Buying a house can be very stressful. Fortunately there are lots of people to help you through the closing process. These people provide services critical to closing on your new house and for many, they don't get paid until the closing wraps up.
After the closing, you'll need more help so it's time to start building a new team of home professionals. Here's our checklist with 30 new homeowner tips, to help you during your first year in your new house.
30 New Homeowner Tips to Guide Your First Year
To protect the investment you've made in your house, you need contractors after the closing. You might be able to fix a leaky toilet but there aren't many homeowners qualified to make major roof repairs. One of my most important new homeowner tips is understanding your role. Homeowners must insure repairs are made, but that doesn't mean you have to do them yourself.
When talking about, and to contractors, my preference is to call them home professionals. By respecting them the same way you do accountants, doctors and teachers, they'll return your respect and do a better job for you.
Why am I talking about home professionals? Let me share two stories from the eight years I ran a handyman business. They changed my mind and hopefully, they will show you home important it is to treat people with respect.
One of my handyman technician, John, had a very different experience. After pressure washing a house for several hours, there wasn't enough pressure. John spoke to the homeowner and explained her well couldn't support the washing machine running while he was pressure washing. She ignored this advice so he left rather than do a bad job. John didn't complain about the water problem or lost pay. He was upset though with “no eye contact”, meaning she refused to look him in the eye.
Who do you want on your home maintenance team? Most homeowners are comfortable finding someone to clean their house, mow the lawn and maintain their pool. It's the other home professionals you don't think about until there's some type of emergency. One of our most important new homeowner tips is to find these people before you need them!
- HVAC company is critical to maintain your heating and air conditioning systems. Proactive maintenance will lower fuel costs and extend the life of these systems.
- Plumber is key to problems with water supply inside your house, or where your system connects to the town's water supply.
- Electrician is required for wiring repairs, especially those requiring work to be done at the box.
- Handyman to handle odd jobs you don't have the skills, tools or interest in doing them yourself. It's best to start with a discussion about routine maintenance like gutter cleaning. Once you build a list, you can decide which ones you'll do yourself versus delegate.
- Roofing company as storms can damage roofs overnight, and repairs have to be done quickly.
- Pest control company when there are known bug problems, from ants to termites.
- Locksmith – to change your locks and support you in an emergency. Learn how to find a locksmith.
- Chimney cleaner – to clean the chimney if you're using a wood burning or gas fireplace.
Even when you hire home professionals for most home maintenance and repair projects, it's still good to learn about your home. Here are my favorite homeowner books:
New Homeowner Tips for Year 1 (or Later If You Missed Any)
Once you've got the keys to your new house, you think you can sit back and relax. Wrong!
There's a lot of work involved in moving into your new house and getting settled. It would be nice if your house came with a homeowner's manual explaining all this. But that won't happen unless you buy a new house from a very responsible builder. So our new homeowner tips is meant to guide you through your first year in a new house.
Here are recommendations on what you'll want to do once you're in your new home. Even if you've been in your house for several years, you may find things you missed. Some tasks only need to be done once. Other homeowner tasks should be reviewed every one to two years.
- File a change of address with the post office. Ask about a new resident packet which frequently contains discount coupons to local stores like Lowe's.
- Have your home cleaned before moving furniture into the house. It's also the perfect time to get your carpeting cleaned or floors refinished.
- Paint the ceilings while the coast is clear, as they're the toughest to reach with furniture in the way. This will give you time to pick your wall colors and paint rooms as you decide how you want to decorate.
- Start building your home maintenance team (listed above). You'll want to arrange for services like house cleaning, lawn care, pool cleaning and pest control right away. Then you should make needed repairs, starting with …
- Review your home inspection report and create a punch list of needed repairs. These should be done before you start home improvements and other decorating. Here are priorities to guide your timeline:
- Repairs to keep your family and guests safe.
- Problems that involve water. This includes water penetrating your home from outside and interior leaks.
- Updates that will reduce your energy bills and extend the life of major home systems.
- Research discount programs offered by local utility companies.
- Read your homeowner insurance policy and identify what's not covered and/or caps like a limit of $10,000 for mold. Don't be surprised if you're missing something or have more coverage than you need. Follow-up with your agent to get answers to your questions and insure you have the correct coverage.
- Add contact information to your smart phone for your insurance company, utilities and home maintenance team.
- Change your driver's license and car registration. Check state requirements as you may only have 10 days.
- Confirm your deed has been officially recorded about two weeks after closing.
- Check to see if you're eligible for any property tax discounts. Often known as homesteading, you may find them for primary residence, seniors or even retired military.
- Setup a homeowner budget. Make sure you're saving enough for property taxes and insurance if your bank didn't require them to be put into escrow. You should also set aside money for preventive maintenance and repairs.
- Change your locks. If you're considering smart locks, take time to think through your choices. Consider the multiple devices you want to control remotely, and you'll save money with one shared controller.
- Ask your utilities to mark where their lines are, a free service so you don't accidentally sever a line when installing a mailbox, fence, etc. Make a map with the lines for future reference and take photos as backup.
- Don't put your name outside the mailbox. Put it inside for the mailman.
- Buy gardening equipment needed to maintain your yard. It's easier to start right away versus catching up after ignoring shrubs and flower beds for six months.
50 Feet Expandable Garden Hose (50 ft, Brass Connectors) & 8 Pattern Spray Nozzle + High PressureGarden Tool Kit – Round Point Shovel, 12 Guage Garden Hoe, Bow Rake, Steel Rake, Garden Cultivator Contractor Wheelbarrow with Steel Tray (6 cu.ft.)
- Find your main water shutoff and learn how to turn your water off.
- Check the temperature on your hot water heater. Turn it down to 120º to avoid burns and save money. Your HVAC and/or plumber can help with this.
- Review you main electrical panel to make sure it's properly labeled. Practice shutting off power and buy circuit breakers if needed.
- Schedule an HVAC maintenance tune-up to insure your system is running efficiently.
- Meet your neighbors. Introduce yourself and learn what hobbies and interests you have in common. Share contact information with immediate neighbors (8 recommended).
- Meet the president of your condo/homeowners association. Learn about local customs, like getting exterior paint colors approved.
- Make a copy of your closing papers and store outside your home. Use an old fashion safe deposit box or scan and store documentation online, in case of a fire.
- Make a photo or video record of your home and personal possessions. For more information, check out this article on Home Inventory: how to Document Your Personal Property.
- Identify high value items and make sure they're covered by your homeowners insurance. Review your policy now, as you probably didn't have time before the closing.
New Homeowner Tips for Decorating
- Draw up a floor plan for your home. Measure room sizes, window sizes (width and height), different lengths of walls, space between electric outlets, etc. This will help when buying furniture.
- Cover windows with inexpensive blinds or bedding sheets if needed. Delay buying window treatments until you're ready to make decorating decisions.
Things Homeowners Should Do Every 1 to 2 Years
- Review documents you're storing outside your home. This includes closing papers, home inventory and personal papers like passports, birth certificates, Social Security cards, bank and tax information, investments, etc.
- Review recurring home operating expenses. This includes utility bills, homeowners insurance and property taxes. If you see a big jump in cost, it's time to find and fix problems. Comparison shop insurance every other year.
- Review your home maintenance team. Are you comfortable with everyone? If not, look for a new contractor so you're prepared before you need them.