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14 Things New Homeowners Don’t Know They Need To Do

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Jessica
01.05.15

So you just bought a new home. Congratulations! Break out the bubbly and celebrate.

But, once the champagne flutes are put away, it’s time to get down to business. We know that between daily chores and preventative maintenance, it’s easy to forget a few things when you’re getting in the groove of new homeownership. Let’s refresh your memory!

You found our original list so helpful that we’ve doubled it. The best time to tackle these must-do items is before the ink dries on your mortgage, but they’re worth doing even if you’re a veteran homeowner.

Allen Shulman, custom home builder of 25 years, said, “The biggest mistake homeowner’s make is succumbing to what I like to call the ‘eyes wide shut’ syndrome. They see the problem, they understand that it’s only going to get worse, and then they do nothing in the hope that it will simply go away."

To prevent a costly problem, don't ignore warning signs! 

Shulman adds, "A customer of mine once noticed that there was water in the cabinet under their kitchen sink and just assumed that they had spilled something and it was still wet. They did nothing. A few weeks later, they notice that the wood floor near their kitchen sink was starting to buckle. Long story short, the slow leak from their kitchen faucet caused significant damage to their wood floor costing them thousands of dollars."

If Shulman's customer would have addressed the issue when they first discovered it, they would have nipped the issue in the bud and saved themselves time and money.

Here are 14 tasks that will help you stay on top of homeownership (and prevent a money-sucking disaster): 

1. Save for Unexpected Problems

You can’t stop things like your dishwasher from breaking, but you can set some cash aside to pay for unexpected replacements. As a general rule of thumb, you want to save 1-3 percent of your home’s initial price each year so that you can afford unexpected problems.

2. Form an Inspection Habit

Detecting certain issues early (like a rodent infestation or mold growth) can be the difference between a simple fix and an unaffordable disaster. Take the time to properly inspect your furnacebasementatticinsulation and roof at least once during that first year. Then, make an annual habit of it! Tip: If you would rather have an annual inspection conducted by a professional home inspector, visit Angie's List to find the best local service provider to fit your needs. 

3. Buy a Bunch of Furnace Filters

Changing your furnace filter regularly is one of the easiest ways you can save money (since your furnace will last longer) and improve your health (since the air you breathe will be cleaner). But remembering to pick up a filter from the hardware store every few months isn’t always so easy. Nip that problem in the bud by purchasing in bulk! Take a look at your furnace and write down the filter size, then order enough to last for a few years (the exact number you need will vary depending on the type of furnace you have). 

4. Get to Know Your Appliances

Just like cars and televisions, the appliances in your home have different life expectancies. For example, furnaces usually last for 15-20 years, but water heaters tend to start wearing down after 10 years. It’s worth figuring out how old each appliance in your house is because then you can plan ahead for their replacements. A new furnace can cost as much as $5,000, so a little heads up can really help!

5. Take Advantage of Tax Credits

Did you know that you can receive credits for things like installing solar panels or purchasing Energy Star appliances? Do some research early on about the different tax credits that may apply to you, and then reap the benefits when tax time rolls around! 

6. Start Keeping Records

Every improvement or repair you make to your home – from adding caulk around your bathtub to installing a new roof – will increase its resale value. Make sure all of your hard work pays off by keeping track right from the start! 

7. Beef Up Your Insurance

Take a good look at your homeowners insurance policy and look for any relevant gaps (this is a situation where professional advice can be really helpful). Two areas of coverage to consider are flood and fire protection, which aren’t always included in standard policies. Tip: It’s also worth taking another look at your car insurance, because you now have a much bigger asset (your home) to lose in the event of a lawsuit. 

8. Change Your Locks

You never know how generous the previous homeowner was with their house keys. To be safe, re-key all locks and change your garage door code. Also check to make sure all windows and slider doors lock properly. For added protection, you may want to consider installing a security system as well.

9. Purchase Fire Extinguishers

If a fire starts at home, are you ready? Fire experts recommend you keep at least one fire extinguisher in your kitchen and one in your garage (if you have one). We recommend keeping one extinguisher on every level of your home, so you can extinguish any fires as fast as possible. Extinguishers can be purchased for as little as $20, so there's no excuse not to have them!

10. Replace Your Washer Hoses

Check the hoses that came with your washing machine. If they’re rubber, it's a good idea to replace them with steel braided hoses. These cost $5-$10 more than rubber, but last a lot longer and won't split open.

11. Test Your Smoke and CO Detectors

Your new home probably has smoke detectors. (If not, purchase those, too!) Do they work? This is incredibly important, because about 62 percent of home-related deaths occur because the home did not have working smoke alarms.

To test the detectors, locate the "test" or "reset." If you are having trouble finding it, refer to the manufacturer's instructions. Press the button (you may need a paper clip). If it goes off, your detector is working. The test usually runs about 30 seconds. If your detector doesn’t work, try putting in new batteries and repeat.

12. Check for Radon

Radon is an invisible, odorless, and tasteless gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in the ground, so you won’t know that your home has a radon problem unless you test for it. What are the odds? Well, radon problems affect an estimated one out of every 15 homes in the U.S., and causes more than 20,000 deaths annually due to lung cancer. There is good news – a radon test only costs about $30.

If you’d rather not do it yourself, you can hire a qualified tester. Some states maintain a list of radon service providers that are registered, certified, or licensed to test. To learn more about your states requirements for contractors and to find a contractor, click here.

13. Shorten Your Dryer Vent Hose

This one-time fix will cut 20 percent off of your drying time (and save you money in the long run)! Remove the vent hose from the back of your dryer and shorten it using some tin snips, tape and a couple other household items. By decreasing the length of the hose, you reduce the amount of work it takes for your dryer to expel steam and clothes will dry quicker.

14. Check the Size of Your House Numbers

If your home’s address number isn’t visible from the main road (or it’s too small to read), the police and fire department won’t be able to find your house in an emergency. Safety inspectors recommend that your numbers be at least 3-6 inches tall and a color that contrasts with the exterior of your house. Seconds and minutes can make a huge difference in these dangerous situations, so protect your family by making sure your home is easy to identify.

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