Now that you’ve finally bought your new house, the hard work is behind you, right?
Not so fast. Just because the inspections, financing (at one of today’s record-low mortgage rates) and move all went smoothly, that doesn’t mean the journey is complete. From maintaining your property to meeting your new neighbors, there’s plenty to do before your house feels like home.
Here are eight items that should top your to-do list immediately after buying a home.
1. Set up your new address
The move isn’t official until you receive your first piece of mail. That means you need to tell the world about your new address.
First, notify the most important people: your friends and family. You don’t want to miss out on all those holiday cards.
But there’s a long line of organizations that need to be able to find you, including:
The post office: This is a good starting point. If you notify the post office of your address change, mail sent to your old address will get forwarded to your new one for 12 months. You can make the change online by filling out this form.
Tax agencies: Notify both your state and federal tax agencies. There’s a simple online form for notifying the IRS.
Creditors: It’s easy to forget about them, but they won’t forget about your loan payments. You don’t want a misplaced bill dinging your credit score.
Utility companies: This includes gas and electric; phone, cable and internet; and others depending on your services.
Your employer: Drop your boss a line and let them know about the address change. Even if you’re signed up for direct deposits, you might still be mailed tax forms or other important documents.
Your bank and credit card company: Give them a call or check whether your financial institution’s website allows you to change your address online.
2. Find the right insurance
You won’t be able to relax in your new house if your big investment isn’t protected.
If you don’t have homeowners’ insurance yet, or you did it quickly while processing your mortgage paperwork, make sure you find the right policy to fit your needs. You can get the best rates by shopping around; you may be able to save more than $1,000 per year by finding the lowest price on your home insurance.
But your job doesn’t end there. Depending on where you just moved, you may need to purchase additional protection. Do you need flood coverage? What about earthquake coverage? A basic homeowners’ policy won’t cover those.
A new address could even change your car insurance rates, so take the time to shop around and make sure you’re still getting a good deal.
3. Look into a home warranty
Nothing takes the shine off your new home quicker than a major system or appliance breakdown. That’s why many buyers opt for a warranty — a type of protection plan that will provide discounted repair and replacement on a home’s major components.
Some homebuyers will receive a home warranty from the sellers that extends a year after the move, covering things like the HVAC, furnace, plumbing and electrical systems.
Whether you received a warranty from the seller, or purchased one yourself, make sure you review the specifics of what’s actually covered and how to file a claim.
4. Start cleaning and painting
Getting a fresh coat of paint on the walls is the first step to making the space your own. And even though cleaning and painting is a chore, it can be an exciting one.
The key is to get it done before you move your belongings, if at all possible. It’s a lot faster to clean and paint an empty room.
No matter how clean the previous owners were, they’re going to leave some dirt and dust. That means your new home needs a deep clean, beginning with a good disinfecting of the kitchen and bathrooms.
One pro tip: Unlike Drake, don’t start from the bottom. Instead, clean high, then low. Fans, overhead lighting, shelving and other high features tend to be neglected. Cleaning these areas will usually lead to a mess below, so finish the job by making those floors shine.
5. Get to know the infrastructure
How exactly do things work in this place?
You need to learn where to find everything in your new home. If something isn’t labeled, label it, and make sure you have all the necessary documents and manuals for your appliances and home systems.
Start by familiarizing yourself with the essentials:
Water shut-off valve: It’s important to know how to quickly shut off your water in case a sink begins leaking — or worse.
Circuit box: Make sure your fuses and switches are well-labeled — or be prepared for a fun guessing game every time you blow a fuse.
Gas shut-off valve: You may never need to switch this off, but it’ll be critical knowledge if at some point you smell a gas leak in your home.
6. Make a maintenance plan
It’s not enough to dust, vacuum and mop. Your new home will need a lot of maintenance to run smoothly all year round. That doesn’t mean everything needs to be completed on the first day, but try to create a detailed maintenance plan, prioritizing the important things first.
Here are some items that should be on your checklist:
Check your dryer hose and vent at least once per year.
Change HVAC filters every one to three months.
Complete regular refrigerator maintenance as required, such as emptying ice bins and inspecting door gaskets.
Drain and rinse your water heater once per year.
Clean your gutters at least once per year.
If you have a fireplace, inspect and clean your chimney at least once per year.
Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms monthly.
7. Introduce yourself to the neighbors
Better to wait until the pandemic is behind us before inviting the neighborhood in for a glass of wine, but don’t be afraid to get to know your new neighbors in other ways. You can even use an app like NextDoor to keep up-to-date on events and neighborhood tips.
It’s also a good time to get to know your greater community. Find your favorite neighborhood amenities, like the closest grocery store, off-leash dog park or bus stop.
Your new neighbors could be a great resource for all your community questions.
8. Secure your essential documents
Your new home will hold a lot of important things: people, possessions and documents, too.
Get a secure file box — ideally one that’s fireproof — to store all your important documentation.
This includes your birth certificate, wills, insurance documents, paperwork on that awesome mortgage you landed, and anything else you need to keep safe for the long haul.