Get to know the ins and outs of your new home
With the seemingly endless home-buying checklist behind you and the keys finally in hand, it's time to celebrate becoming a new homeowner. Having a few first-time homebuyer tips up your sleeve can help you get to know your new abode and care for it with ease.
Here are 11 essential pieces of advice to confidently kick off your first year as a homeowner without any expensive surprises.
1. Get to Know Your Homeowner's Insurance
Grab a cup of coffee—from your new kitchen, of course—and peruse your homeowner's insurance plan. While you surely read through it when you signed up for the plan, it's best to iron out any questions now that the home-buying dust has settled.
Jot down any questions or notes about the plan and make an appointment to talk with your insurance agent. They can help you fill in standard gaps such as flood, earthquake, or sewer line insurance based on your home's age and location.
2. Request Local Contractor Recommendations
Get to know your neighbors through homeowner shop talk to break the ice. Word-of-mouth recommendations are an excellent way to back up your local contractor research, particularly for people with similar home styles to yours.
Ask your new neighbors for recommendations for local general contractors, HVAC repair, plumbers, electricians, and specialty services like house cleaning.
3. Create an Inspection Calendar
Now that you have a strong list of local professionals, get on their calendars for necessary annual or semi-annual inspections. Schedule a chimney inspection at least once a year, particularly before lighting the first fire of the season. Annual roof inspections can also protect against costly weather damage, rot, or pests.
Additional inspections to perform once every one to three years includes:
Termites and general pest control
Plumbing and water mainline inspection
Mold and radon inspections
Perform a DIY inspection between professional visits to check for signs of structural issues, energy loss, or electrical issues to know whether you should call in a pro sooner.
4. Prioritize Problem Areas
Even if you don't buy a fixer-upper, there's a chance you're moving in with a list of maintenance tasks to complete on your new home. Start by addressing issues that can worsen with time—or significant use—before they become more expensive to repair. For example, bump up any repairs related to water damage, mold, and pests to the top of your list.
Additionally, taking care of hardwood or tile floor repairs and interior painting is often easiest before your moving date.
5. Become Acquainted with Your Appliances
Say hello to your new-ish fridge, dishwasher, and washer-dryer. There's a solid chance they are not exactly new and no longer under warranty. Unfortunately, most manufactured warranties do not transfer with homeownership, so be sure to double-check this status before you encounter an issue.
Make note of the age of each major appliance, including things like your furnace, AC system, and sprinkler system, so you know how to budget for potential repairs and upgrades.
6. Create a Home Upgrade File
Keep track of the home improvements you make that could potentially improve its overall value. These receipts will come in handy during tax time and if you need to sell or remortgage your home unexpectedly. These home improvement documents are also helpful when you need to reach for your labor or manufactured warranty.
7. Bulk Up Your Maintenance Budget
Home repairs costs can sneak up on you—and it seems like it’s always the most expensive fixes that happen out of the blue. Try to set aside between one to three percent of the value of your home each year for a maintenance budget. This stash of cash will also cover the minor necessities like repainting the bathroom and reseeding the front lawn.
8. Dig into the Dirt
With all this extra time spent on paperwork, maybe it's time to get outside and enjoy your new outdoor space. Make a new gardening plan for the upcoming season, whether you need to winterize your yard or get it ready for spring. Check out what planting zone your home falls in as well as the acidity and quality of your soil.
9. Schedule an Energy Audit
Get off on an eco-conscious foot by ensuring your home uses energy and water as efficiently as possible. Older homes that have outdated insulation, windows, and doors can lead to drafty winters or hot summers. A basic home energy audit will cost about $400, but it offers a clear starting point for new homeowners to upgrade their wiring, HVAC systems, and insulation.
10. Make an HVAC Care Plan
Saving money and energy—and keeping your home cozy—often comes down to some basic DIY HVAC maintenance. As soon as you move into your home, order several backup air filters for your furnace and AC unit. Replacing your filters every one to two months is one of the best ways to cut down on home allergens and keep your system running smoothly.
11. Make an Upgrade Wish List
It may look like you need to get a lot of ducks in a row to move into a new home. But once you’re familiar with the necessities, all the other big decisions fall into place.
Scheduling your inspections, necessary repairs, and annual maintenance means you can finally prioritize your remodeling daydreams. Perhaps you want to modernize the bathroom, turn an extra bedroom into a home office, or create the outdoor kitchen of your dreams. Get these renovation plans on a whiteboard with their approximate budget and timeline and start brainstorming how to show off your personal style in a home that's finally yours.