So – you’re finally in the closing process on your new home.
It’s everything you wanted. The perfect number of bedrooms. Gorgeous backyard. Freshly stained deck for summer barbeques. Scenic area with friendly neighbors. What could go wrong?
As a new homeowner, a lot can go right, but a lot can also go wrong if you don’t know how to set yourself up for success.
You want to be able to live in your new home as long as you’re planning to and put your time and energy into all the enjoyable home projects you’re imagining. Not getting stuck with expensive repairs or emergencies that require a home insurance claim.
Just enjoying life in your new home as expected.
These 5 essential tips for new homeowners will help you bring your homeownership dreams to life.
1. Fix any serious problems the home inspection reveals before closing.
When you go over your home inspection report with the inspector, be sure to pay close attention to anything serious. It’s also a good idea to get your trees inspected by an experienced arborist.
Something like a missing window screen or burned out lightbulb can be replaced easily later on. What you don’t want, however, is to put off major repairs like leaking pipes, a missing vapor barrier, a worn out roof, dead or infested trees, or rotting wood.
Leaking pipes can cause flooding, water damage, and uncontrollable mold growth in your crawlspace and walls. A missing vapor barrier leaves your crawlspace more vulnerable to moisture intrusion. Dead trees are prone to falling on your house during a windy day or storm. A rotting deck or staircase could give way, injuring the person walking on it.
Instead, the best practice is to fix serious problems before you close.
Understandably, you might not be sure how to cover the cost of major work after putting so much funding towards your downpayment and closing costs. You have a few options, however –
- Request that the seller complete the repairs (just make sure they apply for the proper building permits before completing the work, so it’s done right and re-inspected afterward).
- Request money off the price of the home or toward closing costs, so you have more funds to put toward the work.
- If neither of the above options works for you and you can’t fund the repair work yourself, it is possible to take out a small loan from your bank to cover the cost. Then you pay toward the loan monthly in addition to your mortgage, instead of having to front the money all at once.
2. Complete any major home renovations before you move in, if possible.
When we purchase a new home, it’s easy to be optimistic about everything we will do to customize it after moving in.
What often happens instead is that everyday life catches up. Work, school, and family obligations crowd out the time available to spend on home projects. Those dreams of an accent wall or updated kitchen fade into the “someday” category on your to-do list.
If there’s an update you REALLY want for your new home, sometimes the most foolproof plan is to complete it before you move in. That way, your driveway has new gravel or a fresh pressure wash and the crown molding is installed before you have a chance to put it off until the next time you’re ready to move.
3. Get a home warranty and don’t let it expire.
Water heaters break. HVAC components eventually need replacing. Appliances wear out. Those expenses add up quickly if one too many repairs need to be scheduled in short succession.
An easy way to keep necessary repairs affordable is to get a home warranty. Companies like First American offer warranty plans on the major components of a home.
Then, whenever you need something repaired or replaced, you only have to pay a small deductible. They let one of their contractor partners know about your request, and the contractor contacts you to schedule an appointment at your convenience.
Home warranties are usually quite affordable. Most range from $350-600 annually.
4. Keep up with home maintenance.
When you’re new to homeownership, home maintenance can come as a surprise.
Who knew you had to clean out your dryer vent and replace your furnace filter so often? Or paint your wood siding every three to seven years? If you have an HOA, sometimes they will take care of a few maintenance items, but not typically all. It’s always a good idea to check with your HOA so you’re aware what home maintenance you’re responsible for.
Keeping up with these maintenance tasks helps ensure your home will stay in great shape for a long time. Not sure what home maintenance you need to do? This checklist from The New York Times is an excellent reference.
If you’re so busy that home or lawn maintenance is too time-consuming for you to keep up, sometimes your best option is to hire professional help. If a bi-monthly contractor or handyman fits in your budget, try giving one a call to get the help you need.
5. Be realistic about DIY projects.
Some DIY home projects are a blast, like painting an accent wall with a splash of color. Others, like replacing the flooring and countertops, or stripping and staining the cabinets – can be overwhelming and difficult.
If you’re experienced with DIY home projects and you enjoy the challenge, go ahead and pull the appropriate building permits to do your project. Just be sure to research the tools and techniques needed to do it right. It also helps if you don’t underestimate the time your project will take to complete. That way, you don’t end up with nowhere to cook for three weeks while you’re putting in your new kitchen backsplash.
If you’re new to home renovation, it might be better to hire a contractor. After you get a few quotes, take recommendations, and look at reviews, you should find one or two you feel comfortable working with.