Your long house hunt is over, and it’s time for the next chapter in your life. You finally get the keys and move in a big truckload of your belongings. Pictures go on the wall, the beds are put together, and you start to feel settled. What’s next?
There are plenty of things to count on during your first year. It’s good to plan ahead and try to anticipate as much as possible. For example, the odds are high that something will break. Maybe it will be a simple problem like a broken window pane, or it could be much more significant. Make sure you have a basic toolbox ready to go and try to get the name of a good handyman to call when you need one. Get yourself prepared for the expected and the unexpected.
Your First To-Do List
You should have had one or more inspection reports prepared before you finalized the sale. Some of the items on the list may have been fixed by your home’s seller, but there are likely others that you must complete. Prioritize that list. Hopefully, you had time to clean the house thoroughly before moving in. Repainting the interior to suit your tastes will help to quickly make the house your home. If there are windows without curtains or blinds, they should be at the top of your list. Fishbowl living isn’t fun!
Be Ready for Emergencies
Don’t be caught unawares if emergencies concerning your utilities come up; they will, sooner or later. Know where the water main into the house is located and how to turn it off. Check the circuit box and know which switches or fuses are which. Label them if they aren’t already identified. Learn how to shut off the gas. If you have a sump pump, test to see if it works properly. You can find multiple videos on YouTube and other sources for keeping the sump pump in working order. If you have a septic tank, be familiar with how it works and schedule regular maintenance.
Safety & Security
As soon as the house is yours, change the locks on your doors and the codes to the garage doors and other outside entrances. Be sure to make extra keys in case one gets lost. Also, find a good outside hiding place for a key so you’ll never be locked out. Learn how to use the security system if you have one. Check that you have plenty of workable smoke detectors throughout the house. Add more if necessary and put new batteries in all of them. You also need carbon monoxide detectors with fresh batteries. There should be up-to-date fire extinguishers in the kitchen and on each floor.
All of the items here need to be done routinely, some annually and others more frequently. Make a schedule and perform the tasks faithfully.
- HVAC – Learn how and when to change filters in the HVAC system. Some are washable and reusable.
- Water heater – Your water heater needs an annual inspection by a pro. If you have hard water, the heater will need to be routinely descaled.
- Refrigerator – Clean the condenser coils quarterly. If you have a refrigerator with insulated coils, this step won’t be necessary. Check the door gasket, and change the water filter periodically.
- Dryer hose – Always make sure the vents and ducts are clean. A collection of lint is a severe fire hazard. Also, the duct opening on the outside of the house should be screened to avoid letting birds or small critters crawl up and inside.
- Gutters – Clean the gutters annually or more frequently if you have many trees. Gutters that are full of clutter can cause serious damage to the house, including foundation damage and mold.
- Sprinkler system – Check annually for missing or broken sprinkler heads and adjust them so they shoot at the correct angles. Change timers according to the season and the amount of sunlight on your lawn and plants.
Avoid Money Surprises
If you’ve moved from a smaller home, expect to have an increase in utility bills. This may be much larger than you guess. If you are moving from an apartment, you probably didn’t pay for trash pickup or water. Add them to your monthly expense list. Finally, start saving for emergencies. Some will be quite expensive, like installing a new roof, fixing a leaky basement, or replacing a cracked driveway. You might not have any of these issues yet, but they are likely to come at some point in the (hopefully distant) future.
The joy of owning a house comes with a price tag of your cash and time. Be prepared so the surprises aren’t too much of a shock when they appear. Careful maintenance and planning will help you enjoy your home to the fullest for all the years you live there.