New Homeowner Tips and Resources
Wouldn’t it be great if homeownership came with a manual? Or at least a cheat sheet? These tips and resources can help. You'll find help with what you need to do first, when and how to do home maintenance tasks you may have never had to do before, and ways to budget and save money. No matter when you bought your home in the last year, these tips can help you ease into homeownership.
First Things First
1. Change Your Locks
You never know how many spare keys there could be (and who could have them) when you buy a new home. If you have a First American home warranty that was included with your home purchase, rekey service may be included in your coverage.
If you have traditional locks with a key, consider hiding an extra key in a lockbox. Tired of losing your keys? Consider switching to a keyless door lock that you can open with a code entered into the keypad, or a smart lock you can unlock with your mobile device, voice activation, and more.
2. Learn Where Your Utility Shutoff Valves and Switches Are Located
Take a few minutes to walk around your house and learn where the shutoff values and switches are located. For your water, you’ll want to know where your main shutoff valve is located, as well as the shutoff for any irrigation or sprinklers. If a pipe bursts and you need to shut off the water in a hurry, you’ll want to know where to go. It’s also a good idea to label your circuits in your electrical box so you can easily tell if a circuit gets tripped and you have to reset it.
Not sure where to find your utility valves and switches? Here are tips on where to look.
3. Create a Toolbox
Buying a home probably hasn’t left you with a lot of extra money, but every homeowner needs a few key items for their toolbox. Don’t worry—there will be plenty of time for you to grow your toolbox over the years. Here are 16 essential tools you can start with for your toolbox.
4. Get One or More Fire Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers are like insurance – you hope you never need them, but you wouldn’t want to be without them. And unlike homeowners insurance, fire extinguishers are fairly inexpensive.
If you only have one fire extinguisher, make sure it is in your kitchen, as this where over half of home fires occur. You should also consider keeping a fire extinguisher somewhere central in your home, where you can grab it in a hurry. If you have multiple stories, then consider keeping an extinguisher on each floor.
5. Make or Buy a Home Emergency Kit
If a natural disaster or unexpected emergency occurs, it’s important to have a home emergency kit ready to go. Here's how to get started building an emergency kit that you and your loved ones can rely on when you need it quick.
6. Create a Home Inventory
Take photos or create a video walk-through of your home to record all of your personal property. You’re paying for homeowners insurance, which you’ll hopefully never need to use, but if you do, the last thing you’re going to want to do is make lists of items from memory. A great way to make a fast inventory is to walk through your house video recording the contents and describing them as you go. If you want to go a little more in-depth, there are many home inventory apps.
Home Maintenance How-Tos
Maintaining your home is one of the new expenses that comes with owning a home. If it helps, think of it as maintaining one of your largest investments. Upkeep of home maintenance tasks not only keeps your home running smoothly, it can also help prevent headaches – or big repair bills – down the line. Fortunately, you can do many of these maintenance tasks yourself, even if you’re not that handy.
Get Organized with a Home Maintenance Log
Half the battle of home maintenance is knowing what needs to be done, and when. A home maintenance log can help you track maintenance and repair for your home and where you can keep track of improvements, updates, and upgrades you make. You can also use it to store appliance and system manuals and instructions, warranties, and other resources. Learn how to make your own home maintenance log.
Schedule HVAC Maintenance for Spring and Fall
Your heating and cooling systems work hard behind the scenes to keep you and your family comfortable all year long. Scheduling an off-season air conditioner tune-up is a great way to make sure these systems run efficiently to keep your heating and cooling costs down. Technicians can often spot small problems before they become big ones—and who wants their AC to suddenly stop working on the first really hot day of the season? One thing you can do on your own is to stay on top of changing your HVAC air filter.
- How to change your HVAC system air filter
- When to change water filters
- Hardwood floor maintenance
- How to clear clogged drains
- How to maintain your water heater
- Clean your roof gutters
Seasonal Maintenance Checklists (and a little fun!)
Combine a little home maintenance with fun seasonal activities:
Home Finance and Budgeting
Set up a Homeowner Budget
In addition to your mortgage, homeowners insurance, and utilities, you should also budget money for home repairs and maintenance. How much should you save? It depends on the age and condition of your home, but recommendations start at $1 per square foot (so $1,500 for a 1,500 sq. ft. home) or 1% of your home’s purchase price. Whichever method you choose, the important thing is to start saving.
Make Sure You Have Home Warranty Protection
With a home warranty, you also don’t need to worry about the hassle of finding a qualified professional to get the work done.
Set Your Bills to Auto-Pay
Set up your bills, including your mortgage and utility bills to auto-pay so you never have to worry about being late. To make budgeting easier, many utilities also have plans to balance your bills so you’ll pay a predictable amount all year long.
Talk to a Tax Professional
Many of the costs of homeownership can be tax deductible, including your mortgage interest, interest points, property taxes, and more. Talking to a tax professional who can help you understand any deductions or credits for which you may be eligible.
Save Money on Utility Bills
Here are a few tips for saving money on utilities:
- Which Smart Home Devices Help Lower Energy Bills
- Window Coverings That Insulate and Save Energy
- Which Way Should Your Ceiling Fan Turn?
- Tips for Creating an Energy-Efficient Bathroom
- Tips for Creating an Energy-Efficient Kitchen
- Tips for Creating an Energy-Efficient Living Room
Keep Your Home Running Smoothly
These resources can also help you maintain many items in your home: