With today’s housing market, turbulent inflation, and record-high mortgage rates, buying a home is a serious endeavor and a major accomplishment. While it might be tempting to decompress, relax in your new home, and begin unpacking right away, some important post-purchase steps still need to be taken. Thankfully, none of these tasks are particularly difficult, but they can be easy to forget or put on the back burner.
We’ve compiled this comprehensive list of essential post-homebuying duties to help you avoid missing any of the must-dos of new homeownership.
Secure Your Home
Nothing is more important than the safety and security of your family and household. Because of this, every new homeowner should first check their house’s critical safety features.
1. Change Locks
While there is a symbolic satisfaction in receiving the keys to your brand-new home, you’ll want to quickly change locks. You can never be sure who had copies of all the keys owned by the previous homeowner; their friends, family members, neighbors, and realtors may all possess duplicates. Thankfully, all you have to do is make an appointment with a local locksmith, who will come out and switch your old locks for new ones.
2. Consider a Home Warranty
Home warranties provide long-term security, financial protection, and peace of mind. With a good home warranty, you can rest assured that you’ll have a financial safety net if essential home systems and appliances break down. As such, it’s not a bad idea to consider getting a home warranty after you purchase your first home. Sometimes, home sellers even offer a home warranty to sweeten the deal and close the sale. If this is the case for your home, reviewing your home warranty to double-check what it covers isn’t a bad idea.
3. Check Smoke Alarms, Carbon Monoxide Alarms, and Other Sensors
Not all security measures in a home are designed to protect against intruders; some are built to ensure the home is safe from harmful natural elements and potential accidents. Your home’s alarms, for example, protect your family from toxic gasses, fires, and other potential problems. When going through your new home, we always recommend checking these alarms to confirm they have batteries and are properly functioning. Some of the most common household alarms include:
- Smoke detectors
- Carbon monoxide detectors
- Radon detectors
- Window and door security sensors
If an alarm isn’t working properly, you should immediately replace it with a new unit. Even if one appears to be working correctly, you should check the install date and replace any unit that is more than 10 years old.
4. Create an Emergency Plan
While it may seem extreme, creating an emergency plan can save your life in a disaster. Mapping out your new home, planning exit routes, identifying fire extinguisher locations, and setting an outdoor meeting location are all essential steps for your family to be prepared in the case of an emergency. We also recommend familiarizing yourself with the location of critical home systems, like the water heater, fuse or breaker box, main water valves, and other utility shut-offs.
5. Introduce Yourself to Neighbors
It never hurts to know the people around you. Even if you’re not the most social, making sure your neighbors know you’re the person living next door can save you major headaches later on. For example, if your neighbors are unaware that you own your home, they may accidentally mistake you for an intruder and call the authorities. To avoid these unfortunate misunderstandings, it always pays off to at least say hello to your immediate neighbors after you move in.
Bureaucracy will likely be the last thing on your mind after a big move, but unfortunately, filing the right paperwork is extremely important after a relocation. Some important filings even have strict deadlines and can land you nasty fines if not filled out on time.
6. Change Your Address
You’ll want to update your address with various agencies within one week of moving into your new home. You can go to the USPS website and your local department of motor vehicles (DMV) and update your mailing address and driver’s license. These two agencies are the most important, but you’ll want to notify the following additional groups of your address change as well:
- IRS and state tax agencies
- Your bank
- Credit card providers
- Insurance companies
- For some states, you will need proper state driver’s license with your new address to update insurance information.
7. Update Your Voter Registration
You must update your voter registration if you intend to vote in local or federal elections. You can do this by heading down to the DMV and filling out the paperwork; you can get this done at the same time as your driver’s license. Some states even have online registration options making this a breeze. Remember that all states have their own deadline for registration, but most are between 15 to 30 days before any election.
8. Make Copies of Your Closing Documents and Store Them in a Secure Location
Having copies of your closing documents and knowing where the originals are located is important. We recommend storing these backups and the originals in a secure location, like a lockable filing cabinet or safe.
