The transition from renter to homeowner is a doozy. We’re not saying that to scare you, but rather, to prepare you. To make things go as smoothly as possible as you join the homeownership club, we’ve gathered some handy tips just for you. (Spoiler alert: none of them involve calling your landlord to resolve issues.)
Before Getting The Keys
So let’s say you’ve found an awesome house, you’ve negotiated a great price, you’ve signed all the paperwork, you’ve done your homebuyer education course and you’re in escrow. Congrats! So now what? There are some things you can and should do before the keys are handed over to you.
1. Notify everyone.
Alert just about everyone but the media about your change of address, including the post office, the DMV (don’t forget voter registration), your phone company, and utilities like power, water, trash, internet and cable TV.
2. Tool up.
If you don’t have one already, get yourself a basic tool kit. Even if you’re not handy, you will use items like a hammer, a multi-bit screwdriver, a measuring tape and a level. Also, buy or make a disaster kit for your new home, which includes food, water, blankets, a radio, a flashlight and batteries.
3. Start packing.
This advice may seem overly simple, but you’d be surprised how many people wait until the last minute to start packing. Chances are, you can live without your grandmother’s china or your impressive library for a few weeks. Two additional pieces of advice: 1) Don’t buy cheap tape. 2) Pack room by room and label the heck out of your boxes so unpacking will be easier.
After Getting The Keys
This is when you’ll really be thankful you’ve gotten a head start (see above). It’s also go-time.
One of the first things you should do (other than jump for joy in your new pad) is change the locks. Since you just got the new keys, it may seem like funny advice, but trust us. You have no idea who has keys to your house—until you change the locks.
To help you stay focused on the work ahead, we’ve created a Nevada Housing Division exclusive: The Four Elements Of Homeownership.
Chances are, as a homeowner, you’ll have a yard or at least a patio that needs tending to. Make sure you have the proper tools to care for it. Secure a mower or mowing service as needed, and stock up on some basic gardening tools.
If you’re planning to do any digging in the yard, be sure to call 811 first and have the utilities companies come out and mark their lines.
In Nevada especially, our furnace and A/C systems are very much a part of our lives. That’s why homeowners should ask for manuals and maintenance records. Also, be prepared to change the filters often for better running systems and better air quality.
Do you own a fire extinguisher? You should, so be sure to add it to your shopping list. Keep it in a strategic location in or near your kitchen, where most house fires start.
Also, familiarize yourself with your electric panel, and label (or re-label as necessary). In an emergency, knowing how to power down your system, or a certain part of it, could save lives, or at least lots of damage.
Lastly, be sure to change out the batteries in your smoke detectors when daylight savings time starts and ends.
Knowing where the main water shutoff valve to your house is, and how to turn it off, needs to be near the top of your priority list as a new homeowner. Make sure you have the proper tool or key, as needed, to be able to turn the water off in a hurry.
If your new home has a sprinkler system, make sure you have the manual to the system and/or get instructions from the previous owner. This is something that our northern Nevada homebuyers may not think about if the house is bought during the winter months when the sprinklers are hibernating.
Lots To Digest
Yep, that’s a lot of information in a short amount of time, but we know you can handle it.
We have a couple last words of advice to leave you with.
1. Be sure to address anything in your inspection report that you agree to leave as is.
2. If you have CC&Rs, read them. Know them. Live by them. Can you park your car on the street? Can you paint your garage door your favorite shade of fuchsia? Will you get fined for leaving your trashcan out too long? Getting letters or fines for these things is no fun.
3. Be sure to introduce yourself to your neighbors. If you wait too long, then it’s just plain awkward, and they could be your neighbors for a long time.
Congrats on becoming a well-educated, successful homeowner.