Trust us: You don’t want to let these tasks slip through the cracks.
Let's be honest: For every wonderful thing about owning your first home comes two annoying new responsibilities you had no idea existed when you rented. (Though don't get us wrong—for most people, the benefits definitely outweigh any drawbacks.) So before you throw that amazing housewarming party, be sure to add these simple—but often overlooked—maintenance to-dos that every homeowner, especially first-time ones, should stay on top of. From getting down and dirty with your appliances (it'll be worth it, we promise) to buying simple, uncomplicated home insurance (yes, it does exist!), these tips will protect your home and your sanity.
1. Change the locks.
With the closing papers come the house keys—but don't use those exact ones for too long. There's a good chance there are a few more sets floating around (see: the housekeeper, neighbor, dog walker and Aunt Doris), so to be safe call a locksmith, stat, to rekey the locks. While it's cheaper than replacing the locks entirely, expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $100 plus an additional $5 to $25 per lock cylinder depending on where you live, according to HomeAdvisor. It's a small price to pay to know that you—and only you—have access to your house (and also the dog walker and Aunt Marge, but they're your dog walker and your aunt!).
2. Inspect all your alarms.
It's not the sexiest of tasks, but when it comes to the safety of your home and family you don't want to mess around. As soon as you move in, go room by room to check the manufacturer dates on both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace any that are older than 10 years. Otherwise, just put in new batteries, and put a note on your calendar to change them again in a year. Everything up to date? Good, but you're not done just yet! Add reminders to test them at least once a month to make sure they're working, and while you're at it, check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher—you do have one, right? These also need to be replaced every five to 10 years.
3. Get your insurance up to date.
It's true that not all states require you to have homeowners insurance. But even if yours doesn't, it's still smart to insure your home—that's basically Adulting 101, folks. Adequate insurance means that you're covered in the event of a disaster like a fire, explosion or weather event that could otherwise rack up thousands in damage, and it can protect you against burglary or if someone is hurt at your home. (Note: It does not cover you in the event of a bad hair day, wicked hangover or unfortunate decorating experiment.) Take the time to shop around for insurance before settling, so that you can get multiple quotes and compare rates, coverage, deductibles and more. And make sure to take advantage of any discounts on offer, like reduced rates for being a new homeowner as well as for having working safety features installed. If that isn't winning at adulting, then we don't know what is.
4. Map out the house.
We get it: Taking the time to learn how all the systems in your house work and connect to each other—and how to shut them all down quickly, should you need to—is pretty nitty-gritty stuff. Still, you'll want to know where the shutoff valve for the main water is located; which breakers work for different areas of the house; and which of those humming machines do what (we're talking the water heater, HVAC unit, furnace and the like). Because if something goes awry—like, say, the dreaded toilet overflow—calling the super isn't an option anymore. Now it's on you to know exactly where to go and what to do.
5. Deep clean your appliances.
Wait—you mean I have to clean the things that clean my other things? Short answer: Yes! In general, manufacturers recommend you deep clean your dishwasher, washer, dryer and other household appliances about once a year. And when you buy a home, who knows when it was done last? Unless you bring in all-new appliances, the only way to know if they're clean is to…drumroll…do it yourself. It's recommended that you clean out the dryer vent at least once a year to prevent fires, and vacuum the coils behind the fridge to keep it running more efficiently. You can also run bleach through the washing machine and vinegar through the dishwasher. To de-gunk your oven and get all those interior surfaces fresh, simply turn on the self-cleaning setting and let it roll. Last up on your journey as Queen (or King!) of Clean: Change all your air filters to get your HVAC flowing at its best.
6. Embark on a fact-finding mission.
Now's not the time to be shy: Closing on your new house is your last chance to ask the previous homeowners for any relevant information they're willing to pass along: maps of property lines or land surveys, appliance manuals, details on previous renovations. You might even ask for a heads-up on any finicky neighbors—because let's face it, no nabe is complete without at least one curmudgeon on the block. (Fingers crossed it's not you.) Once you're in, try to hold off on any big projects until you've gotten the lay of your new land: Ask other owners on the street about their experiences with different vendors and contractors, any tips about getting permits to do work on your property, or HOA guidelines you'll need to be aware of (who knew you could get fined for painting your house blue?). Beyond getting potentially crucial info, it's an opportunity to show off how friendly and courteous you are—and what's more neighborly than that?
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