Buying and owning a new home is a major milestone, and it’s one of the most significant investments that most people ever make in their lifetime. No one really prepares you for being a homeowner, which is why it’s important to understand the many nuances of homeownership. From getting the right home warranty coverage to spending your hard-earned money wisely, a lot goes into owning a home. 

This guide aims to provide new homeowners with helpful tips and information if you aren’t sure where to start. With the proper care, wise decision-making, and good home maintenance, you can ensure that owning a home is an amazing experience that you’ll enjoy for years to come. Read on for a comprehensive new homeowner’s checklist to help you get started on your journey.

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You bought your first home… now what?

Buying a home is a major accomplishment that calls for celebration. Before you move into your new space, there are some key things to remember. Here is a helpful new homeowner’s checklist to use as a guide so that moving in is easy and seamless. 

  • Security: Change the locks on your home, including the front and back door and all windows locks as soon as you close the property deal to ensure no one can gain access.
  • Documents: Store essential documents in a safe, secure place like a fireproof safe. Documents can include critical paperwork like your home title/closing paperwork, your family’s birth certificates, passports, and medical documents.
  • Utility contracts: Make sure you transfer your utilities to the new address a few days before you move in so that everything will be ready and turned on when you arrive.
  • Minor maintenance: Look for areas needing minor touch-ups, like a fresh coat of paint or upgrading the flooring. You should do these tasks ahead, so you won’t have to work around your furniture. If you have any large remodeling projects in mind, it’s good to complete these before move-in day.
  • Safety proofing: For those with pets or small children, ensure that you childproof or “pet-proof” the home, so it’s safe. Cover electrical outlets and make sure that heavy appliances are tethered to the wall, so they don’t tip and fall over.
  • Decor layout: Determine where you want to put your furniture in advance and come up with a layout ahead of time so it’s easier to arrange everything on the day you move in.

Additional tips

The tips on this new homeowner’s checklist are just a few of the things you’ll want to do before you move in. Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind.

  • Moving companies: Research and vet a few moving companies to ensure you choose one that meets your needs and budget. Get quotes and read reviews to make an informed decision.
  • Address information: Notify the post office of your address change, and remember to inform your bank, any relevant government agencies, and all your memberships or subscription services of your new address.
  • Decluttering: Declutter the home before you move in, including removing weeds in the yard and throwing away any unwanted furniture or other items the previous homeowner may have left behind.
  • Deep cleaning: Do a thorough deep cleaning of the entire home so that everything is sanitary, fresh, and clean for your big day.
  • Meet and greet: Take some time to meet your neighbors and introduce yourself and your family to the people in your neighborhood.
  • Light maintenance: Look for any minor repairs that you may have missed during the home inspection and walkthrough and write them down, prioritizing the most important items first.

Financial tips

Part of owning a home includes the many costs that come with it long after you’ve closed and received the keys to your new property. When you own a home, you can expect to spend money on expenses like utilities, property taxes, home insurance, and repairs. Here are the top five non-mortgage-related costs you should prepare to pay for at some point during homeownership.

  • Repairs: From leaky plumbing to missing roof shingles, you’ll need to pay for many repairs when you own a home. It’s a good idea to put some money aside for repairs so you won’t need to finance them or pay for them using a credit card. Even if your home is brand-new, repairs are inevitable in homeownership.
  • Home warranty: Every homeowner should consider getting some home warranty coverage. A home warranty will help to cover the cost of repairing things like major appliances and systems, including your plumbing and electrical. Make sure you know the difference between traditional home insurance and home warranty coverage to get the best protection level.
  • Utilities: Whether you rent or own, you’re responsible for paying for utilities. Your utilities include power, water, sewage, natural gas, trash pickup, and cable TV/Internet. Monthly utility bills are inevitable, so make sure your home is as energy efficient as possible to help you save. Look for ways to save, including improving the insulation or investing in a more efficient HVAC system.
  • Property taxes: Even if you pay your mortgage in full, you’ll still be responsible for property taxes. These taxes are typically included in your monthly mortgage payment as part of escrow until you pay your mortgage off.
  • Maintenance: Remember to allocate money for maintenance, including landscaping, cleaning the gutters, and regular annual inspections. Most homeowners pay between one and four percent of the value of their home on annual maintenance costs.

Home maintenance essentials

Even if you have home warranty coverage, there are still crucial maintenance tasks that every homeowner should do. Here are a few critical home maintenance essentials to remember.

  • Home safety detectors: Check all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they’re working, and change the batteries yearly, which also applies to home security equipment and alarms.
  • Roof maintenance: Inspect the roof and look for any missing shingles or signs of damage. An annual roof inspection can help to prevent problems before they become too expensive or dangerous.
  • Pest control: Check your home thoroughly for pests and consider paying for a pest prevention contract to keep your space pest-free.
  • Landscape Maintenance: Prune the garden and remove dead plants and weeds. Mow your lawn frequently and cut down any dead or dying tree branches. You should remove all branches above your roof, so they don’t fall and land on the roof during a storm.
  • Gutter maintenance: Keep your gutters clean and free of debris. Ensure the gutters are securely attached, and the downspout faces down and away from your home.
  • Chimney maintenance: Clean the chimney every year and call for a chimney/fireplace inspection if your home has a fireplace.
  • HAVC maintenance: Replace your HVAC system air filter every month with a new filter to keep the indoor air clean and your system running smoothly. Annual HVAC inspections are recommended.
  • Water softener maintenance: Make sure the filter is clean and that you have plenty of salt if your home has a water softener. Stock up on extra salt so the filtration system continues running smoothly.

