Ready to sit back and relax after closing the deal on your new home? Don’t get too comfortable. There are plenty of important projects, both big and small, that new homeowners need to accomplish before getting settled into their new place.
Inspection & repair
If it is an existing home in question, the most important step the homeowners need to take is a thorough home inspection, says Stephen Melman, director of economic services at the National Association of Homebuilders, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association for the housing industry.
An inspection is typically conducted before the contract for the home is fully processed, but Melman suggests that home buyers take advantage of inspectors as a resource, and ask them to expand their inspection and make recommendations and suggestions for improving the home.
This is a great opportunity for homeowners to learn about “energy-related issues, landscaping issues like ground sloping, etc. Inspectors can tell you how to preserve the house and keep it in good running order,” Melman says.
Cynthia Cohn, senior partner at residential brokerage Deasy/Penner & Partners in Pasadena, Calif., says larger repairs and upgrades include appliance and electrical upgrades, a new hot water heater or fixing any outstanding problems with the structure of the house.
Another essential tip for new homeowners is to create a budget that takes into account the expenses that come with the new home.
“You may have an idea of how much [your new home] will cost, but the reality is that it often costs more,” Cohn says.
Homeowners should start their budget by calculating their mortgage payment based on the monthly principal, interest, taxes and homeowners’ insurance, or “PITI,” according to Carol Chua, a Pasadena, Calif.-based real estate agent for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.
Chua reminds condominium and townhome owners to budget for homeowner association fees, which cover maintenance of common community areas.
Don’t forget to check if local tax rates have changed recently, says Carole Weinberg, CPA and partner at NCA Financial Planners in Cleveland. “You have to factor in real estate taxes, and not necessarily what the current owner is paying. Yours could be different.”
The budget should also include utilities, Weinberg says, which can be higher than expected in large homes that are available at low prices lately. Upkeep is another major expense.
“If you’re buying an older home, you might need to factor in … getting a new roof in the next three years. Or what’s the condition of the water and sewer line?” Weinberg says.
The big move
At the top of the mind of most new homeowners is coordinating the move from one location to the next.
Cohn, who recently purchased a home of her own, says, “You’re going to spend a considerable amount of time in escrow after the loan is processed and the inspection is conducted, so that’s when you want to start coordinating how the move is going to work.”
Besides the typical moving hassles like cleaning, packing and physically getting everything to the new location, homeowners need to plan around the timeline of closing as well as possible home repairs and updates. Many physical changes to the home itself are easier when it is empty.
Cohn recommends that new homeowners take this time in escrow to “plan for any work you want to have done before moving in.”
Decorating & remodeling
Besides repairs, structural changes and system updates, aesthetic changes are important for homeowners to truly feel at home.
Real estate agent Chua notes that if the home is a turnkey property, that is, a home that is ready to move into right away, the only changes needed are usually cosmetic.
A new coat of paint and new flooring are common updates that new homeowners take on right away, she says. Drapes, blinds and wallpaper updates are also popular.
Chua offers a few alternatives to expensive remodeling projects if you’re looking for a fresh look in your new home: “If you don’t like the way your kitchen cabinets look, it’s much cheaper to paint them rather than replacing them outright. This is a quick trick that really gives your kitchen a facelift.”
A bare-bones bathroom update would include new flooring, faucets and light fixtures. “It will make a big difference for not a lot of money,” Chua recommends.