Redfin article December 18, 2023 by Julia Weaver
Congratulations on your new home! Successfully closing on a house in today’s market is an achievement worth celebrating. After navigating through the phases of house hunting, making the offer, securing a mortgage, finally closing the deal, you might be wondering what happens next, besides moving in. Are there other things you should be thinking about or doing now that you’re a homeowner?
Once you sign the paperwork and receive your keys, there are several tasks you’ll want to complete for peace of mind and to ensure a comfortable transition into your new home, whether it’s a home in Miami, FL or Portland, OR, or anywhere in between. In this Redfin article, we’ll guide you through 16 essential things to do immediately after buying a home
1. Secure your home
Securing your new home begins with a crucial step: changing locks, garage codes, and all access points immediately after you receive your keys. This simple yet vital step ensures that you have control over who enters your property, enhancing overall safety and peace of mind. Because you never know who may have a set of keys to the existing lock.
The expense of changing locks depends on factors such as the level of security you wan, lock complexity, and whether you opt for professional locksmith services or a DIY approach. If your home is equipped with an alarm system, budget for potential reconnection fees or consider switching providers.
During the closing process, make sure to request instruction manuals and codes for electronic systems, including home alarms and garage codes. Then make sure you change these codes known only to you. If manuals are unavailable, online resources might provide reprogramming instructions for added convenience.
2. Set up safety measures for kids and pets
If you have younger ones in the house, or a furry friend or two, be sure to baby-proof and pet-proof your space to ensure the safety of your new home for both your children and furry companions. Install safety gates at stair tops and bottoms, use outlet covers, anchor heavy furniture to walls, and keep furniture away from windows. Store long electrical and window cords securely and employ cabinet locks to restrict access for kids and pets.
Additionally, maintain hazardous items out of reach by storing cleaners, detergents, trash bins, heavy cookware, sharp objects, and potentially dangerous packing supplies in secure locations. These precautions create a child and pet-friendly environment, minimizing potential risks and promoting a safe living space for all family members.
3. Complete necessary paperwork
In the midst of a significant move, administrative tasks might not be your top priority. But handling essential paperwork is crucial post-move, as some filings carry strict deadlines with potential fines for oversight.
Change your address
Within a week of moving, promptly update your address through the USPS website and local DMV. Notifying critical entities like IRS, state tax agencies, banks, credit card providers, employers, and insurance companies is also necessary. In certain states, updating insurance information requires a new state driver’s license.
Forward your mail
After notifying relevant agencies of your new address, arrange mail forwarding through your old post office. This ensures documents are not sent to the wrong address during your transition.
Update your voter registration
For those intending to vote in local or federal elections, update your voter registration at the same time as your driver’s license at the DMV or through available online options. Remember state-specific deadlines, generally falling between 15 to 30 days before an election.
Make copies of your closing documents
Preserve copies of closing documents and identify the originals’ secure location, recommending storage in a lockable filing cabinet or safe.
Create a checklist of home projects based on the home inspection
Use your home inspection checklist to address immediate household problems, prioritizing major issues for safety concerns before tackling minor repairs.
4. Double check your homeowners’ insurance
When it comes to insurance companies, particularly homeowners insurance, they are typically aware of your change of address during the mortgage process. This is because securing homeowners insurance is a standard requirement for obtaining a mortgage. The insurance company is informed of your new property and address to ensure that the dwelling is adequately covered against potential risks and liabilities.
However, it’s crucial for homeowners to actively engage with their insurance company to guarantee that the coverage aligns with the specific characteristics and needs of their new home. The right level of coverage takes into account various factors such as the property’s location, size, construction materials, and potential risks in the surrounding area. By proactively reviewing and updating your homeowners insurance, you can ensure that you have adequate protection tailored to the unique aspects of your new residence.
5. Purchase or review your home warranty
Though this certainly isn’t a requirement, some home owners choose to get a home warranties as they offer enhanced security, financial protection, and peace of mind. Opting for a reliable and reasonably priced home warranty ensures a safety net for unforeseen breakdowns in essential home systems and appliances. It can be a prudent move, especially for first-time homebuyers, providing reassurance in the face of potential repairs. Occasionally, home sellers may include a home warranty as an incentive to finalize the sale, making it worthwhile to review the coverage details. In such cases, taking a closer look at the home warranty terms will help you understand what is covered, helping you feel more confident in your homeownership experience.
