Buying your first home is a huge accomplishment, and a stepping stone, for most of us. But becoming a homeowner also comes with a steep learning curve – there are so many details about homeowning that most people don’t really know until they’re confronted with a less than pleasant situation. And some of the stuff you don’t know about being a homeowner can actually turn into costly mistakes – so here are some of the important, and sometimes ignored, things to keep in mind if you recently bought a home:
1. Hold on to all your home and mortgage related documents
All the documents related to your home should be kept for as long as you are keeping the house. These include the mortgage deed, the closing disclosure, the purchase contract, the home inspection report, and any other documents related to the transaction. But that’s not all that you should hold on to. It’s also important to keep all the receipts for appliances, renovations, and so on – make sure you put all those documents in one place, in a sturdy box, so you can easily find them when you need them.
2. Take a second good look at your home inspection report
The home inspection report is not just something you have to do in the process of closing the deal on your new house. It’s a very valuable resource for you that lets you know the state of your home and what repairs/renovations you should focus on first. Make sure you fix all the issues emphasized on the home inspection report, even if it looks like something minor. For example, if the home inspection report mentions that the gutters are leaking or not in the best shape, you should go ahead and remedy that as soon as possible – a usually simple and inexpensive operation such as maintaining your gutters can save you thousands in damages later.
3. Switch out the locks
It’s prudent to switch out the locks of you new home as soon as you move in. You don’t know who the former owner trusted with access to your home – people you never met might have a set of keys. So, save yourself the stress and potential troubles and schedule to have the locks changed right from the start.
4. Create a “homeowner kit” for yourself
Maintaining a house is not an easy feat, and you need an assortment of tools and equipment to get the job done. If you were a renter before and never had to deal with home maintenance and repairs, there’s a pretty long list of things you should buy. Start with a basic set of tools containing a hammer, screwdrivers, pliers, handsaw, wrenches, and a cordless drill. You’ll probably need all that during the move in process.
There are other items you should purchase as well: a sturdy, good-quality ladder, lawnmower, and a snowblower, if you live in an area with harsh winters. Other great additions to your homeowner kit are a wet and dry vacuum cleaner and a pressure washer, which are very helpful for cleaning messes around your property. Storing all that stuff can be complicated, particularly if your home doesn’t have a lot of storage space.
One popular solution among homeowners is to rent a self storage unit where they can keep the items they don’t use on a daily basis (such as the lawnmower during the winter or the snowblower during the summer, but other things as well, including holiday decorations, camping equipment and so on). Self storage costs and availability vary depending on location.
Check out prices and listings in some of the country’s major cities:
5. Locate the circuit breaker panel and label it properly
Whether you need to shut the electricity off for some reason or reset a tripped circuit breaker, it’s essential that you know where the panel is. Locate the circuit breaker box and identify and clearly label which breakers control which circuits. If you notice anything out of the ordinary (certain breakers tripping often, for example, or buzzing sounds coming from the panel), contact an electrician as soon as possible.
Apart from the circuit breaker panel, you should also find the home’s main water and gas valves. Both are generally located just before the gas and water meters. It’s important to know where they are and to make sure that you can turn them off easily in case of an emergency.
6. Ensure that the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly
You don’t know when the former homeowner changed the batteries to the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, so it’s important to check them and make sure they work as soon as you sign the papers for the house. And, in the unlikely case that the home is not fitted with both types of detectors, make sure you install them as soon as possible.
7. Schedule an HVAC inspection
It’s important to ensure that your HVAC system works safely and efficiently and to stay on top of regular maintenance operations such as changing the filters. Ask the former homeowners if the HVAC system still falls under some sort of warranty and if you have to use specific contractors in order to keep that warranty.
8. Meet the neighbors
Maintaining cordial relations with the neighbors can make your homeowner life easier in many ways. You can count on them to keep an eye out on your home when you’re away, you can leave a spare key with them, or you could even end up creating long lasting friendships. To start things on the right foot, you should introduce yourself to your neighbors shortly after moving to your new home, and maybe even invite them over for coffee.
9. Have a lock-out plan in place
Speaking of neighbors and keys, it’s important that you have a lock-out plan in place. Leave a copy of your keys with a trusted neighbor, somewhere in a very secret place on your property, with a friend or a family member, or even at your place of work. Any of these options are better than having to call a locksmith to break your locks.
10. Shop around for trusted contractors for all situations
Being a homeowners means that you’ll inevitably have to deal with various repairs and maintenance work. So, instead of trying to find a reliable contractor when pressed for time, be proactive, shop around and gather a list of contractors that have good reviews. This way, when an emergency occurs, you know exactly who to call.