For most homeowners, a home is the single largest asset they hold, so it makes sense to protect that asset. So what should you know after you get the keys and the moving truck is on its way? I’m here to help!
First and Foremost
- Update keys. See the new house keys in your hand? Change them! I advise clients to make this a number one priority. It isn’t because I don’t trust the old owners, but you never know who had a spare. Some locksmith companies have “move-in specials,” or, if you are handy, you can buy new lock sets at any home improvement store.
- Pest-proof. Now that your home is empty, this would be the best time to get rid of any unwanted roommates, especially if the previous owner had a pet! I would recommend calling a pest control company and getting a general pest and/or flea treatment. There are many different companies that use organic or chemical-free pest control if that is a concern.
- Deep clean—and I mean more than just the kitchen and bathrooms. Have the carpet professionally cleaned. Change out your A/C filter and the batteries in your smoke detectors so you will know what to put into your home maintenance app (see below). If it wasn’t part of your repair amendment when you bought your home, call an HVAC company to come clean and service your A/C system. Prices vary from different companies, particularly if your coils are dirty.
- Transfer utilities into your name. Normally I recommend this a couple of days before closing, but if you haven’t already, be sure to transfer utilities into your name. Also, pop by your post office if you live in a neighborhood with cluster mailboxes and have them re-key your mailbox.
- Record it. Make a photo or video record of your new home and possessions for insurance purposes, and keep the records in a safety deposit box. Your insurance provider can recommend what to photograph and how to secure it. We offer our clients photography sessions and a virtual tour after they close as a gift so they can share their new home with friends and family, but we tell them to download it and save it for insurance reasons also.
- Check out breakers and water valves. Introduce yourself to your circuit breaker box and main water valve. It’s a good idea to figure out which fuses control which parts of your house and label them accordingly if they aren’t already. This will take two people: one to stand in the room where the power is supposed to go off, and the other to trip the fuses and yell, “Did that work? How about now?”
- Create an emergency plan with your family. I have seen some families turn this into a fun role-playing game with small children so they know where to go and what to do in case of an emergency. Experts recommend doing semi-annual “refreshers.”
- Maintain fire, theft, and liability insurance. As the value of your property increases, such coverage should also rise. Again, speak with your insurance professional for details.
- Make a repair list and timeline. Since many buyers have an inspection done, the obvious after-purchase task is to tackle the checklist of the other repairs identified in your report; however, also make a concentrated “Plan of Action” for any remodeling or cosmetic changes you would like to make. If you set a timeline for these repairs you will be more likely to do them than finding yourself still hating that floral wallpaper five years later. Be as detailed as you like, and get some estimates so you know how much you need to start saving to make the timeline happen.
- Consult your accountant. There are a lot of closing costs that can be deducted, such as interest points, real estate taxes, and possibly moving expenses from your tax returns.
- Create a home binder—and make a concentrated effort to put all your home information in it, from paint swatches and warranties to your HUD-1 (aka: closing statement) and survey. That way when it’s time to sell or your accountant needs something, it will all be in one concentrated area so you won’t have to dump out the junk drawer or turn your home office inside out. Trust me—you will thank yourself later!
- Download a home maintenance reminder app on your phone. There are a lot of great apps that can remind you of your monthly, semi-annual, and annual housing maintenance needs. The one I recommend is Home Savvy. You will spend a little time giving it some information about your home (A/C filter size, gas or electric, etc.), but then it will send you reminders of routine maintenance. While it will also recommend a repairperson, I suggest also contacting your REALTOR®, because most have a list of professionals they routinely use and recommend!
- Enjoy your home. Owning real estate can be a handful, but ultimately it’s worth it! What’s most important is that home ownership results in a wonderful experience. Enjoy it!