Negotiate Buyer's Terms
No home is perfect, so as you work with the sellers to reach a buying agreement, try to include some possible needed improvements with your final offer; like replacing an old water heater, having the carpets professionally steam cleaned, or having the furnace/ac tuned at the sellers cost before closing. Sellers likely won't back down from a big offer because of a couple small requests, and it helps cross a couple items off your list before moving in.
Plan Your Painting
If you're able to access the vacant home before moving in, this is the absolute best time to paint. If you can't paint until you move in, prioritize which rooms you want to paint first and make your life easier by keeping them as empty as possible. Want to make painting go faster? Check out these painting hacks from our field editors.
Set Up Utilities
If possible, transition utility accounts to your new address, and set up all installation appointments as close to move-in day as you can. Use apps like Nextdoor.com and social media to ask future neighbors for vendors they'd recommend. File for a change of address with USPS, IRS, and banking.
Color Coordinate Your Packing
Use colorful garage sale stickers, or multi-colored masking tape to match each moving box with its final destination. Blue= kitchen, Yellow= master bedroom, etc.? This not only helps you on move-in day but any movers or friends helping unload. Buy a few big, permanent markers and really label the boxes with their contents. This will help the inevitable opening of a dozen wrong boxes before finding the one that actually contains the coffee mugs.
Load the moving truck with low priority items first - ones you can live a few days without ? keeping the most important items for the very end, like bedding, basic kitchenwares, and towels. If you don't unload it all the first day, at least you'll have some necessities to get you through the first night. Loading the big stuff can be back breaking ? if you aren't hiring professional movers, use these tips from our field editors for moving furniture.
Pack for Vacation
It's not a bad idea to pack a duffel bag or small suitcase for each member of the family as though you're going on a weekend road trip. A change of clothes, toiletries, a towel and set of pjs will get you through the first night without cracking into a single moving box. Additionally, packing a few snacks, disposable dinnerware, phone chargers, and even a couple camp chairs in the car can make for an easy move-in break.
Designate a Dumping Ground
If possible, prioritize your rooms and keep one low-priority area as a 'dumping ground'. This might be a spare bedroom, or basement? an area that doesn't need to be used immediately unlike the kitchen and bedrooms. Use this space to put everything you can't make a 5-second decision on, and come back to it later when you're more settled in.
Make a Prioritized List
The minute you walk in to your new home, your mind will be racing with to-dos. Keep this overwhelming task list at bay by keeping a notebook in a central location and write down every action item you or your family thinks of throughout the day. After 24 hours cut the list off, and prioritize each item with a 1, 2, or 3. First priority should be items completed that week - such as safety concerns, cleaning, unpacking essentials, etc. Priority two should be tasks completed within the next two months - related to organization, maintenance and remaining unpacking. Priority three tasks should be non-essentials, but improvements and projects you'd like to complete within the year - renovations, landscaping, and large purchases. Read this first-time homebuyer's guide to home maintenance to get started.
Before you start unpacking and moving items into each space, give it a good thorough clean. You won't regret it, and you likely won't do as good of a job down the road when you're settled in. This is the best time to really get in every nook and cranny before it's filled with stuff. Things like flooring, baseboards, cabinets and shelving are much easier to clean empty. If this task seems too daunting, consider hiring a professional service to come in after closing. Check out these 10 tips for cleaning your whole house.
Change the Locks
It's a small price for piece of mind. Even if the previous homeowner has handed over their set of keys, there's no telling who else might still have one. A dog walker, a cleaning lady, a babysitter or family member? it's easy to imagine someone still having access into your new home, so changing the locks soon after move in will give you security and piece of mind. Same goes for garage door codes. Learn how to rekey a door lock here.
Check Fire Alarms
Test all fire alarms, replace batteries and add additional alarms where needed. Purchase a carbon monoxide detector and fire extinguisher and establish a fire safety plan early with all family members. Do not rely on the previous owners to keep fire safety up to date. Try these other tips from our field editors to brush up on home fire safety.
You've likely got a long list of projects you'd like to complete in your new home, but if you haven't taken on a large home project before, it's best to start small and work your way up so you can learn from mistakes in less important places. Try updating the laundry room, or installing a closet system before moving onto a bathroom remodel, or new flooring. Check out these 20 ways to make a laundry room work better.