6. Connect the utilities
Ensure the utilities at your previous residence are switched off and arrange for their transfer or activation at your new home (prior to closing). Research utility providers before your move can allow you to select the most suitable option. Depending on the chosen provider, anticipate potential transfer fees or new service setup charges. As a new customer, consult with the utility company to understand the necessary steps for establishing service.
Here’s a short list of utilities you’ll need to set up:
- Refuse/trash collection (if applicable to your new home)
7. Check safety alarms
Not all home security measures are solely aimed at deterring intruders; some are crafted to protect against health hazards and potential accidents. Alarms in your home, such as those for toxic gasses and fires, play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of your family. When familiarizing yourself with your new home, it’s advisable to inspect these alarms to confirm they have batteries and are properly functioning. Common household alarms encompass smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, radon detectors, and window and door security sensors.
If any alarm is found to be malfunctioning, it should be promptly replaced. Additionally, even if an alarm appears to be operational, regularly check the installation date, replacing units that are more than a decade old to maintain optimal safety measures.
8. Set up TV, internet, and phone services
Several providers offer bundled packages encompassing TV, internet, and phone services. Once you’ve chosen a service provider, you have the option to either self-install your internet or cable, or you can schedule a technician to come and handle the installation process. This flexibility allows for a convenient and tailored approach to setting up your preferred services in your new home.
9. Find the circuit box, review emergency shut-offs and appliance manuals
Familiarizing yourself with your new home is crucial. Identify the locations of emergency shut-offs, such as your main water line, and the circuit-breaker box. If the circuits lack labels, take the time to add them, specifying which ones correspond to each room or appliance. Collect all appliance manuals for convenient reference when necessary. Familiarizing yourself with these details ensures you can efficiently manage and troubleshoot any issues that may arise in your home.
10. Use your inspection report as a to-do list for upkeep
Following your home purchase, refer back to your home inspection report for any outstanding issues. Utilize the report as a reference to compile a list of repairs, updates, or maintenance tasks for the future. Prioritize these tasks based on urgency, focusing on addressing issues that could potentially lead to problems later on. Attend to matters like dirty gutters, leaky pipes, or doors and windows requiring resealing, ensuring that you tackle the most pressing concerns first to safeguard your new investment and prevent potential complications down the line.
11. Test your water
Ensuring the quality of your home’s water is crucial for various reasons. Your water may harbor contaminants such as pesticides, bacteria, lead, nitrates, and other pathogens, posing health risks. Furthermore, tap water might contain physical impurities like sediment, causing pipe erosion, hard water deposits, and irritation for those with sensitive skin. Proactively address these concerns by conducting a water test through a certified lab. Locate a local lab via the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stay ahead of potential water quality issues and safeguard both your health and the integrity of your plumbing system.
12. Conduct an energy audit
Electricity stands as the priciest utility for homeowners on average, and recent years have witnessed a surge in energy costs. The shock of the first electricity bill can be mitigated by undergoing an energy audit—a comprehensive examination of your home’s energy usage and efficiency. Request an audit from your utility company or hire an independent auditor to assess your entire house, analyzing each room’s energy efficiency, total energy consumption, HVAC system efficiency, and insulation levels.
13. Change HVAC filters
There’s no guarantee that the previous homeowners did their due diligence with repairs and upkeep. It’s important to err on the side of caution and replace your home’s HVAC filters upon moving in, given the uncertainty of when they were last changed. Clogged or damaged filters can result in poor air quality, HVAC system damage, and other various issues. It’s advisable to replace your air filter once you move in and continue to replace it every three months to maintain optimal performance.
14. Develop a regular maintenance schedule
Rather than attempting to address all maintenance tasks at once, adopt a thoughtful approach to tasks that can be spread over time. This may involve periodic activities such as replacing air filters, cleaning gutters, pressure washing the exterior, and more. By developing a regular home maintenance checklist, you ensure a more sustainable and efficient approach to maintaining the long-term health and functionality of your new home.
15. Create an emergency plan
Though it may appear to be an extreme measure, formulating an emergency plan is a crucial step that could potentially save lives in the event of a natural disaster. Take the time to map out your new home, establish exit routes, pinpoint the locations of fire extinguishers, and designate an outdoor meeting spot – all vital components of a well-prepared family emergency plan.
16. Introduce yourself to neighbors
Introducing yourself to neighbors after buying a new home is a crucial step in fostering a sense of community and creating a harmonious living environment. Building connections with those who live nearby not only adds a friendly and welcoming atmosphere to the neighborhood but also establishes a network of support and camaraderie. Knowing your neighbors can also create a sense of security, as they can become valuable allies in times of need or emergencies.