After years of saving, building up your credit score, paying bills on time, and being persistent, it’s finally here: The day you purchase your first house. Congratulations! Working your tail off for the last however many years is finally paying off in one of the most rewarding ways. People who have never gone through the homebuying process can’t sincerely appreciate how difficult and arduous it really is. From start to finish, buying a house is a ton of work!
Since you’re new to homeownership, there is likely a plethora of information being tossed at you from every angle. If you struggle to remember everything, try at the very least to remember this: You have a lot of setup ahead of you prior to move-in! There are several things that you need to do before your house can be livable and safe, which is where we come in. If you’re clueless on what steps to take after signing the mountains of paperwork, read on for the top six things to do when you move into a new house.
1. Get Utilities and Internet Set Up
If you’re an absolute rookie and have never paid your own bills before, surprise! You’re in for a host of account numbers, electronic logins, and telephone extensions to remember. Your utilities will be an ongoing monthly expense, and they fluctuate based on usage. For example, if you hang up Christmas lights, you will likely use more electricity during the month of December versus November. Your monthly statements will reflect your usage and break down your bill so that you can see what exactly you are being charged for.
Here’s a quick analysis if you’re unsure what falls into the “utilities” umbrella:
- Garbage and/or recycling pickup. Some cities will provide one or the other, sometimes both, so have a clear understanding of what is provided.
- Gas and electric services.
- Water/sewage. If you’re connected to the city’s sewage system, you will pay the city’s fees. When you are connected to a well, you will only pay for the water you use throughout the month.
- Other fees such as HOA dues, etc. You should know as soon as you can if your house is part of a homeowner’s association; fees range across the board depending on where you live.
To understand what you will be paying for every month, you need to contact your city for a full explanation. While some counties are happy to bundle all utilities into one bill, others prefer to have a separate bill for each service. Check your city website to see if you can find information, or contact someone there and ask the questions.
Internet hosting is not typically included in your utility bill. It is its own entity and you must typically set up a plan with the internet service provider (ISP) of your choosing. Ask around to see what ISP your neighbors are using, taking into consideration what kind of internet signal you will be getting for your monthly fee. It’s worth sniffing around a little bit to price and quality-check other ISPs. Remember that someone will likely need to come into your house to get you an internet connection, so be prepared to designate a spot in your house for your router.
This is a good place to stop for a moment and remind you once more: You need to know your login information, account numbers, and security questions for so many entities if you prefer to do online billing. It is strongly recommended that you have a secure place that you have these accessible to you for when you need to log in. It can be as simple as a post-it with your information written on it, but guard these against prying eyes. Keep login information in a safe place that will not be accessed by lookey-loos.
2. Set Up Trash Collection
If your trash services are not part of your monthly utility bill, then you need to figure out how to get it all set up on your own. Your city website is again your hero because it will almost always list a garbage collection route while including a handy little hyperlink to the waste collections website. Once you’re on the trash collector’s website, it’s usually as simple as filling out a form online, selecting what size trash can you need, and calculating fees. Just like that, you can have trash pick-up ready for you the following week. Note that larger can sizes might cost you a larger fee, so it might be a good idea to start with the smallest can and working your way up over time if you need to.
In some cases, like if your house is outside the city limits, residential trash pickup is not an option. If this is the case, locate your nearest city dump or landfill and ask about charges. Again, this will depend on your county and/or city; some places will let you drop off a set number of bags at no cost, while some charge you by weight. Regardless, it’s always a smart plan to know how to deal with your household trash and waste.
3. Have Your Well or Water Source Inspected
In the United States, we typically think that it’s easy to get clean water; simply turn on the faucet and fill up a glass. In the recent past, though, we know that isn’t always the case. Contaminated water is an all-too-real issue in this country, which brings a new level of importance to getting your water sources inspected.
Prior to move-in, hire a well contractor to come by and take a look at your setup. Ensure that this person is well-vetted and holds a state-issued contracting license; otherwise, you could have an expensive and potentially hazardous issue in the future. Ask about the condition of your well, if it has anything markedly wrong with it, or even if it needs simple repairs like a new reliable clamp. A respectable well contractor will answer all of your questions and show you any potential danger zones, and show you when and how to replace your water filter. Ask if they also perform water quality tests to ensure that you’re drinking healthy water.
Whether or not you run off of city water, it’s possible to purchase water testing kits. There are many different varieties available at big-box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, and they range in price from around $30 to $100 on up. Consider also purchasing a water filtration kit to help improve the quality of your house’s tap water if you’re concerned about the results of the aforementioned testing kit.
4. Get Rid of Old Hardware and Features
While it is usually a cosmetic issue more than a safety hazard, tossing out outdated home features is a great way to make the house more uniquely yours. If there are some seriously dated pieces in your house, it’s time to give them the boot and bring in something new. It’s your house now, after all, why shouldn’t you start personalizing as soon as you can?
Some old pieces, though, can present a safety hazard. Broken or brittle glass windows and mirrors give the house a horror movie feeling, plus broken glass simply presents a danger. If you’re moving into a house in need of glass and mirror installations, contact a window contractor to help you out. Sometimes contractors will offer bulk discounts, which can save you money if your whole house is in need of new glass all over the place.
Stairs and stair railings can also be extremely dangerous. Railings are meant to keep you safe while you climb up and down the stairs, but if yours is wobbly, missing pieces, or is nonexistent, it’s time to get that addressed instantly. Similarly, take note of the condition of any stairs. Do they feel sturdy and safe? Are there are soft spots, indicating a possible mold infestation? Keep a sharp eye on these kinds of problems, because failing to take care of them can cause horrible accidents.
5. Touch Up Your Landscaping
Between accepting an offer and your move-in date, typically the yard care is the last thing on anybody’s mind. There’s a very solid chance that you will need to give the front and back lawns a little tender loving care when you have a free moment. The grass is likely overgrown, the flowerbeds probably have weeds, and everything just looks a little shaggy.
A lawnmower is among one of the many landscaping supplies you’ll need if you intend to do your own yard work. They can get pricey, but mower financing is available through many different big-name hardware stores if you suddenly find yourself house-broke. Some other supplies you might consider adding to your next shopping trip might be:
- Work gloves, and not the flimsy little “gardening gloves” available in the lawn care section. Invest in a quality pair of outdoor work gloves made of leather or tough rubber to protect your hands while you work.
- Shears and hedge clippers. You can buy gasoline-powered hedge trimmers, but if you want to save some money in the meantime and/or don’t have an excess of things that need trimming, hand trimmers work just fine.
- Two rakes: A work rake and a gardening rake. A gardening rake is typically wider, with bent metal prongs that help to collect leaves, spread out manure and bark, and other projects. A work rake is usually smaller and made of a sturdier metal, and is used more like a digging tool. You can certainly use it for the same purposes as its wider counterpart, but the harder metal makes it more durable for heavy-duty projects.
- Wearable electronics, especially your Bluetooth-connected earbuds. Come on, you need your music with you wherever you go, and what better time to get your jam on than in the comfort of your own yard?
It’s an interesting phenomenon: Even if you LOATHED yard work in the past, there’s something different about doing it for your own house. It’s like when you got your first car: You always had it freshly washed, recently vacuumed, and allowed no trash inside. It’s the same idea with your home: You’ve been working towards it for such a long time, you take pride in it. Working on your landscaping is less of a chore when it’s your own slice of land. And, as an added bonus, a well-landscaped yard can increase the home value up to 14%.
6. Check and See If You Can Legally Renovate
Although this is the last item on our list, it is probably one of the most important — which is why we are leaving it with you as a final thought. In some counties and cities, renovations require a permit before you can start swinging any hammers. Before you spend any time or money on a house renovation, check first and foremost if it’s even a possibility.
This might not be your area of expertise, and that’s fair enough. If you find yourself nervous before starting a renovation, it’s best to seek legal help first. Ask your real estate attorney about the legalities surrounding renovations within your property. This can mean additions to the house, adding outbuildings, or even whether or not you can tear the entire thing down and build from scratch.
It sounds like a lot, and to be perfectly honest, it is a lot. It’s a giant responsibility to purchase a house and to keep it functional — but you know something about responsibility, or else you would not have reached this milestone in your life.
Even though there’s a long checklist before you, don’t despair: Once you have all of this set up, the house will run like clockwork. You can start decorating and adding personality, making memories, and simply living a happy life as a homeowner. You’ve worked so hard to get here, dear reader, and we applaud you! It’s hard and scary to sign that dotted line for the first time, but unlocking the door to your house for the first time makes all of those challenges completely worth it.