9. Make Your Home Inspection Checklist a To-Do List for Beginning Projects
Along with the entries on this list, we recommend using your home inspection to get a complete picture of all the immediate household problems that must be addressed. Home inspections can reveal everything from major structural problems like a damaged roof to small issues like broken windows or wall sockets. When tackling and prioritizing home repairs, we recommend focusing on major issues first, specifically any problem that creates immediate safety concerns, before moving on to anything minor.
10. Forward Your Mail
Once you’ve notified all appropriate agencies of your new address, you can contact your old post office to have your mail forwarded. Sometimes agencies take time to update information, and mail may have been sent to you during your move. In either case, by setting up mail forwarding, you can make sure that no documents get sent to the wrong address while transitioning to your new home.
Now that we’ve addressed the most immediate tasks every homeowner should tackle, let’s look at some less essential but still important post-move-in chores.
11. Test Your Water
The quality of your home’s water is important for multiple reasons. For one, your home’s water can contain various contaminants like pesticides, bacteria, lead, nitrates, and a host of other pathogens that can pose a risk to your health. Additionally, tap water can contain physical contaminants, like sediment, which can erode your pipes, encrust faucets, and irritate individuals with sensitive skin. You can get ahead of these problems by getting your water tested through a certified lab – you can find a local lab through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) site.
12. Set up Utilities
You’ll want to set up your utilities immediately, as your home won’t have any water, sewage, power, or internet access without them. If you’re unaware of local utility providers, you can find them by asking:
- Your neighbors.
- Your realtor.
- The previous homeowner.
You can also search your State Government’s Local Utility Commission Website.
13. Energy Audit
Electricity is, on average, the most expensive utility for homeowners. Even worse, the cost of energy has skyrocketed in recent years, with some states seeing record-high prices – take Hawaii, for example, a state with an average electricity cost of over 32 cents per kilowatt hour in 2021. As such, it’s easy for new homeowners to be shocked by the cost of their first electricity bill.
One way you can avoid this is by undergoing an energy audit. Energy audits are a survey and analysis of your home’s energy usage and efficiency. You can request an energy audit from your utility company or hire an independent auditor. Once at your home, the auditor will go through your entire house, analyzing each room’s energy efficiency, total energy usage, the efficiency of your HVAC system, and overall insulation levels. Once complete, the auditor will give you a readout of the areas in your home which are the least energy efficient and need improvement.
With this evaluation, you can improve your home’s overall energy efficiency, saving you money in the long run by reducing electricity bills.
14. Purchase New Home Upkeep Supplies
There’s no worse feeling than going to solve a problem in your home only to realize you’re missing the right tool for the job. While tool shopping can be an expensive rabbit hole to dive down, everyone should invest in some simple first-time homeowner essentials. Here are a few we recommend:
- Snow shovel
- Lawn mower or push mower
- Hamer and drywall nails
- Set of screwdrivers (Phillips head and flat head)
- Vacuum cleaner
- A good set of water-resistant gloves
- Toilet plunger
- Tape measure
- Push broom
- Set of protective eyewear
- Adjustable wrench
- Cordless drill
15. Change HVAC Filters
While we can hope the previous homeowners did consistent repairs and upkeep, there’s no guarantee. So, it’s always best to air on the side of caution and replace your home’s HVAC filters when you move in, as there’s no telling when it’s last changed. Clogged or damaged filters can lead to poor air quality, damage to your HVAC system, and a whole host of other problems. As such, we always recommend getting a replacement as soon as you move in and replacing it again every three months.
Ultimately, even though there’s no shortage of chores for new homeowners, we think this small list of “must-dos” is well worth it for your new home. Completing the above-mentioned tasks will help set your house up for future success by eliminating potential problems early, clearing up problematic paperwork, and ensuring your family’s safety.