House-hunting is the fun part. So is throwing the housewarming party. But taking the time to prepare yourself for the unexpected can make you feel more confident as a new homeowner. It can also cut down on the likelihood that any snafus should arise.
11 must-know tips that will come in handy once you get your keys
We asked, and homeowners answered. These are the little things they wished someone had told them before they moved in:
1. Call a locksmith.
Simple as it seems, it’s easy to forget that one or more previous owners could be walking around with duplicates to your house key. A locksmith may offer a rekey or a lock change; rekeying is the more affordable option that alters the lock so the old key will no longer work, while a full lock change can replace old or rusted locks and fixtures.
If you have a garage, take time to change the code and replace garage door openers too.
2. Change your air filter.
It’s a home tune-up task you might not think about until your air conditioner stops running cold enough, your allergies flare up, or you see a hefty utility bill increase. An AC filter needs to be changed every three months. Make it easy and set a reminder on your phone calendar.
To stay on the safe side, replace your air filter when you move in (unless it looks brand-new) and then follow the suggested replacement schedule listed on the packaging by the manufacturer.
3. Chat with your insurance agents.
Homeowner’s insurance doesn’t provide the same coverage as a home warranty, but do you know the difference? Set aside an hour or two to read through each policy. Chat online or call individual insurance reps to clarify coverage and answer any questions.
This way, on the off-chance something breaks in your first year of homeownership, and a major repair is needed, you’ll know exactly where and how to file.
4. Check your water heater.
Take a trip to your basement or utility room and take a good look at your water heater. Note or take a photo of its year and model so you can plan for its eventual demise. The average life expectancy of a water heater is 8 to 12 years. Staying alert to this can help you plan for and protect against undetected leaks that can cause serious damage.
5. Clean your refrigerator coils.
Where are these located, exactly? Coils within the refrigerator, typically found within its back or base, keep the contents frosty. Dirty coils make it harder for the generator to run and ultimately increase the use of energy. Cleaning refrigerator coils twice a year could save you up to 35 percent on excess energy.
To clean, unplug the unit and look for the coils in the back or under the plastic grill at the base. Remove dirt and dust that have accumulated with a handheld vacuum and wipe down any fan blades, if you see them.
6. Close your closet doors.
Another good practice for new homeowners who want to save energy: Close all closet doors to condense the amount of square footage you’re heating and cooling. This offers an “insider” approach to insulation by decreasing airflow to unneeded areas, and it’ll help you reduce your monthly utilities.
You’re ready to own. We can make it possible.
7. Crawl into your crawlspace.
It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. Set another reminder to visit your crawlspace in early fall, before the rainy season. While you’re in there, look for signs of water damage and mold. Feel for dampness and check for worn/wet corners, odd patterns, and color changes.
If you spot any problems, call your insurance or home warranty provider (see tip #3 above) to get a referral to a home inspector or restoration company. Keeping tabs on your crawlspace can help you detect leaks sooner and prevent pricey property damage.
8. Find your water shut-off valve.
Prepare for the worst and pray it won’t happen: Should a pipe burst, you’ll need to know where your main water shut-off valve is right away. The valve is normally located next to your water meter, either inside or outside, and can usually be shut off by turning a wheel handle clockwise in two rotations. Watch a quick one-minute video to learn how to do it.
9. Keep an eye on your gutters.
Like your crawlspace, your gutters and downspouts deserve regular attention to prevent potential blockages that could backflow to cause internal water damage. Overflowing gutters can also invite insects and even crack your foundation, a particularly expensive home repair that could cost $10,000 on the high end.
Set an alert to clear your gutters and downspouts as part of your spring and fall home maintenance. Wear gloves or use a trowel to pull out debris and then flush them well with a hose.
10. Label your breakers.
Locate your breaker panel, a gray metal box normally found inside of newer houses or on a home’s exterior. Tracking down your electrical panel can prepare you before a power outage takes place. The location of your breaker box may also be noted in your inspection report if you have trouble identifying it. Once found, label each breaker as shown in this video.
11. Spray for bugs.
Your pest control schedule depends on your climate. But most treatment plans work on a bi-monthly (every two months) schedule. Hot, dry climates are those most likely to increase insect activity and may require more specialized — or frequent — visits. Cold climates, on the other hand, can be more prone to furry critters, like rodents.
Consider calling an exterminator shortly after moving in to set up a schedule and look for signs of infestation. Here again, prevention pays if you want to keep unwanted visitors out instead of fighting them face-to-face.
Above all, remember the golden rule — though it’s not the one you’d think.
Maintenance costs less than repair. Annual repair costs are estimated at 1 percent of a home’s price. Getting comfortable with the different aspects of your new home and staying up-to-date on routine care could save you nearly $2,500 a year, based on today’s $248,857 median-priced house.
Own a home sooner than you think
We’re helping many borrowers close over five weeks faster than the industry average.* So, start planning your housewarming party. You’ll be home before you know it.
*“Origination Insight Report.” Ellie Mae, May 2020.
For educational purposes only. Please contact a qualified professional for specific guidance.
Sources deemed reliable but not guaranteed.