12 Things New Homeowners Should Do ASAP
There’s nothing quite like that feeling when you walk into your first home for the first time as a new homeowner. You’ve probably been planning all the things you’re going to do as soon as you move in—paint the walls, change up the window treatments, buy the perfect furniture for your new living room.
But before you jump into those exciting projects, there are a few things you should do before you tackle anything else to develop good homeowner habits and spare yourself some heartache later on.
These are the tasks you should do as soon as you close, preferably before you even move your stuff into your new home, to protect your family and belongings.
1. Change the locks on exterior doors; you have no idea how many key copies the old owner passed out to family, friends, and/or dog walkers. Don’t go with the cheapest deadbolt you can find—a cordless drill can disable most locks in about a minute.
Consider upgrading to a keypad-operated lock or smart lock if you have contractors or service people who need access to your home; you can create temporary access codes that can be deleted later and avoid handing out copies of your keys. Check the doorframe, door, and strike plates while you’re at it, and reinforce any weak points. Don’t forget to change key codes for the garage door, if you have one.
2. Check the bulbs in your outdoor security lights. If you have motion-activated lights, do a spot test to make sure they’re working properly. If there are no security lights around the property, consider installing them.
3. Test the smoke detectors and change the batteries if necessary. Set up a system to remind yourself to change them on a regular basis. If your home has carbon monoxide detectors, check them as well—and if it doesn’t, install them.
Know what to do in the event of an emergency
No one wants to think about a home catastrophe, but if you’re prepared, you can usually minimize the damage.
4. Find the water main shut-off valve and make sure you know how to use it. If you have a sprinkler system, make sure you know which valve operates which system. Most homeowners will have a plumbing emergency at least once in their lives and knowing how to shut off the flow can save you thousands in water damage.
Bonus tip: You can easily check for water leaks while you’re working through this list. Check your water meter reading when you enter the home and set an alarm for two hours. Don’t let anyone use any water during this time—no drinks from the faucet, no flushing toilets—and check the meter again when the alarm goes off. It the reading is the same, you’re in good shape. If it’s moved at all, you’ve got a leak.
5. Get familiar with your circuit breaker box. It’s a good idea to test the switches to make sure they’re properly labeled. You’ll need two people to do this, one to trip the fuses and one to check the power in the area or room it should control.
6. If you have gas, you need to find the gas shut-off valve. This is also a good time to familiarize yourself with the pilot lights on your gas appliances such as stoves, furnaces, and water heaters so you know what to do if the pilot light goes out.
7. Write down the contact information for your utility providers, your homeowner’s insurance company, and your home warranty company if you have one. If you have new appliances or other equipment, keep the manuals (with the serial number written inside) with your emergency contacts.
8. Put together an essential homeowner’s toolkit:
- Large and small flashlights, spare batteries
- Crescent wrench
- Claw hammer
- Utility knife
- Cordless drill
- Ladder and/or step stool
Get in the maintenance mindset
Regular maintenance is a habit every homeowner should develop. Besides saving you money on your utilities, your major appliances will last longer—and you may prevent home catastrophes like water damage and fire. Set up a calendar, digital or paper, and make a note of when your maintenance tasks are due.
9. Clean out the dryer hose and exhaust vent, and set a reminder to do it at least once a year. This is an easy way to prevent a common cause of house fires.
10. Change your air filters and set a maintenance schedule for every three months. If you have pets, you might want to increase that to every two months. Not only will your air quality be significantly improved, but you’ll also extend the life of your HVAC unit. While you’re at it, find an HVAC company and schedule your spring and fall maintenance visits.
Set up a system for record-keeping
Homeowners need to save more records and receipts than renters do, so start out right with a system to manage your paperwork. You may want a fireproof home safe, a safety deposit box, or a cloud storage service—or a combination of all three.
11. Collect your closing documents, lender contact information, insurance documents, property survey, inspection report, and any HOA or condo/co-op paperwork and store them securely. If you’re buying a safe, you might want to get one large enough for your personal permanent records, as well (birth certificate, marriage certificate, passport, tax returns, etc.) Talk to your tax accountant to find out what receipts and records you’ll need to save for tax purposes, as well.
12. Update your budget to reflect your new expenses; set up savings for home maintenance and repairs. If you’re the occasionally forgetful sort, automate your mortgage and utility bills so you don’t rack up late fees. Decide on a system to store purchase, repair, and maintenance receipts related to your home.