Moving into a new home can be overwhelming, especially for a first-time home buyer. Luckily professional home buyer coaches don’t stop helping once the home purchase process is complete; we’re here to help with tips and advice to make the home owning process go smoothly too.
There are lots of things you probably already took care of when you moved in:
- Switched utilities
- Changed the locks
- Located your gas & water valves and fuse boxes
- Cleaning and organizing
This initial move-in step is a lot of work, but there’s plenty more to think about going forward.
After you’re done moving in, there are some long-term things you need to think about right now before you get overwhelmed with ongoing homeownership responsibilities. Make a checklist so you can stay organized while you accomplish the following:
- Make and review this to-do list. We’re talking about your personal version of this very list. Create a version tailored to your situation, and do this step first, so you know all of the top priorities before you get started. We’re suggesting this because during step 2, you might be able to get a lot of help with items lower down on the list.
- Meet the neighbors. As you introduce yourself and say hello to your new neighbors, you may be able to get good recommendations from them for various services and other things on your list. If you have no idea how to start on one of the items on this list, ask one of your new neighbors if they can suggest anything. One way to meet your neighborhood online is by using Nextdoor.com. If your neighborhood is established on that site, you’ll be able to quickly get up to speed on who all of your neighbors are.
- Finish changing addresses. You probably already changed your address with the post office and the obvious companies you do business with, like your credit card companies. But how many other subscriptions do you have where you need to update your mailing address? Look through your credit/debit card statement and see what monthly bills you have coming out—think Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, etc. All of these companies have an address on file for you that needs to be updated now. Don’t forget Amazon or other online retailers—make sure any deliveries you’re waiting on haven’t been sent to the old address. You should also update your home address with the IRS and Social Security Administration.
- Update your voter registration. You need to get this done now, so you don’t end up missing your chance to vote in a primary or other election. It can take up to a month for your registration to be complete, so don’t wait until the week before the next election. Every state is different, so start at https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote to learn more.
- List your municipal services. Come up with a master list of all of the local emergency and utility services you might need:
- Animal control
- Local police (911, obviously, but also list their non-emergency number—which may be 311)
- Local fire department
- Water company
- Gas company
- Power company
- City public works department
- FEMA/Local emergency management department
- Sheriff and Highway patrol (#77 from some mobile phones)
- Poison Control
- Public Health Department
- Local Hospitals
- Red Cross
When there is a natural disaster or the power is out, don’t count on being able to look up these numbers easily. Gather it all now, in one place, so if you have a problem later you can quickly pull up the correct number.
In addition to city services and utilities, list any other service providers you might need to reach urgently:
- Emergency Vet
- Tow truck service or AAA
- Alarm/security company
- Pest Control
- Internet provider
- Find new service providers. You may need a new doctor, dentist, veterinarian… this is a good first question for your new neighbors if you need recommendations. Get a new library card from your local library. If you had a gym membership before you moved, be sure to cancel it if there isn’t a location near your new home. Do this for any monthly subscription services that you don’t have access to at your new location.
- Do some home maintenance. Maintenance and upkeep of your new home is an ongoing process, but there are some good first tasks to do soon after you move in. Start a calendar checklist or reminder that will insure you do these tasks regularly going forward:
- Change furnace and AC filters. Depending on the kind of equipment you have and the kinds of filters they use, you might change them every month or maybe every few months. Go ahead and start with a new filter now so you know exactly when you’ll need to replace it.
- Change batteries in smoke detectors and test your fire extinguishers. These are vital tasks, so get started now and check these regularly (how often will depend on the kind of smoke detectors you use). Include carbon monoxide, radon, or other detectors you might have in this task.
- Check your water heater. Look for any leaks, and check the pressure relief valve. Do this every six months, starting now. Search online how to do this or look for a video on YouTube.
- Clean your refrigerator and AC coils. The condenser for your air conditioner will gather some gunk over time, and is easy to clean with a hose and sprayer nozzle. Also clean the coils on the back of your air conditioner and refrigerator to save money on electricity and extend your appliance’s lifespan. Do this every six months.
- Clean out your gutters. Clogged rain gutters will lead to water infiltration and damage to your home that will cost a lot more money in the long run. Clean out these gutters every Spring to protect your home from water damage.
- Check your plumbing for leaks. Find all of the faucets and water valves in your house and make sure none of them are dripping. Do this at least once per year.
- Clean your dryer lint filter and vent. Your dryer will work extra hard if it’s got a clogged filter or vent, which will increase your energy cost and shorten the life of the appliance. Clean out your lint filter thoroughly—rinse it out with running water—and ensure the vent hose and exhaust are clean. Do this at least once per year.
- Upgrade your washer hoses. If your washing machine has rubber hoses connecting it to your water supply, replace those with braided steel hoses that will never burst. It’s worth it to pay extra for a hose now to avoid the water damage that can result from a split or burst hose.
- Test all of your moving parts. Check every doorknob, faucet, window jam, window blind, garage door opener, and every other part in your home that twists, turns or moves. Make sure everything is tight and in good repair, and fix anything that seems loose or wiggles. Make this an annual task to check out all of these mechanical aspects of your home.
- Do some home improvement. Like with home maintenance, improving your home will be an ongoing thing when you have the time and money to do so. But there are lots of good first projects to quickly and easily improve your new home right away:
- Install closet organizers. It’s good to do this now, as you’re moving in. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and will help you get settled in and organized right from the start. A closet organizer system might only take a few hours to install if you do it before you fill up the closet with stuff that has to be moved out of the way.
- Replace your toilet seats. For health and hygiene reasons, it’s a good idea to start with new toilet seats when you move in. Spring for the easily-removed kind and you’ll make cleaning the bathroom easier going forward.
- Paint a room. Another task that’s more easily accomplished when moving in, painting is better if you don’t have to move furniture or take down all of your decorations first.
- Trim & molding. If you’re not experienced with carpentry or woodworking, replacing trim or molding is a good first project. You’ll make simple, straight cuts and attach trim with finishing nails. Crown molding is tricky if you cut angled corners, but using inside corner blocks makes the cut vastly easier, and crown molding is a nice upgrade for a room.
- Refinish kitchen cabinets. New kitchen cabinets are an expensive and difficult installation for a do-it-yourselfer, but if you’ve got old, drab kitchen cabinets, refinish them with a fresh paint job. Choose a bright color to lighten up your kitchen and make one of your most important rooms seem bigger for a fraction of the cost of new cabinets.
- Replace a door. New interior doors can really make a home look updated and they don’t have to be expensive. Figure out what kind of door you’re going to use and just replace them one at a time as you have the extra money and a few hours to do the installation.
- Install a programmable thermostat. This gadget will pay for itself over time with the money it saves you on your heating and cooling bills—and the sooner you install one, the better. Now is a good time to make this upgrade as you move into your new house.
- Update flooring. Replacing the flooring or carpet in room will never be easier than before you fill the house with your belongings. Do one room at a time to make this project manageable and affordable.
- Start budgeting. Now that you’re moved in, you’re probably feeling financially tapped out from closing costs and moving expenses, not to mention utility deposits and last-minute shopping for household goods. Now is a good time to learn about budgeting and start establishing an emergency savings fund. Going forward, you’ll be responsible for any unexpected home maintenance expenses, and it’s crucial that you avoid getting into credit card debt to keep up with your regular home maintenance.
If you’re still working to become a homeowner, then don’t skip first-time home buyer education—it will prepare you for the buying process and give you advice on how to manage being a homeowner after the sale is closed.