New Homeowner? Here are top 10 tips for new homeowners!
After the super involved and seemingly endless process of purchasing your first house, you’ve finally closed and you’ll be moving into your new home soon. Congratulations are in order. Buying a home is an accomplishment in and of itself, and it deserves to be recognized and celebrated.
Once you start settling in, you may feel unprepared or overwhelmed at the prospect of maintaining a house. It’s a daunting task and seems near impossible for former renters who had grown accustomed to having a landlord swoop in and tackle problems on their behalf.
With some knowledge and an intelligent approach, however, you will be able to stay on top of the upkeep and slowly turn that great house you bought into your perfect home.
Here are our top 10 tips for new homeowners.
1. Develop a priority system for projects.
Unless you commissioned a house to be built to your exact specifications and incorporate design elements to your sensibilities, chances are even a turnkey property has some things you mentally committed to tackling after closing on the house.
Now that you’re moved in, you’re probably looking around at everything you want to change, update, or renovate and wondering just where the heck to get started.
We recommend developing a priority system for projects to help keep things organized. A simple spreadsheet will do. Try including columns that categorize each project by:
•Project details – ie “replace vanity”
•Location of the project – ie “master bathroom”
•Next steps – ie “shop for vanities”
Developing a priority system for these pending repairs and renovations will help guide your next action and make the workload manageable. We recommend making the high priority items functional ones that affect your ability to enjoy the home.
For example, servicing or replacing a hot water heater that isn’t providing enough hot water for your family’s morning showers will rank high on the list, since no one will want to tolerate cold showers for too many days or weeks in a row.
Likewise, replacing that bathroom vanity might sit on the back burner for some time unless it is damaged in some way. Cosmetic repairs should usually take a backseat to functional ones.
We also recommend focusing on quick projects that provide the most value or impact but require the least time or money. For example, a kitchen remodel adds incredible value to your home, but it’s costly and time consuming. Upgrading the appliances or adding a fresh coat of paint, on the other hand, is much easier to tackle and also contributes to the home’s value and appearance.
2. Keep on top of preventative maintenance.
If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right?
Waiting for crucial components of your home, like the boiler or air handler, to totally break down risks having that happen at midnight on a Saturday in the dead of winter when you need it most. Many specialists and contractors offer 24-7 emergency services, but they won’t be able to do major repairs or replacements and they will definitely charge extra for that late night call.
Plus, your evening and next day will be totally ruined by the ordeal.
Set yourself up for success by having all the critical mechanical components inspected regularly. Air handlers that receive a tune-up before the cooling season will operate efficiently, and the professionals will identify components that should be replaced immediately or might be on their way out.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Have all your building systems inspected regularly and provide preventative maintenance.
3. 10 Tips for New Homeowners – Have an emergency fund handy.
Whether you own a home or not, having an emergency fund at your disposal is always recommended. The size of this fund will depend wholly on your income and expenses.
We recommend having at least six months worth of expenses saved up just in case.
This is an intelligent practice for life in general, as you may lose your job suddenly and lose your income until you find something new. While you’ll have less or no money coming in during that time, the bills sure as heck won’t stop.
The same applies when you’re a homeowner. Just because you got laid off doesn’t mean the bank will forgive any missed mortgage payments. Similarly, that broken down boiler example from above will be really tough to weather if you don’t have a reserve to call on to get things handled.
Have an emergency fund saved up and, if you don’t, contribute regularly to one now until you collect enough to handle curve balls and other unforeseen circumstances.
4. Learn some basic DIY skills.
Some things in your home might be above your pay grade.
For example, you probably shouldn’t tinker with the wiring of your home unless you have a background as a licensed electrician, as messing something up could create problems drawing current in areas of the home or electrical fires if you’re not careful. You might electrocute yourself too, so that’s not great.
For repairs, renovations, and upgrades that are too large in scope or too technical to do yourself, hire a qualified professional to lend their expertise. Other maintenance, like repairing minor plaster damage, painting, snaking drains, and installing shelving, are not too labor intensive.
Consider learning some basic DIY skills to take on small projects as needed. Learning how to get some of the basic upkeep and repairs completed personally will not only save you money in the long run, but it will also give you a sense of pride in a job well done.
5. 10 Tips for New Homeowners – Be mindful of energy efficiency.
