Owning your first home is exciting, but it’s also a learning experience. You’ll have new responsibilities to handle that you might not think about until it’s too late. Here are the top 12 tips for new homeowners so you can stay ahead of repairs, fees or financial emergencies. Use them to create your dream house, even on a budget.
1. Collect All Your Paperwork
There’s much more paperwork to keep track of as a homeowner. Instead of a lease, you’ll have a deed to your house, a buyer’s contract, and documents to keep track of things like your mortgage payments or homeowner’s insurance. Collect everything in one place, like a fireproof safe. You’ll never worry about losing track of anything important.
2. Find a Long-Term Handyman
The best handyman will know how to fix necessary repairs and work with your preferences. You will likely stick with someone you know and trust for the long term. If your home needs repairs or upgrades, keep each contractor’s name or business card so you remember which teams you did or did not like.
3. Meet Your Neighbors
The renters in your previous apartment complex may have come and gone too frequently to create any lasting relationships. The people who live in your neighborhood will likely be there much longer than a few months. Figure out creative ways to meet them, like throwing a housewarming party or delivering baked goods. They’ll likely become great friends and make your neighborhood even more welcoming.
4. Schedule Pest Prevention
Landlords often take care of pest control on their properties, but now that’s up to you. Open your planner or electronic calendar and schedule regular prevention sprays around your home. It’s a crucial step to make your house safer because professional teams maintain a protective barrier against pests that lasts through every season and prevents costly damage.
5. Give Your Renovations Time
Even though you want to install new countertops or a new bathtub immediately after moving in, it could take more time. Have patience with your contractor’s estimates or your financial abilities. You’ll remain in your home for a while, so you have time to make careful, considerate decisions.
6. Change Your Locks
You might want to trust the previous homeowners to throw out their keys, but that doesn’t always happen. Changing your locks will ensure your family’s safety by guaranteeing that the only people who can access your home are those who live there.
7. Prioritize an Emergency Fund
Sometimes homeowners purchase new construction and assume they won’t have to repair anything for a long time. That isn’t always the case. A storm could damage your roof or flood your crawlspace, leading to thousands of dollars in damage.
Settle into your home and have some fun. After unpacking your boxes, start prioritizing an emergency fund. Put money aside for unexpected costs and you’ll be prepared for costly repairs later. Financial experts recommend saving three to six months of expenses, but you can also use an emergency fund calculator to figure out the best amount for your needs.
8. Replace Your Air Filters
Air filters catch dust, debris and allergens as your HVAC filter circulates air through your home. Most last for two months, so remember to replace them at least six times a year. If you forget, your family may have irritating respiratory problems related to breathing debris. Avoid unnecessary sneezing and coughing by proactively replacing your air filters as often as their packaging indicates.
9. Look for Smart ROI Projects
Homeowners want a good return on investment (ROI) for their property. When you need to move again, you should sell the house for more money than you bought it for. Local property prices may rise and make that more likely, but you can also guarantee a profit by picking specific renovations.
Research where you live to find the best projects with the highest ROI. Someone living in a hot climate could install a pool, while someone who lives in a cold environment might install a heated driveway. You can also consider smaller projects like getting modern appliances or remodeling your bathroom.
You might figure out another type of project by thinking about who could buy your house. If your home is in an area that attracts retirees, grab bars in the bathroom or an elevator in a multistory home will interest buyers faster. Consider these factors before investing in any home projects to get your money back and more.
10. Clean Your Carpets
Houses have more square footage than apartments, which means you probably have more carpet to maintain. Microscopic bacteria and debris will settle in the fibers and pose a health threat. Dirt can also stain your rugs and leave visible traffic patterns through every room.
It’s your new responsibility as a homeowner to schedule carpet cleaning appointments. A professional team can stop by with deep-cleaning machinery to make them look new. You can also invest in a cleaner and do it yourself. It depends on how badly your carpets need attention and how much time you can invest in them.
11. Save for Property Taxes
Property taxes often catch new homeowners by surprise. Renters don’t have to pay them because landlords cover the extra fees, but now that falls on your shoulders. Find your county website to pinpoint the current tax rate.
Your local government may change the tax rate every few years or once a decade. It depends on the laws surrounding property reappraisals. The website will also state the deadline for each year’s payment, which you should save in your financial planner.
Add the total cost to your monthly budget. Setting small sums aside every month will make the new bill less of a hassle when the deadline comes around.
12. Note Your HOA Rules
You may not have thought twice about buying a house with homeowners association (HOA) fees. The monthly bill may not cost too much, but it also means you have to live according to the association’s rules.
Look through any printed information or website pamphlets you received after moving in. They’ll outline precise rules that could cost exorbitant fees if broken, even accidentally. Pay attention to how you can decorate your yard for the holidays, what kinds of landscaping you can renovate and how trash collection works.
Some HOA boards make highly specific rules, while others are more relaxed. Save the paperwork where you’ll easily access it before starting any property projects or renovations. You can refer to it as you get used to the daily restrictions, like trash pickup, and when you want to update your home.
Keep These Tips in Mind
These are great tips for new homeowners because they cover things you might not think about otherwise. Remember to build an emergency savings, pay your property taxes and prevent pest-related damage to maintain your house and avoid surprise expenses.