16 things to do immediately after buying a house (includes bonus checklist!)
CATHERINE ALFORD • Feb. 18, 2020 • 7 min read
What we'll cover
What to do with utilities and bills
How to forward your mail
Where to change your address
Buying a home is like running a marathon. There are so many steps to complete and papers to sign before you can walk in the front door. You might feel a sense of relief when it’s all over and you have your keys in hand, but don’t rest just yet. There are still a few important steps you need to take immediately after buying your house.
No one wants to live in a world without Internet, so make sure you schedule a time for your Internet and/or cable to be connected. Ideally, you’ll schedule this ahead of time when you know your closing date, so you don’t have to spend a week without Internet, waiting for an appointment. You might also have to be home when the technician arrives, so plan to take a day off work, too.
Switching over the gas bill, water bill, and electric bill to your name might be a bit easier. Call them to see what needs to be done before moving the accounts under your name. It’s important to make sure the previous homeowners have no outstanding bills or debts to utility companies as well, as that could pose a problem to seamlessly moving the account. Also, keep in mind that some neighborhoods will require you to pay for trash and recycle pickup, too.
2. Do a deep clean
Don’t assume the previous home owners (or the construction company) did a thorough cleaning of your home before they left. Instead, spend the first few days in your new home cleaning everything. You could also hire a cleaning company to do this, if it’s in your budget.
Pay close attention to cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms, but also check your gutters, backyard, flowerbeds (if applicable), dryer vents, chimney, and the carpet. If you think the carpet needs a more thorough cleaning, you can also schedule a professional carpet cleaner to come, preferably before you move in.
Also, keep in mind that sometimes what needs to be cleaned isn’t immediately visible. For example, we recently had to take apart our dryer to fix it, and we were amazed at how much dryer lint was trapped in there.
3. Change your locks
You don’t know how many people have a key to your new house, so it’s wise to change all of your door locks. Don’t forget to make a few spare keys and store one in a safe location outside, so you don’t get locked out.
4. Reset your garage security code
If you have a garage, don’t forget to reset the security code. You should be able to watch a tutorial online, if you don’t know how to do it. If the security box seems old, you can always purchase and program a new one — they are pretty inexpensive to buy!
5. Forward your old mail
Contact USPS and instruct them to forward mail from your old address to your new address. You can usually fill out the form online, which makes it easy. Keep in mind, mail forwarding eventually ends, typically after a year. So, it’s important to complete the next step: changing your address everywhere.
6. Change your address
You have to notify a lot of different places when you get a new address. Your employers need your address for tax forms and other important documents. Even the apps you use to deliver your groceries or your takeout need to know the new place to deliver your food!
Here is a handy list of places to notify to get started:
Moving is such an exhausting process, so it makes sense that most people (myself included) can be a bit slow to unpack boxes. I remember once, in my 20’s, I moved to an apartment that had an office. I had several unopened boxes with office supplies in them just sitting there for at least a year. (Embarrassing, right?)
So, learn from me. Go ahead and unpack your boxes one by one. Put things away. Then, take those empty boxes and give them to someone else who is moving or recycle them. If you hired movers, this is also a good time to make sure nothing is missing. If you find out something is, contact your moving company to determine who is liable.
8. Buy a safe
If you don’t have a safe yet, now is a good time to buy one. We have a small, fireproof document safe that we bought right after I had our twins. It fits about 12–15 hanging files in it, and it’s an easy place to keep birth certificates, car titles, and all that paperwork you get after buying a house. Your closing documents, title company documents, and inspection report aren’t things you want lying around.
9. Check smoke detectors
It’s always wise to change the batteries in your smoke detectors and make sure they’re working. You can also check to see if there is a warranty or how old they are. A lot of smoke detectors are only good for about 10 years. Also, if you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector built in with the smoke detectors, purchase those and place them throughout your house, too. Safety first!
10. Introduce yourself to the neighbors
I know neighbors are supposed to welcome you to the neighborhood (not the other way around!) But people get busy, and they might not say hi. So, you can be the one to reach out when you see someone in their driveway. Try to meet the owners of at least a few houses around you. It can be good to be friendly, especially in case you go on vacation one day and want someone to keep an eye out for your packages. Hey, maybe they’ll even bring you a casserole!
11. Learn where everything is
It seems kind of obvious, but take some time to learn where everything is in your house. Check to see if the previous owners labeled the circuit breaker switches. Find your water shut off valve. Know how to open your attic door. Figure out where to replace the HVAC filters — this was surprisingly hard for us to figure out! All in all, getting to know your house will make maintaining it much easier.
12. Set mortgage and utilities to auto-pay
You likely have a new mortgage payment and new utility payments to go along with your new house. One thing I like to do is put all of my bills on auto-pay. Most banks, including Ally Bank, offer auto-pay for your monthly mortgage payments. This ensures you’ll never miss a payment. Just be sure to cancel the auto-pay of your previous utility accounts and mortgage, if you have one. Then, sign up for auto-pay for your new house.
13. Purchase emergency supplies
You might have these items in a box that you moved from your last house. But, in case you don’t, use this as an opportunity to get your emergency supplies in place. It’s helpful to have flashlights on hand, as well as an emergency radio. This is especially important if you live in an area that’s prone to natural disasters during certain parts of the year. For example, I grew up in Louisiana, and my dad always had a big emergency kit and a back-up generator, which we used often during hurricane season. If you’re just getting started, though, buying a first aid kit, extra water, batteries, and a power bank to charge your cell phone when the electricity is out is helpful.
14. Go over your inspection report
After you buy a home and settle in, go over your inspection report. If there are repairs needed that the previous owner wasn’t contractually obligated to fix, make a note of them. Order them from the most important repair to the least important. Then, make a plan to tackle the list and give yourself a timeline for when you’d like to get it done.
15. Create a cleaning/maintenance schedule
Your home requires regular maintenance, like cleaning air filters, emptying the hot water heater annually, cleaning your gutters, winterizing your home, doing pest inspections, and more. Make a list of all these maintenance items, and write down which month of the year you need to complete them. One of the things that helps me stay organized is adding events in my calendar. So, after a crew cleans our gutters or we empty our hot water tank, I’ll make a note on my calendar for a year from that date to do it again.
16. Have a housewarming party!
Let’s not forget the fun part of owning a home. After you move in and get settled, let your friends and family know your new address and host a housewarming party — even just a virtual one.
Buying a home can be an exciting, but lengthy process. Remember, the work isn’t done just because you got the keys to the front door!
Catherine Alford is a nationally recognized financial educator who partners with top brands to encourage, educate, and inspire people to take on a more active financial role in their families. She is also the founder of CatherineAlford.com, an award winning personal finance blog that she created in 2010.