After months of house hunting in this competitive market you’ve finally secured the home of your dreams. Congratulations! Becoming a homeowner is an exciting and fulfilling experience, but it’s also one of the largest financial investments you’ll ever make, and things can get stressful if you aren’t prepared. Here are 8 tips to start your journey off on the right foot.
Attend the home inspection
REALTOR® Greta Zenner with EXIT Realty Home Partners says her first piece of “new homeowner” advice starts during the purchase process. She recommends that all her clients attend the inspection to learn all they can about the inner workings of their new home.
“This is a great learning experience that allows you to see your home through the eyes of an expert,” she said. “You’ll not only gain valuable insight about the location and severity of any needed repairs, but you’ll also receive maintenance tips and advice so you can plan for future expenses. I encourage my buyers to follow along, take notes, and ask questions. As a REALTOR® I have attended countless inspections, and I learn something new every time.”
Create a homeowner journal
During the purchase process you’ll notice there is a lot of paperwork. Unfortunately, that paperwork will only continue to accumulate as a homeowner.
Buy a binder right away to store important documents, like mortgage and homeowners insurance papers, moving expenses, repair receipts, warranties, instruction manuals, etc. Storing everything in one place makes life easier and it can be helpful if you decide to sell your house down the road.
Get to know your neighbors
Establishing a good rapport with your next-door neighbors goes a long way in making day-to-day life more enjoyable. And you never know when you might need them to water your plants or grab the mail. Building a relationship with neighbors is also great for safety reasons. It’s comforting to know you have someone looking out for you and your home and able to check on things when you’re away.
Start an emergency fund
Everyone should have emergency savings but an emergency fund for homeowners is critical. Not only will you have new, routine expenses as a homeowner (annual maintenance services, utilities, lawn maintenance, etc.) but you must also be prepared to deal with unexpected (and expensive) problems that might pop up along the way. A new furnace, a plumbing issue, mold problems, a new roof…these repairs can be costly and may cause financial stress if you aren’t prepared. Start saving early so you can build up a good safety net for whatever comes your way.
Wait to start a large renovation
One of the biggest mistakes new homeowners make is taking on major remodeling projects right away. Experts suggest that, unless your new home is not livable, it’s best to hold off on large-scale projects for at least six months to one year. This helps you get a feel for the home and how it works for you.
And Zenner says this advice applies to buying furniture and home decor items as well.
“I’ve seen many excited buyers who make big purchases and schedule projects before they even move in,” she said. “But I really suggest taking some time to live in your space as it is. After a couple of months, you may actually find that your needs and priorities change.”
Keep up with routine maintenance
Staying on top of regular maintenance can go a long way in preventing bigger, more expensive, and potentially value-damaging problems down the road. By maintaining your home on a regular basis, you’ll end up putting less into it in the long run.
To stay up-to-date on important tasks, the Greater Lansing Association of REALTORS® publishes a monthly home maintenance checklist. In addition to regular upkeep, take some time at least once a year to look over your home’s interior and exterior, taking note of areas that need attention.
Perform a home energy audit
Many home improvement experts suggest that new homeowners schedule an energy audit, which can help you understand the whole picture of your home’s energy use. The U.S. Energy Department says, “An audit can help you determine how much energy your home uses, where your home is losing energy, and which problem areas and fixes you should prioritize to make your home more efficient and comfortable.”
Put together a professional rolodex
One important characteristic of a responsible homeowner is knowing when to hire help. Don’t try to save money by making improvements and repairs you aren’t qualified to make. Things like painting or pulling up carpeting may be tasks you can handle, but things like electrical work, plumbing, or structural work can be dangerous if done by amateurs.
“Having a list of ‘go-to’ professionals is invaluable,” said Zenner. “You never know when you might need a plumber, a landscaper, a general handyman, etc. You can reach out to friends and family members for recommendations, but your REALTOR® is also a great source of information. We work with many different service providers on a regular basis and can provide you with a list of reputable, local professionals.”
For more homeowner tips, follow the Greater Lansing Association of REALTORS® on Facebook.