New Homeowner Checklist: 7 Steps for a Smooth Transition

By HomeAdvisor

Updated February 25, 2022

Parents watch daughter play in new housePhoto: Morsa Images / E+ / Getty Images

Nothing quite compares to the exhilarating feeling of receiving the keys to your new home. After a flurry of paperwork and logistics, it’s understandable you don’t want to wait another minute before settling in. However, you’ll thank yourself later if you can take a step back and focus on setting yourself up for success as a homeowner first.

You’ll likely want to work your way from the inside out to ensure your new abode is equipped with everything you need for a comfortable start. If you aren’t well-versed in home repair and maintenance tasks, it might be worth finding a handyperson near you to assist you as you tackle your to-do list.

Especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer, it’s important to empower yourself to start your homeownership experience off on the right foot. Even though this list isn’t exhaustive, it will help you figure out what’s on your plate in the first few weeks of moving in. Take a look at the steps below for things to consider as you make your house into a home.

1. Make a Home Management Binder

Woman checking binder and making notesPhoto: stockfour / Shutterstock

Before you jump into any list of tasks, it’s important to keep your thoughts in one place. It’s great to have your home-related documents stored and organized digitally, but it’s also crucial to have a physical binder to organize everything. Keep this binder, or home journal, in a utility room or other area where it’s accessible to the entire family.

Here are a few essential components to gather and keep in a home management binder:

  • Home details sheet: This will list key facts about your home, including dimensions and square footage. Also known as a listing sheet, realtors prepare these to give agents, buyers, and sellers information on a home for sale.
  • Copy of deed and other legal documents: Even if you aren’t expecting to reference your home deed often, it’s important to have these types of legal documents printed and stored in an accessible place. 
  • Home warranty and proof of home inspection: You’ll be grateful to have your home warranty close at hand if something goes wrong. You’ll also want to keep your original property disclosure statement accessible, along with your proof of home inspection. In fact, many insurance companies require these documents before agreeing to cover your property. 
  • Mortgage billing details: Keep a physical record of your mortgage payment plan and written instructions on how and who to pay each month. Eventually, you’ll want to keep a printed copy of your mortgage payoff documents, too.
  • User manuals and installation guides: Don’t be caught off-guard by appliance malfunctions or you realize something wasn’t installed properly. You can expedite the repair process by having these documents on hand.
  • Structural engineer report and home project receipts: Keep a copy of the structural details of your home and receipts of every single home construction project. It’s also helpful to keep a record of the exact paint colors you’ve used, both interior and exterior, for quick touch-ups.
  • Your go-to list of service professionals: After doing some research on top local pros for maintenance and other projects, jot down their contact information details in your binder. Whenever there’s an emergency, you won’t be frantically Googling because you took the time to find them in advance. 

2. Switch Out All Locks

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Updating your locks is one of the most underrated but important first steps you can do after getting organized as a new homeowner. If you use the same key as the previous owner (and possibly the owner before them), you’ll never truly know who has access to your house. Remember to replace not only your front, back and side entrance door locks as well as garage door codes. 

Also, have a lock-out plan ready to go in advance. The last thing you want is to be locked out and scrambling in the busy aftermath of moving into your new home. Be sure to find a local locksmith you trust or give a spare key to a nearby family member or friend. There’s nothing more important than your family’s safety, so be sure to invest in systems to secure your home from burglary as well.

3. Double Check Utilities and Lawn Services

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Verify that all home utilities and maintenance services are set up at least seven days prior to closing on the house. If not, no worries. Just be sure to check:

  • Electric
  • Gas
  • Water/sewage
  • Garbage disposal services
  • Internet/cable
  • Landscaping/lawn care
  • Pool maintenance

While you’re at it, be sure to confirm that your change of address request was processed by the USPS. If you haven’t yet figured out how to forward your mail to your new address, it’s an extremely simple process you can complete online in under five minutes.

4. Deep Clean and Repaint

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In most cases, your new home will benefit greatly from a fresh coat of interior and exterior paint as well as a deep clean. Even if your paint job is fresh, you might want to change up the look. It can’t hurt to consult local professional painters to save time in addition to all your other tasks as a new homeowner.

Additionally, hiring a professional cleaning team before you move your furniture in is one of the best choices you can make. Moving and logistics are exhausting, so even if you typically hesitate to hire people to clean, it’s probably in your best interest. 

The cost of a deep house cleaning can be between $200 and $400, depending on the size of your house. In the grand scheme of things, this price range is definitely justifiable for peace of mind.

5. Test Out Essential Home Functions and Features

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There are several tests you can complete independently that will allow you to verify that essential components of your home—from the HVAC system to the water heater—are in tip-top shape. 

Even if your home inspector was thorough, it’s always wise to review your inspection report and make sure everything is functioning properly. 

Below is a list of 25 things to pay attention to and test during your first two weeks living in your new home:

  • Water pressure regulator and heater
  • Water softener and purification system
  • Pipes, draining systems, and sink traps
  • Showerhead and sink aerators
  • Toilet plumbing
  • Caulking around showers and bathtubs
  • Lighting configurations
  • Thermostat
  • HVAC filters 
  • Furnace filters and gas valve
  • Dryer vent and hose
  • Kitchen sink disposal
  • Dishwasher 
  • Refrigerator water filter 
  • Freezer ice machine
  • Smoke, carbon monoxide and radon detectors
  • Smart home features 
  • Child and pet-proof features
  • Senior safety features
  •  Attic insulation
  • Basement cracks or leaks
  • Window coverings
  • Roofing, siding and gutters
  •  Sprinkler system and outdoor lighting
  • Garage door operation

6. Plug Into Your Local Homeowners Association 

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Some homeowners associations across the country get a bad rap for limiting what they’ll allow in terms of paint colors and lawn decorations, but being an HOA member is usually a helpful perk of homeownership. 

Especially if you’re moving to a new town, it’s a great way to get involved in your community and make friends in the neighborhood. Attend their meetings and learn the HOA rules and regulations so you can embrace them. You’re bound to discover new information and resources for taking advantage of local attractions, from restaurants and gyms to annual events and celebrations.

7. Observe and Track Your Desired Renovations

Your dream home improvements and renovations will inevitably evolve the longer you live there. Keep track of what changes would make your home more convenient in your daily life as well as more aesthetically pleasing. 

Aim to make changes that not only increase home value and curb appeal but also boost your quality of life. Dedicate part of your home management binder or start a new home journal where you can write all of this down. 

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Becoming a homeowner is an exciting milestone. Even though your responsibilities increase, the benefits of owning a house are undoubtedly worth it. Hopefully, it helped to have your tasks as a new homeowner distilled down to seven main steps. 

For an easily printable master checklist for setting yourself up for success in your new home, check out the list below.

Also, enjoy some free printable wall art and a home improvement planning printable to help organize your thoughts as you dream up your first renovation project.

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