Congratulations! You have just purchased your first home. Now you can relax, right? Not at all! You are just getting started. This is an important time to take steps to make sure your homeownership is as stress-free as possible in the future. Here are five of the more important things to take care of as you move in.
- Packing/Unloading Organization – While packing, moving and unloading are all obvious “to-do” items when you buy a first home, there really is an art and science to doing it right. Organization is the key. Label the boxes with their basic location (kitchen, bedroom, etc.) and make a list of all the boxes as well as the separate items that are too large to pack. Do not rely on a moving company to do that for you.
- Utility Hookups – Make advance preparations with your utility provider to have the electricity, gas, water, etc. turned on before you arrive. You will also want to make advance arrangements for trash pickup and to change or transfer your communication services (phone, TV, and Internet).
- Gather and Log Information – There are many details that you need to investigate, understand, and write down before you forget it in a time of crisis.
Emergency needs are the first step. Verify the location of smoke/CO2 detectors and fire extinguishers and make sure that they are in working order. Learn where all of your water and gas shutoff valves are, as well as all breaker boxes. Test them to make sure they work, and label all the breaker box circuits. (If breakers are already labeled, verify the labels – phantom circuits are not uncommon). Immediately fix anything broken or inaccessible.
Verify your evacuation route and protection plans for emergencies like tornadoes and fires. Prepare a home first aid kit. Make sure you have accessible numbers for your local police, fire department, government offices, utility company and other important numbers. They are available in your local phone book (remember those?).
If your home was pre-owned, make sure you get information (warranties, manuals, etc.) on existing appliances and items like security and irrigation systems. Don't forget items like alternate keys, garage door openers, or security codes.
Immediately set up a storage and filing system for all of your papers related to the mortgage, appliances, and other home-related issues.
Finally, have your yard marked for underground utilities. The services are free, and even if you do not plan to dig now, it would be good to know where utilities are located.
- Maintenance Preparation – As a homeowner, you now have maintenance to consider along with eventual home improvement projects. Buy a basic tool set with screwdrivers, a hammer, pliers, and at least one adjustable wrench, along with a simple drill. Buy other tools as you need them.
Don't forget simple things like flashlights and the most important tool you will ever own – a toilet plunger.
Set up a schedule for your regular home maintenance. Online resources are available to serve as a basic guide – just add anything specific to your house.
- Change of Address – Make sure that no important mail is missed during the transition period. Forward mail from your old address, and notify credit card, communication service providers, and other vendors of your new address, as well as agencies like the DMV and the IRS.
Remember to bring all of your important records like school records, insurance files, and medical/dental records – they will be important as you establish new contacts.
As much as you would like to relax, take some time to do these preparatory steps. You will never know how much headache you saved yourself by doing so.