Additional tips

When it comes to home maintenance, there are some crucial things to remember, including:

  • Maintenance calendar: Never skip regular maintenance tasks, as it could lead to bigger and much more expensive repairs later down the line. Create a new homeowner’s checklist that includes all your maintenance tasks and when and how often you should perform each.
  • DIY maintenance: Learn how to DIY a few things, including changing air filters, unclogging sinks, and landscaping. This can help so you don’t forget the little things like seeding your lawn, replacing missing grout and caulking, and regularly checking for leaks under sinks and near appliances.
  • Service providers: Choose home repair and improvement providers carefully, including Handyman, home warranty coverage providers, contractors, and your home insurance company.
  • Keep records: Save all your receipts if you pay for maintenance. This can be extra helpful during tax season.
  • Deep cleaning: Regular cleaning is part of good home maintenance, so make sure you’re cleaning the floors, bathrooms, and kitchen thoroughly on a set schedule. It is a great idea to do deep cleaning every few months. This can help you detect early signs of damage to prevent mold or pest infestations.
  • Home warranty coverage plan: Consider comprehensive home warranty coverage if a major appliance breaks down or you need to have the plumbing or electrical systems fixed.
  • Curb appeal: Regular power washing of your deck, walkway, driveway, and siding or brick can help improve curb appeal and prevent unsightly dirt, mold, and mildew.

Home repair guide

Part of homeownership is dealing with repairs whenever things break or need attention. Here are some common repairs that all homeowners may need to invest in during their first year.

  • Water damage: The need for water damage repair is common, especially if your home has older plumbing or a basement. Save money to help mitigate damage by replacing old pipes and plumbing fixtures.
  • Mold removal: If you live in a humid climate, you may have to deal with occasional mold. Make sure you put some cash aside to help with mold removal to keep your home clean and safe.
  • Roof repair: Over time, your roof might wear down, or you may experience roof damage. Be prepared to pay for any roof repairs you might need, as this is one of the most critical parts of any home.
  • Concrete repair: Cracks in your concrete patio, driveway, or sidewalk can occur as the weather changes, and temperatures fluctuate. Save extra money to patch up any cracks or damage to concrete.
  • Insulation: Caulk and weatherstripping will wear down over time, so ensure you’re ready to replace these items around doors and windows to ensure that your home is adequately insulated.
  • HVAC repair: Consider adding your HVAC system to your home warranty coverage if possible. HVAC system issues and breakdowns are expected (and costly) home repair items for many homeowners.

Additional tips

The unexpected cost of repairs or maintenance of critical systems like your roof, HVAC system, water heater, sewer lines, or septic system is extremely important to consider. If these items fail, they’ll need replacing or repairing as soon as possible, and the costs can be quite expensive. A home warranty is highly beneficial since it helps to give you financial peace of mind. A home warranty will help you prepare for these unplanned and unpleasant scenarios.

Read your home warranty and insurance policies carefully to ensure you’re clear about all the terms and conditions. The two policies are different; each usually covers a specific issue or aspect of your property and the items or systems inside. When you have both policies in place, you’ll have coverage for various expensive and stressful issues that could occur as part of homeownership. 

Remember, it’s better to be preventative than to deal with an issue once it gets out of hand. You can save yourself thousands of dollars on various repairs by being proactive. Pest control, roof and HVAC inspections, and mold remediation are crucial in protecting your home and wallet.

Mistakes new homeowners should avoid

Every homeowner will make a mistake from time to time, but this new homeowner’s checklist will help you avoid some of the most common (and expensive) mistakes.

  • Maintenance budget: Make sure you save money and budget accordingly for all costs outside your typical mortgage payment. There is a 1% rule that some experts recommend. It’s 1% of the total purchase price of the home. 
  • Extreme maintenance errors: Never tackle too many home repairs or improvements at once, or it could lead to a higher cost and longer timeline in the long run. Don’t forget to prioritize regular maintenance to help prevent extensive damage or breakdowns.
  • Budgeting mistakes: Do your research on the costs of homeownership and remember to include moving costs, essential supplies and tools, and the price of maintenance contracts or home warranty coverage.
  • Procrastination: Never ignore minor issues, as they could become much more severe problems later.
  • DIY failures: If you encounter an issue, you can’t DIY, turn to the professionals for help, including a local contractor, electrician, handyperson, or plumber you trust.
  • Follow through: Always ensure you’re fully committed to completing your home repairs or improvement projects.

Additional tips

Here are some more tips to add to your new homeowner’s checklist.

  • Repair or replace: Evaluate the essential systems in your home, including the water heater, HVAC system, and major appliances, to determine whether or not they need to be repaired or replaced.
  • Breaker labeling: Label all the breakers in your electrical box and label incoming/outgoing pipes and shut-off valves. Doing this will make it easier to diagnose and repair issues in the future.
  • Utility lines: Get to know where your utility lines are in case you need to cut your power supply when installing a fence or planting a tree to prevent accidents.
  • Home equipment and tools: Ask a friend or family member for advice about the equipment and tools they use and what they think you might need. See if you can buy, borrow, or rent important tools like rakes, shovels, lawnmowers, and other basic tools.
  • Emergency fund: Set aside some money for an emergency fund to cover repairs that your home insurance or home warranty plans might not cover.  

Remember the tips from this guide to ensure an enjoyable homeownership experience. Becoming a new homeowner is extremely exciting, and there are many wonderful possibilities and benefits of owning your own space. With a bit of planning, some regularly scheduled maintenance, and making repairs as soon as possible, you can enjoy living in your beautiful new home for many years to come.