Buying a home is a lot of work. There’s negotiations, paperwork, inspections, more paperwork, moving in, and even more paperwork. The home-buying process can be exhausting, and may tempt you to rest on your laurels once you’re all moved in and the last document is signed. But there are a few things you should think about doing in the first few years of home ownership, to safeguard against disaster and plan for your future.
1. Change the Locks
One task that definitely shouldn’t wait: change the locks. Simply put, you don’t know who might have a copy of that house key. Replace all the external locks on the house completely instead of just having them re-keyed — it’s not a big expense, and will go a long way toward securing your home. If your budget allows for it, it might even be time to upgrade to a smart lock system. Don’t forget to make a spare key and leave it with a trusted friend, too. New locks may not be pricey, but locksmiths definitely are.
2. Document Everything
Once the dust settles and you’re all moved in, you should take a day to document your possessions. No one relishes the idea of fire, flood, or burglary, but making a thorough record of the most important material things in your home will be a godsend if the worst happens. Documenting your home inventory can take several forms: video, physical or digital photos, and / or a physical checklist. Have a talk with your homeowners insurance company to find out if they have any recommendations.
Once your documentation is finished, you should make sure to secure the inventory itself. After all, a collection of photos isn’t much help it’s destroyed or lost. Consider a safe or off-site safety deposit box to keep your inventory secure should disaster strike.
3. Prioritize Upgrades
Once you’ve settled in and made your house a home, it might be time to start thinking about what upgrades you want to make. Home improvement creates sweat equity, increases the value of your home, and improves your quality of life.
These upgrades can be as simple as a fresh coat of paint or a power wash, or as complicated as building a deck or installing a programmable thermostat. You can also add value to your home by landscaping, installing new cabinets, re-tiling the floor, or even converting that spare room into something new. The possibilities are endless, and it costs nothing to let your imagination run wild — so don’t be afraid to sit down and make a giant wish list of possible improvements.
4. Stock Up on Essentials
If you’re a first-time homeowner, you might not have considered how many household items you’ll have to purchase. In some cases, the previous owners may have left some essential items behind, but it’s not wise to count on it. A few of the common items you’ll (probably) have to buy for your new home include:
- Lawnmower and lawn care products
- Gardening and yard supplies
- Tools and repair items (hammers, wrenches, etc.)
- Paint brushes and paint supplies
- Snow removal equipment
While you might balk a little at the expense of all these new items, remember this is part of the investment in your home. Keeping your house in good condition will not only make it a great place to live, but also safeguard its resale value for the future.
5. Make Seasonal Checklists
Now that you’ve purchased all the vital home equipment you need, it’s time to plan for putting it to good use. Regular, scheduled maintenance is a vital part of home ownership, and a good old-fashioned checklist is one of the best ways to prioritize maintenance projects.
For example, winter is the best time to break out the snow removal equipment, check the pipes to prevent freezing, clean or replace your furnace filters, and switch the direction on your ceiling fan blades to help keep the house warm.
Spring is a great time to clean out the gutters, fertilize the lawn, check on your sprinkler system and have your chimney cleaned.
Summer is the season for painting and repairs, whether you’re brightening up the deck or changing the color of the whole house. Summer is also yard sale season and a great opportunity to declutter.
When fall comes, most of your attention should go toward preparing for winter. Check the weather stripping and insulation in your home, have your heating system checked out and serviced, and trim the trees and branches around your home in anticipation of winter storms.
6. Plant Some Trees
If you have the means and the yard space for it, planting a few trees is one of the best home improvement decisions you can make. They’re aesthetically pleasing, create shade (keeping down cooling costs), and increase the value of your home. Evergreen trees on the north side of your home will help shelter you from the wind in winter, and deciduous trees on the east side of the house will provide cooling shade in the hot summer months. Lastly, you can complement your garden with some fruit trees, such as lime trees (like these) or lemon trees and you’ll never be out of lemonade in the hot months.
There’s no doubt: home ownership is a lot of work. But it can also be a tremendously rewarding experience that pays off, both emotionally and financially, in the long run.