12 Things Most First-Time Homeowners Don’t Know

Buying your first home is no easy feat. Fortunately, there are many ways to make life as a new homeowner less stressful.

new homeowners

Locate the Gas and Water Shut-off Valves

It’s troubling when a pipe bursts or when you smell gas in your house. Not knowing how to shut off your water and gas will only compound your stress. (It could also majorly damage your home and your family’s health.) A better bet is to take the time to locate your gas shutoff valve and your water shutoff valve before an emergency strikes.

File Away Home and Mortgage Documents

Definitely hang on to any documents related to your home for as long as you own it. This includes the deed, mortgage (or deed of trust) and promissory note, closing disclosure, purchase contract and selling disclosure, home warranty, home inspection report and receipts for any appliances or renovations. It’s best to keep them all in one place, such as a safe deposit box or a well-rated fireproof safe, such as this SentrySafe fire- and water-proof box.

Read Over the Home Inspection Report

Your home inspection report is far more than just a passing grade for your home. It also contains a wealth of information about the state of your home, including the age of key appliances, the condition of your roof and much more. Read it over to get a solid idea of what kinds of repairs you’ll need to tackle down the road.

Change the Locks

There’s no telling how many people have the key to your house when you first move in. That’s why it’s a good idea to swap out all the locks as soon as possible. If you have standard locks, you can call a locksmith or simply re-key the current door locks by removing the lock cylinder and changing the pins.

Get Familiar With the Circuit Breaker Panel

The time will come when you’ll need to reset a tripped electrical circuit breaker. That job will be a whole lot easier if you not only know where your circuit breaker box is located, but also which breaker controls which circuit. With all luck the breakers will be labeled—if not, take the time to label which breakers control which individual circuits in your home.

Compile a List of Trusted Contractors

Whether it’s a furnace that stops working in the dead of winter or an overflowing toilet, you need to know who to call when disaster strikes. Compile a list of trusted plumbers, electricians, HVAC contractors and other others to save time and hassle later on. Recommendations from neighbors, as well as online resources like AngiesList.com, can help you find trusted names. Of course, we also recommend that you get familiar and comfortable with DIY fixes, repairs and updates by consulting familyhandyman.com.

Check the Fire Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The National Fire Protection Association recommends having smoke alarms installed inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. Also, each home should have one carbon monoxide detector on each floor, one in (or just outside) each sleeping area and one in the basement. Make sure you have enough detectors in your new home and that they are in good working order.

Have a Lock-Out Plan

It’s an unfortunate fact that everyone gets locked out of their home from time to time. Plan ahead for the inevitable by giving your key to a trusted neighbor or stashing it in a super-secret hiding place. Or simply avoid the situation altogether by installing keyless locks.

Check the Water Heater

A good hot water temperature is 120 degrees F (48.89 degree C)—any hotter and you’ll run the risk of scalds. So definitely check out your water heater and adjust the temperature if necessary. While you’re there, you might consider doing a bit of maintenance to extend your water heater’s lifespan.

Schedule a Service Call For the HVAC System

It’s a good idea to schedule a maintenance check for your new home’s HVAC system. You want to make sure everything is safe, clean and able to get you through the dog days of summer and the coldest days of winter. Ask the previous homeowners which contractor they used—sometimes you have to schedule through a particular contractor in order to maintain the HVAC system’s warranty.

Create a Seasonal Home Maintenance List

Many first-time homeowners aren’t sure which projects to tackle as the seasons change. It’s important to stay on top of tasks because maintaining a home is easier than dealing with disasters and big repairs later on. Fortunately, there are many resources like this year-round home maintenance checklist to help you out.

Do a Home Inventory

The purpose of a home inventory is to be able to prove a loss to your insurance company once you make a claim. It can also help you know how much home insurance you need. There are several ways to do a home inventory: creating a list, taking photos, creating a narrated video or using a home inventory app.

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Amanda Prischak
Amanda Prischak is a freelance writer based in Erie, Pennsylvania.