Moving into a new house is a busy time. But there are a few things that you should do right away to ensure your safety and peace of mind. There are the basic tasks needed to set up your move, including:
- Changing your address with the post office
- Arranging for your old utilities to be cancelled and changing the new gas, electric, water, garbage, and sewer utilities to your name
- Setting up internet service
- Hiring a reputable mover
- Getting moving boxes
- Inventory and photograph all your possessions
But there are many other items you need to make a checklist for. Here are our top 10:
- Change the locks on the exterior doors and the garage. Once you have the keys to your house, either buy and install new lock sets or have a locksmith come to the house to switch them out. Let’s face it, the previous owners, realtors, maintenance folks, and who knows who else are all likely to have keys to your place. For some peace of mind and as a necessary step in making this house yours, get new locks installed immediately.
- Get the house cleaned up. While many folks will leave the house clean for you, some won’t. Even if they do, you’ll want to clean everything for yourself. You can hire a service to do this, if time is tight, or you can do it yourself. If you do it yourself, set up an area with all of the supplies and tools you’ll need to get the job done: buckets, brooms, mops, a vacuum, cleaners for each type of surface, etc. Then clean your cabinets, counters, and plumbing fixtures—the carpeting, etc. This will make you feel good about your house.
- Paint all the walls and ceilings. This can be really time consuming, so you’ll probably want to hire professionals if you can. There’s no point in just slapping up a coat of paint if the walls and ceilings are damaged. If they have cracks, holes, or other defects, prepping these surfaces can be a real chore. So—unless you have a relative or two who can help, save yourself a lot of time and just hire someone. Also, if you’re short on time and the house is in dire straits and every surface needs painting, consider one neutral color for every room. This will just make it easier and limit the number of decisions you’ll have to make now. You can always go back and repaint rooms the colors you want as time permits.
- Get some closet organizers. Many older houses suffer from closets that have a simple pole and shelf. Look at where you’ll store what and get the closets outfitted to accommodate everything, to make moving in less stressful and your life in the new house more enjoyable. And don’t just look at the closets. Think about where you’ll put everything, from winter boots to laundry detergent. A well-placed extra shelf or coat hook will go a long way toward making the house that much easier to live in.
- Find the electrical panel. Typically, the electrical panel will be in the basement or garage. Find yours and become familiar with the breakers. Some homeowners create a guide that lists which breaker goes to which part of the house. If no guide is provided, consider creating one in the future. This way, if you need to turn the power off to a specific section of your house, you can easily and quickly locate the correct circuit breaker.
- Install new switch plates and other similar devices. Many older houses, especially those that have undergone a series of renovations, will have mismatched outlets, dirty and discolored cover plates, or rusted or damaged air vent covers. Replacing all of these creates uniformity and newness and makes a home feel newer and, understandably, cleaner. While switching out a cover plate takes nothing more than a small screwdriver, bear in mind that replacing electrical devices isn’t necessarily a good DIY project unless you’re really comfortable working with electricity.
- Have the mechanical equipment cleaned and serviced. Do this as soon as you buy the house. Getting the heating and cooling systems inspected and cleaned and other routine tasks done is important. You should also consider getting a service contract so if the system stops working in the depths of winter, you’ll not have to overpay to get a technician to come to your home. Get to know the appliances as well, because new and used ones can have quirks and tricks for optimal usage. You can’t assume that built in microwave will pop popcorn in three minutes like your last one did. And you don’t want to test out a new washer or dryer setting on your nicest clothes.
- Check the plumbing. Everything should be in working order, since you most likely had a full home inspection prior to purchase. Still, you should locate areas of plumbing access as well as the location to turn off the water if you ever need it. The basement, an exterior wall, or in a box underground are all possible locations for your main water valve.
- Install window treatments. Whether you install custom made or choose inexpensive and temporary shades, you’ll want to get some something on your windows, both for privacy and that finishing touch. There will be time later, as you live in the house and get to know it better, to choose a more personalized option.
- Go meet your neighbors, as building a good relationship with your neighbors can make a big positive impact on the way you feel about where you live. Since the house went on the market, they’ve been waiting to know who you are. They might come visit you first, but if they don’t, try to make a point to introduce yourself. You don’t have to do anything formal. Sometimes a simple smile and wave is all that’s needed.
After you’re done with all those things, kick back and relax! Congratulations on your new home.