rather savvy.  Between the two of us, my brother and I will have lived six years without paying rent, house prices in Ames are surprisingly reasonable, and we are gaining equity on the house.  I am by no means suggesting that other people or families follow in our tracks; it is not for the faint of heart.  I digress, however, the true purpose of this article is to extol the great skills and wisdom that I have proudly won through the trials of college house ownership.

I should remind you that my landlord sucks.  Here is a list of all the stuff that went wrong (so far).

  • Sink handle gets broken, water everywhere
  • Toilets leaking (number of seals replaced – 3, toilets replaced – 1)
  • Raining indoor due to leaky roofs (Roofs replaced – 2, Garage and House)
  • Trees Fallen – 2
  • Sagging ceilings replaced – 2
  • Tub Surrounds put in – 2
  • Light fixtures replaced – 6
  • Pickup beds full of stuff taken to the dump – 6
  • Mice caught in the house – 4 (I think we are free)
  • Chipmunks in the house (2)

Living in a house is different from an apartment: you have more responsibility, more things can and will go wrong, but if you are renting (or maybe even buying) a house it will be a college memory you won’t forget.

Random tips from Carter-

  • If you have to fix something, look online, call someone handy, and GO INTO THE STORE – Talk to the people working at the store.  With a little background knowledge, you can find true enlightenment.  After a few good questions, and you will be directed to the expert on your current problem.  Don’t be fooled by age, if you are directed to an expert their advice is almost always gold.
  • Go into the hardware store and talk to the workers – Just do it…
  • Fix things yourself – The secret of handy people is that all of them have hit their hand with a hammer, built a lopsided table and done something stupid like not turned the electricity off while doing electrical work (TURN THE ELECTRICITY OFF WHILE REPLACING ANYTHNG EXCEPT MAYBE A LIGHT BULB).
  • Be Safe – Get a dust mask, learn how to use power tools. Be careful, have a friend around and ask for help.
  • Don’t be (too) afraid to break anything – If something is already broken, you can’t make it worse, look online, ask around, just try and fix it.
  • Nothing is hard with the right tool – Humans are not the strongest, fastest, we have no claws or sharp teeth…but we have tools.  Don’t try and remove a screw with a hammer, look at the internet.  Steel wool stops mice as they can’t chew through it, baking soda and a bleach water mixture will remove mold, heat guns help to remove paint, the proper saw goes a long way…

This goes for almost everything in life.  If you get frustrated, stop, think, ask for help, figure out a new way to solve your problems.

In all honesty, these tips really have no application for the average college kid.  But then again, if you don’t try and build something not to code or rig an elaborate system to open a fridge from your couch are you really a college kid?

I do not recommend building something not to code.


One comment on “A Fully Unqualified Guide to College House Ownership

  1. Taylor Francis says:

    Someone doesn’t sound as greatful to their wonderful older brother as they ought to.

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