There are many factors that contribute to the overall monthly cost of living in your home. You have a few fixed costs like your mortgage principal, interest, and property taxes, and then you have your variable expenses as well.
Utilities bills often fluctuate depending on the season, as you spend more on electricity during the cooling season due to air conditioning, more on water during the summer for landscaping purposes, and more on natural gas or oil during the winter depending on what your heating system runs on.
Moderating your usage can help you lower your bills, but being mindful of energy efficiency helps bring the bill down as well by making your home more energy efficient.
Here are some ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home:
•Switch to LED lighting
•Purchase energy efficient appliances
•Identify drafts and seal
•Install a smart thermostat
If you prefer to have some guidance on what actions will yield good results, conduct an energy audit and have an inspector investigate areas where you can improve your efficiency. These professionals inspect buildings, both residential and commercial, regularly and know all the best tricks for improving efficiency and saving on those monthly variable costs.
6. 10 Tips for New Homeowners – Review your insurance policy.
As a new homeowner, chances are you just set up a homeowner’s insurance policy. While this coverage is by no means a legal requirement, no lender will greenlight your mortgage if you don’t have it.
Not all insurance policies are created equal, so it’s worth understanding the details and making sure you have coverage that makes sense for your needs and the geographic location you live in. Review you policy to determine:
•Dollar limitations on claims
•Exclusions to the coverage
Compare what is covered with what other assets you have to determine if an incident would be a blip in time or a total disaster. If there are any gaps where you may wind up paying out of pocket, try fleshing things out to make sure your coverage is comprehensive.
You’ll be glad you did.
7. Choose your contractors carefully.
Speaking of insurance, you are a homeowner now. You’ll have to be more thorough and discerning when it comes to choosing contractors.
Good work ain’t cheap and cheap work ain’t good. If it sounds too good to be true, it very well might be. That’s why it’s important to carefully vet your contractors before trusting them in your home to do what you need done.
Do your research on each potential contractor before signing anything with them. You want to check out their portfolio or samples of their work. You want to have a conversation to hear their thoughts on what you want and if they appear to have expertise and experience in how they interact.
Most importantly, you want to take a look at their certificate of insurance to make sure you’re not liable if they get hurt while on the job. There are plenty of opportunists out there just waiting to “fall off” your roof and enjoy a year’s salary or more on your dime.
Contractors that are insistent on cash deals only also raise some red flags. You might save a buck in the short term, but you risk being left with unfinished work, work that cannot be traced back to anyone or guaranteed in any real way, and more liability that may not be worth the money you save upfront.
8. 10 Tips for New Homeowners – Make extra payments on your mortgage.
Making extra payments is not always realistic for everyone’s budget. This is especially true when you’re also trying to allocate cash for other things like home renovations, retirement and/or college funds, and other monthly variable costs.
If you are able though, making additional payments will reduce the amount of time it takes to pay back your loan, meaning you’ll own 100% equity of the property before the original expected duration of the mortgage.
Not only do you become the true homeowner sooner, but you wind up saving on interest as a result. A few simple payments could result in thousands to tens of thousands in savings!
9. Have an emergency kit.
Luck favors the prepared, so having an emergency kit at the ready will help you survive and thrive in the event of a natural disaster or other event that limits your access to everyday commodities.
Every home should have the following available in the event of an emergency:
•Some food and water
•Flashlights and/or lantern lights
•First aid kit
•Dust and/or surgical masks
•Basic toolbox with screwdriver, wrench, and pliers
•Manual can opener and/or Swiss army knife
•Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
Having some or all of the above might really save your skin in the event of a power outage, blizzard, flood, earthquake, or other unforeseen scenario where you may not have easy access to everything you need.
10. 10 Tips for New Homeowners – Get to know your neighbors.
Some folks feel inclined to chart the neighborhood like Lewis and Clark, treating each block like it’s untouched frontier and visiting each local business like they’re the first ones to step foot in them.
Discovering new places to shop and eat is part of the fun of moving into a new neighborhood, but don’t count out the value of your neighbors. If they’ve lived there for some time, they’re your unofficial neighborhood guides to all the best spots.
Plus, making friends with the neighborhoods is one of those things that turns your home from a house on a street into a part of a vibrant and friendly community. Block parties, get togethers, cookouts, and more become part of the bustling culture of your locale, making it an even better place to live.
Don’t be shy and wave a hearty hello to your new neighbors. They might be your new best friends just waiting to happen!