There are very few times in life that are considered monumental but buying a house is certainly one of them. From location to square footage to style, the homebuying process is an adventure – and not one to be taken lightly.
But closing on your new house is only the start of that adventure. As a first-time homeowner, there’s a lot to learn about home maintenance and safety once you move in.
That’s why we’ve put together this new homeowner checklist that will help you knock those first days in your new place out of the park.
What's in this Article?
New homeowner checklist
From setting up utilities to trimming trees, this new homeowner checklist can put you on track for a long, successful stay in your new home.
1. Make digital copies of your mortgage documents
It’s no secret you have a ton of paperwork to do if you buy a home. True, this isn’t the most glamorous part of the process, but it is one of the most important. After you close on your loan, you’ll receive copies of all the documents, including:
- Closing disclosure: The closing documents that contain your monthly payment amount, interest rate, promissory note, and other essential information
- Plot plan: The blueprints for your home and the land that belongs to you, which includes the dimensions, measurements, and square footage of the property
- Title deed: The title to your house, showing that you own the property
You’ll want to keep these documents in a safe place, such as a fire-safe lock box. They contain highly valuable information, and if they were lost or stolen, they could be used for scams and identity theft.
Secure any documents that contain personal information such as:
- Your full name
- Your address
- Your social security number
- Your banking information
It’s also smart to scan them and have digital copies on your computer, backed up to the cloud, and/or saved to a secure hard drive. That might sound like overkill, but you do not want to lose important records like these.
In addition to your house documents, consider keeping copies and back-ups of your driver’s license, insurance policies, and medical information (such as prescriptions taken and contact information for your doctor’s office).
2. Change the locks on the home
When you close on the house, you’ll receive the keys from the previous owners or from the building company that completed the home, if you bought a new construction property.
One of the first things you should do is change all of the locks and have new keys made. There’s no way to be certain you’ve received every copy of the keys that was ever made, and as a safety precaution, it’s best to start fresh. You can hire a locksmith company to replace the locks for you, or you can do it yourself. Just pick up the lock sets at a department store, and have copies of the new keys made.
3. Set up your utilities before your move-in date
Third on the new homeowner checklist: let there be light, water, and wifi.
No one (and I mean no one) likes to be without utilities. First off, being in the dark is no fun, but being without wifi – yikes. That’s why setting up your utilities should be one of the first tasks you tackle as a new homeowner.
Now, if you are buying a new construction home, the builder will likely keep your utilities in their name for about 1-2 weeks max. But they’ll assume you’re making a good-faith effort to have them switched over within 7-10 days.
If you’re buying an existing home, you’ll want to find out exactly which utilities the house is hooked up to (for instance, some houses have natural gas hook-ups, but not all do), call the utility providers, and make sure the service will be transferred to your name by your move-in date.
The seller will include a list of all utility providers for the home when they accept your offer.
Don’t put off setting up utilities, either – and you can use my experience as a cautionary tale.
We moved into our new home on December 30, 2021, but weren’t able to get wifi until January 9th, 2022. Not only was this a hassle, but it disrupted my work-from-home schedule. Do your due diligence and get your utilities connected in a timely manner.
4. Schedule estimates for any repair or renovation work you plan to have done
Oftentimes when people move into their new house, they want to have work done – either because the repairs are urgent or because they want to make the home their own.
These home improvements might include:
- Replacing an outdated HVAC system
- Repairing old insulation
- Putting in new windows
- Putting in a pool
- Installing a built-in office desk
- Creating an outdoor patio oasis
- Building out the media room
Unless you plan to DIY your renovations, you will likely require a third-party subcontractor to complete the project. You’ll want to schedule these as early as possible so you’ll know how much the renovations will cost and when they might actually be done. Contractors are in high demand right now, and you may be surprised to find waiting lists several months long.
To give you another real-world example, my family knew we needed an office built into our study when we bought our home. But because our contractor was so booked, we had to wait a month for installation. They told us the wait time would have doubled if we hadn’t called when we did, so act fast if you know you need certain renovations done sooner rather than later.
5. Schedule removal of potentially hazardous tree limbs and trees
Here are some scary stats from TreeRater.com: “From 1995 to 2007, there were 407 deaths from wind-related tree falls in the United States. 41% of the deaths caused by falling trees are a result of thunderstorms. 35% of the deaths caused by falling trees are a result of non-convective high winds.”
That’s a lot of damage and tragic death, some of which may have been avoided with proper precautions. After closing on your home, take a good look at all of the trees on your property. If you see any dead branches or trees that look precarious, call a tree maintenance expert to get a quote on having them remove any dangerous limbs or trees.
Even if you don’t see any immediate signs of concern, you may want to call an expert anyway. They’re trained to see warning signs that the average homeowner might miss.
6. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Fires and carbon monoxide poisoning are major safety hazards in a home, so make sure to install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the house. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can be the difference between a fatal accident and a life saved if handled properly.
If there are already detectors in the home when you take possession, test them to make sure they work. Schedule a reminder on your calendar to test them regularly and replace them as needed.
Be sure to have at least one fire extinguisher in the home as well, and let everyone in the household know where it is and how to use it.
7. File for a homestead exemption
A homestead exemption can help you save money on your taxes by reducing your home’s value for tax purposes. Homestead exemption laws vary by state, so it’s worth asking your mortgage lender or a tax advisor about the rules in your area.
8. Familiarize yourself with the property
As you’re unpacking and decorating the home, pay attention to the nuts and bolts of the house. Get to know where the circuit breaker is and which switches correspond to which rooms. Look for where the water shutoff valve is, and get a baseline understanding of how the various home systems work.
If you lose power or are hit with a winter storm and lose power or water, you’ll want to know these things before you’re in crisis mode. Besides, things go wrong in houses all the time, and the better you know the property, the more prepared you’ll be to deal with them.
9. Create an emergency preparedness plan
Last but not least on the new homeowner checklist: create and emergency preparedness plan. Part of responsible homeownership is being ready for anything. That’s why it’s important to have an emergency preparedness kit with food, water, medication, tools, and other essentials that you can access instantly in the event of a storm or evacuation.
To learn more about what should go into an emergency preparedness kit, check out our guide here.
All of this might sound a little overwhelming, especially after you’ve just been through the long process of buying the home. But you don’t have to figure out all the ins and outs of homeownership overnight. Focus on the priority tasks and take your to accomplish the items on your new homeowner checklist one a day at a time.
And don’t forget to be excited and revel in this accomplishment. Buying a home is a major life event that’s worth celebrating.
New homeowner checklist FAQs
The first thing to do when you move into a new home is to secure your loan and title documents somewhere safe, and make sure you have working fire and carbon monoxide detectors. You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the property and identify any areas that need repairs urgently so you can schedule a contractor as soon as possible.
Get to know your house. Locate essentials such as the circuit breaker, water heater, and water shut-off valve, and identify any areas that need immediate repairs. Focus on safety tasks as well, including purchasing a fire extinguisher, installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and checking the property for potential hazards such as dangerous trees. It’s also a good idea to create a maintenance calendar: when to change the filter on the furnace, clean the gutters, or sweep the roof.
The last stage of buying a house is closing on the loan. This is when you’ll sign your loan documents, including the promissory note, and ownership of the home will be transferred to you. After the loan has funded and the new ownership details are recorded with your municipality, you’ll receive the keys to the home.