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Congratulations! You've signed the closing documents and now you're a homeowner. However, the job is not done. There are still a few steps you need to take to protect your investment and make it the perfect home for you.
Table of Contents
Step 1: Check The Inspection Report
Prior to closing, you should have received a report from an inspector to make you aware of any major problems with the home, the status of appliances and other important information.
It's nice to have your home in proper condition when you move in, so if the inspector saw the need for any major repairs or purchases, you'll want to get those out of the way first. You don't want to spend the first week in your home taking cold showers because you haven't replaced the broken water heater yet.
Step 1A: Consider A Home Warranty
Depending on the state of your finances and your new home, you may want to consider purchasing a home warranty. These warranties cover the cost of major repairs and expenses if appliances or systems in your new home fail.
It's best to follow these general rules:
- Don't get a home warranty if you have an emergency fund for major repairs. The $400-$750+ a year for the home warranty will cost you more over time than the cost for repairs.
- Get a home warranty if you don't have money left over for major repairs and/or if the appliances are 15-20 years old and more likely to go soon. If you don't have an emergency fund, try to build up a few thousand in savings to save on the yearly home warranty expense.
Step 2: Start Utilities
Next, you should set up your utilities:
- Electricity – Call the electric utility provider for your area.
- Natural Gas (if applicable) – Call the natural gas utility provider for your area.
- Internet, TV & Home Phone – There may be more than one provider in your area, so be sure to compare prices and bundles.
You should also check to see if your state and utility offer Energy Choice. This lets you compare electric rates and save on your electric bills by switching electricity providers. Energy Choice also gives you the option to source your electricity from renewable energy.
If you want to see plans available in your area, enter your ZIP Code above.
Step 3: Painting
If you like the walls in your new home, you can skip this step. But for those that do want to paint, you should decide which colors you want for each room, then paint them yourself or hire a professional to do it.
It's best to complete this step prior to moving in so you don't have to worry about your stuff getting in the way.
Step 4: Deep Clean
Don't expect your new home to be spotless. Before you move your stuff in, check to see if your place could benefit from a deep clean.
You can do this yourself, or hire a professional to do it, but here are some of the things you should consider cleaning:
- Carpets – Vacuum carpets. It's best to use a vacuum that can utilize carpet cleaning solution to really get that deep clean. If you don't have one, you can rent, or you can hire professional carpet cleaners.
- Hard Floors – Sweep and mop hard floors.
- Countertops, Sinks, Toilets & Showers – Wipe down and clean using appropriate cleaning solution for the material.
- Garage – Sweep floors and dust.
- Dryer Vent – Pull and vacuum lint out of dryer vents. Continue to do this once a year.
- Chimney – It's best to hire a professional to clean your chimney.
After you're done with the inside, clean up outside your home as well. This can include clearing out gutters, power washing your driveway and pulling weeds from your flower beds.
Step 5: Change Your Address
After you move, you'll want to update your address for the following:
- Your Driver's License
- Your Tax Address
- Voter Registration – Check specific rules within your state
- Banking, Investment, and Credit Card Accounts
- Change Your Business Address – If your business address is your home, change your business address through the state and anywhere else you have it listed.
- Online Shopping Accounts
- Delivery-Based Subscriptions
- Doctors Office
You should also update your address with the US Postal Service (USPS) so it can forward mail that was sent to your old address to your new home.
Step 6: Find Fuse Box And Important Shut-Off Valves
When you get into your new home, you need to learn where your fuse box, main water shut-off valve and main gas shut-off valve are located.
- Main Water Shut-Off – Important to know where the valve is located so you can shut off the water if a pipe bursts or a sink is leaking.
- Circuit/Fuse Box – The hub of your home's electric system. Each circuit breaker should be clearly labeled to show what area of the home it controls.
- Gas Shut-Off – Like the main water shut-off valve, you need to know where your gas shut-off valve is as well in case you need to cut off the supply of natural gas.
The location for all three should be documented in your inspection report.
Step 7: Security & Safety
On top of finding important shut-off valves, there are a few more steps you need to take to ensure your home and the important things in it are safe and secure.
- Change Your Locks – Change your locks so you can be sure you're the only person that has access to your home.
- Change Your Garage Code (if applicable) – Google the garage keypad model to see how you can change the code on the device.
- Check Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors – Change the batteries and test each of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Set Up A Security System – Optional, but it's not a bad idea to set up a security system to alert you to break-ins while you're home or gone.
- Purchase A Fireproof Safe – Keep passports, social security cards and other important/sensitive information in a fireproof safe. The average house fire burns at 1,100, so be sure to purchase a safe that can withstand those temperatures for an extended period of time.
- Purchase Emergency Supplies – It's important to have a few days of necessities for you and your family in the event of an emergency or disaster.
Step 8: Create A Maintenance Schedule
To prevent major failures, damage, or breakdowns of anything on your property, you need to take steps to maintain your home and its equipment. The easiest way to ensure you don't fall behind on your maintenance is to create a schedule and stick to it.
Since every home is different, you should take note of all the equipment and appliances in your home, then look up what you should do to regularly maintain it. Here's some maintenance most will need to adhere to:
- HVAC System – Change HVAC filter every month to every two months (may vary by type of filter). Have a professional come out and service your HVAC system once a year.
- Dryer Vent – Clean out the dryer vent once a year. Failure to do this can increase your fire risk.
- Gutters – Clean out your gutters at least once every fall. In the winter, look for ice dams and get rid of them. Failure to do this can result in damage to your home's roofing, insulation and foundation.
- Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors – Change batteries in these devices every 6 months, or by the recommended interval on the device.
- Water Heater – Once a year, test your hot water tank's pressure-relief valve and drain sediment build-up from the tank.
If you have any of the following, you should look up its recommended maintenance and add it to your schedule:
- Sump pump
- Septic Tank
- Hot Tub
Step 9: Create An Emergency Fund
Following a maintenance schedule lowers your risk of unnecessary expenses. But unfortunately, even with perfect maintenance, it's only a matter of time until something expensive breaks. An emergency fund makes sure this event doesn't break the bank as well.
General advice for an emergency fund is that it should cover 6 months of expenses for your household. This money should be in a high-yield savings account so you can withdrawal funds quickly at any time, but still collect a bit of interest.
For most, it will take some time to build up an emergency fund that covers 6 months of expenses. But even a small emergency fund is better than nothing, so try to regularly put aside some money every month. It adds up over time.