New Homeowner GuidePosted on Sep 28, 2020
Congratulations on making the leap (or at least considering it!) into homeownership! Of course, along with that shiny new mortgage payment comes a lot of added responsibility. But not to worry: We’ll steer you straight with a few tasks that every new homeowner should do in the first year.
Make an Emergency Budget
In addition to your mortgage, taxes, and insurance, make it a point to also set aside funds for repairs and maintenance. It’s possible to build these funds gradually, but if your home’s purchase price cleans out your savings, you’ll be in trouble if an emergency pops up during your first months of ownership.
You can help avoid this issue by building and keeping an emergency fund (experts generally suggest between $2,000 and $3,000).
As soon as you pick up the keys to your new home, your mind will be inundated with to-dos. Keep your thoughts organized with a notebook in a central location. Write down action items as you think of them. At the end of your first day, cut the list off, then prioritize them. First up: items to be completed within that first week—safety concerns, cleaning, unpacking your essentials, etc. Priority two goes to tasks to be completed within the next two months—organizing, maintenance, and remaining unpacking. Priority three items should be your non-essentials. Reserve this status for improvements and projects you’d like to complete within the year—for example, renovations, landscaping, and big-ticket purchases.
Start a Homeowner’s Journal
Buy a basic ring binder for keeping insurance papers, repair receipts, and any other paperwork pertaining to your house. Keeping everything in one convenient location makes life easier on you, and can even be a sales bonus should you decide to sell later.
Replace the Furnace Filter
One of the quickest and surest ways to create problems with a forced-air heating and cooling system is to forget to replace your filter. Find the furnace filter and purchase replacements if the sellers didn’t leave you a stash. (Get in the habit of changing it out every month.)
Clean Air Conditioner Condensers and Evaporators
Even if it’s winter when you purchase your home, a little sweat equity here will save you both money and comfort by the time summer sets in. It’s possible to do most of the job without the help of a professional. By servicing and testing out your cooling system in advance, you’ll have plenty of time to schedule an appointment with a contractor if there’s anything major that needs addressing. Here’s how:
Cut off the electricity to the unit.
Vacuum the outdoor condenser’s exterior fins with a soft-bristled brush.
Clear away bushes, weeds, and grass within a two-foot radius of the unit.
Inside, replace the furnace filter on the evaporator unit.
Vacuum out the blower compartment.
Clean the condensation drain.
Map Out Your Shutoff Valves
Knowing the locations of your home’s main water and gas shutoff valves could save you BIG in the event of an emergency.
The majority of homes have one main shutoff valve directly before the water meter, and another directly after. The location of the meter depends on the climate in your area. In colder areas, the meter and main shutoff valves are located inside, sometimes in a basement or other warm area to prevent freezing concerns. In milder climates, the meter and its two shutoff valves could be located on an exterior wall, or tucked away in an underground box with a removable lid.
Find the Electrical Panel
Locate the electrical panel. This way, you know where and how to shut off the power to your entire house or an individual circuit.
The main circuit breaker panel—a gray, metal box—will usually be located in a utility room, garage, or basement. All the dangerous stuff is behind another steel cover, so don’t stress opening up the panel door. Behind the door is the main breaker for the whole house (usually located at the top of the panel) and two rows of other breakers below it, each controlling individual circuits. If you’re lucky, the previous owners will have left you some kind of guide that explains which outlets and receptacles are served by each circuit.
Check Your Water Heater
Avoid costly water heater repairs and leaks with one simple task: Drain some of the water from it every year. It turns out that sediment will collect at the bottom of your tank. This can create hot spots on gas-powered heaters that damage the tank and can cause premature failures. Sediment buildup on an electric unit can cause the lower heating element to fail. Occasionally draining a water heater will lower energy bills and extend its life, saving you money.
While this certainly isn’t an all-encompassing list, and the items on it might seem small, we hope you take away at least a few pointers to help familiarize yourself with homeownership. It can be tempting to fantasize about bigger projects, we suggest giving yourself some time to live in your home before you do anything drastic like additions or taking out walls. Your “wants” may change after a little while, so don’t rush into the more expensive overhauls.
Ready to make the leap and find a home you can truly make yours? Let Team Lassen lead the way!