Someone you know has just bought their first home, and you want to help them celebrate.
There’s a lot you know they’ll probably need — furniture, home decor, and home improvement materials, to name a few. And what better time to help them out with these items than the holidays?
Your heart is no doubt in the right place, but when you’re picking out housewarming gifts, it’s tough to know for sure what the new homeowners really need.
Since you’re spending your hard earned dollars, it’s understandable that you want to get it right. Plus, giving a gift that doesn’t hit the mark is also a burden on the new homeowner.
“You don’t want to give a gift that someone doesn’t want or will use,” says Kirsten Jordan, a real estate broker and cast member of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing New York. “A gift can become a burden, especially if someone feels obligated to use it or figure out where to donate it.”
To ensure you give something that your friend or family member will truly appreciate, here’s a guide on what to buy — and not to buy — new homeowners this holiday season.
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The best gifts for new homeowners
The best housewarming gifts are often unique to the homeowner. But if you’re stumped, these ideas are always winners — and they’re actually things new homeowners need.
David Morales, licensed real estate agent at Lou Morales Realty, says indoor plants have become a huge trend, and they’re great for brightening up a house. Plants make nice holiday gifts because the lush green of a succulent or another easy-to-care-for plant can be especially friendly to see on cold winter days.
Morales suggests avoiding potentially dangerous plants such as cacti (on which people can prick their fingers) or ones where that have cultural taboos when kept indoors.
Zina Kumok, a financial coach at ConsciousCoins.com, also suggests buying plants that aren’t potentially toxic to pets, so there’s no risk to animals in the new homeowner’s place.
Moving homes is hard enough, but then you have to deep clean the old and new houses on top of it. Offering to pay for a cleaning service for either the new or previous home can save your friend or family member a lot of time and money.
Plus, Tana Williams at DebtFreeForties.com says new homeowners “will be so busy packing and cleaning their previous household that they’ll be less likely to do so at the new place.” Paying for a thorough cleaning will make the new place that much more welcoming and relaxing for them to settle in.
Duct cleaning or home maintenance service
These gifts may be especially useful for homeowners moving into an older home, since it’s easy to gloss over this seemingly minor, but actually quite important, maintenance task.
Gift cards to home improvement stores
Jen Smith, host of the Frugal Friends Podcast, suggests getting gift cards to the closest home improvement store, as these are usually much needed. “When we first bought our home, we had no idea how many little things we needed to buy,” she says. “A gift card can offer a sigh of relief the next time your friends need to touch up paint or replace a gasket.”
Joe Pessolano, a branch sales manager with Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation (which owns Home.com), echoed Smith’s suggestion.
“Due to the emergence of DIY shows and home improvement shows on TV, many first-time homebuyers will want to tackle small projects to put their own personal touch on their new home,” Pessolano says. “Providing a gift card helps offset the expense of small projects and still allows the recipient to customize their purchase.”
It may sound cliché, but buying a meal or a gift card to their favorite restaurant can make a massive difference, especially during the intensity of a home move. Not having to cook in the midst of moving, or frantically unpack your kitchen to throw something together for dinner, can be a big stress reliever. This is especially true if they’re moving around the holidays, when they’re unpacking, decorating, and hosting all at the same time.
Anne Keery, owner and gifting expert at UniqueGifter.com also suggests local coffee shop gift cards, so homeowners will feel like part of the community faster when they have an excuse to get out and explore.
Consider items such as tickets to a sporting event or local attraction. Jordan suggests giving your loved ones an experience the recipient wouldn’t normally take themselves to. Think a high-end dinner, tickets to a major concert, or even a spa package at a luxury wellness center.
Items such as your friend’s favorite craft beverage, a fancy bottle of olive oil, or coffee beans from a local business can make great holiday gifts for new homeowners.
“Sometimes homeowners can have so many physical items that getting one more gift can be a pain, especially if you’re a minimalist,” says Kumok. “It’s also much easier to unpack a bottle of wine than it is to find a place to put a serving bowl.”
What NOT to give new homeowners
There are gifts that may seem fun or useful, but which don’t actually get used. Worse yet, the new homeowners may appreciate the thought but wish the giver had given a gift card or something more practical instead.
With that in mind, here are some gifts to steer clear of for new homeowners:
Ornaments and decorative towels
It’s tough to buy for someone else’s tastes, which is why these gifts can be a miss. Morales said he hears a lot of complaints from homeowners about how they don’t enjoy receiving these types of gifts. Unless you’re 100% sure your friend will like it, you’re better off skipping these in favor of something more immediately useful.
Home decor items
Avoid decor like art, vases, throw pillows, and display items, unless the new homeowner specifically mentioned one they wanted. Keery says that decor can be extremely personal, so it’s hard to hit the mark with these types of gifts.
Even seemingly helpful items such as a cheese board or cutting board, wine glasses, or a coaster set can sit collecting dust if the homeowner already has these or you buy ones that don’t suit their tastes.
A monthly delivery of a subscription box filled with snacks or wellness goodies may seem fun, but these can quickly create clutter if they’re not the kinds of items the homeowner normally likes to have on hand. Kumok suggests steering clear of subscription boxes unless the homeowner mentions that they love getting them and you know you can find one with a theme that they’ll like.
Anything that needs assembling
Items like furniture or items where someone needs to put it together could add additional stress after someone moves. Williams points out new homeowners are still trying to figure out where everything they already own belongs, so piling on more stuff isn’t as thoughtful as you think it may be.
What to buy new homeowners FAQs
The best housewarming gift is one that a new homeowner will love and use. For instance, if the new homeowner loves drinking coffee and their coffee maker broke during the move, you can purchase a new one as a gift.
Thoughtful holiday gifts for new homeowners would take into consideration how stressful this time of the year can be and seek to ease their transition, such as homemade meals so they don’t have to cook, gift cards to home improvement stores, and tickets to local holiday events so they can take a break from unpacking.
There aren’t set rules on what you should buy a new homeowner. Focus on practical gifts they can use immediately, such as gift cards, cleaning services, or gift certificates to local restaurants. If you know of something they want for their house but would not buy themselves, that can be a great gift to celebrate the purchase of their home. But if you’re not sure what they want or need, keep it simple with a nice house plant or consumable gifts such as baked goods.
Here are a few items that have been historical housewarming gift traditions:
Many of these would make great modern housewarming gifts as well. But whatever you give, keep the homeowners’ preferences and needs in mind. More likely than not, they’ll appreciate something practical that will make their move a little less stressful.
Doing online searches for gift ideas is fine, but the best way to give a truly great gift is to spend time noticing what your friend or family member likes.
“Think about why it’s so easy to give your best friend a gift, because you’ve so much time with them,” she says. “For housewarming gifts specifically, you want to keep in mind what they say around you throughout their house buying process.”
For instance, take note of any comments of what the new homeowner likes about certain homes or what’s missing they’ll need to get after moving. Or if they give compliments — such as admiring your fancy pour over coffee machine — it could be a clue as to what they’d be happy to receive.
Choosing a gift for new homeowners can feel overwhelming, since you’re trying to strike a balance between your budget and someone else’s tastes and needs. But when in doubt, keep it simple, especially at the holidays. A platter of homemade cookies, a festive cake, or a nice set of coffee or hot chocolate can help them get in the spirit in their new home without further filling up their space.
And if you decide to buy something for their home, don’t stress too much. Perhaps Keery puts it best when she says, “At the end of the day, it’s the thought that counts.” Your friend or family member will appreciate that you were thinking of them as they settle into their new home.