12 Things a New Homeowner Often Doesn’t Know

As a new homeowner, you trade the challenges of acquiring a home for those of home ownership. Fortunately, these tips make handling home-ownership challenges less stressful.

Essential for new homeowners: Locate the gas and water shut-off valves

For a new homeowner, a bust pipe burst or the smell of gas in the house can cause a panic. Not knowing how to shut off your water and gas only compounds your stress. (It could also majorly damage your home and your family’s health.) Invest the time to locate your gas shutoff valve and your water shutoff valve before an emergency strikes. Here are more things every homeowner needs to know.

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 offers a new homeowner far more than just a passing grade for your home. It also provides a wealth of information to a new homeowner about the state of the home: hidden maintenance issues, 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 need to tackle down the road.

A new homeowner should change the locks

Most people give spare keys to important people in their lives. When you first move in, you don’t know how many other people still have keys. That’s why a new homeowner should 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.

A new homeowner should review the circuit breaker panel

Everyone needs to reset a tripped electrical circuit breaker occasionally. That’s an easy job if you know where your circuit breaker box is located and which breaker controls which circuit. With any luck, you’ll find accurate labels—if not, a new homeowner needs to label which breakers control which individual circuits. Find out more things most homeowners aren’t doing but need to.

Compile a list of trusted contractors

Whether the furnace stops working in the dead of winter or an overflowing toilet won’t shut off, you need to know who to call when disaster strikes. Compile a list of trusted plumbers, electricians, HVAC contractors, and other maintenance specialists to save time and hassle later on—know these signs you’re about to hire a bad contractor to help you. 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, that they are not older than seven years and that they are in good working order.

Have a lock-out plan

Unfortunately, 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. You can simply avoid the situation altogether by installing keyless locks.

Check the water heater

A good hot water temperature is 120 degrees F (48.89 degrees C)—any hotter runs the risk of scalds. So a new homeowner should definitely check out the water heater and adjust its temperature if necessary. While there, you might consider doing a bit of maintenance to extend your water heater’s lifespan. Watch out for these home expenses that are draining your bank account.

Schedule a service call for the HVAC system

Every new homeowner should schedule a maintenance check for the home’s HVAC system. You want to make sure it operates in a safe, clean manner that can 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.

A seasonal home maintenance list benefits a new homeowner

Many first-time homeowners aren’t sure which projects to tackle as the seasons change. Stay on top of important seasonal tasks, because you’d rather deal with routine maintenance now than deal with disasters and big repairs later on. Don’t gloss over these home maintenance tasks that’ll risk thousands in repairs if you don’t do them.

Do a home inventory

Doing a thorough home inventory helps homeowners prove a loss to an insurance company when making a claim. It can also help a new homeowner determine how much home insurance to purchase. You can accomplish a home inventory in several ways: creating a list, taking photos, creating a narrated video, or using a home inventory app. Now, learn the 40 things you should know about a home by the time you’re 40.

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Amanda Prischak
Amanda Prischak is a freelance writer who began her career in the editorial department of Good Housekeeping magazine. She went on to serve as a copywriter for a major retailer and worked in the corporate communications department of a Fortune 500 company. She freelanced for a wide variety of clients on the side before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She is skilled in article writing, blogging, SEO, web copy, profiles, case studies, and email marketing. She has extensive experience in the property casualty insurance industry and holds the Chartered Property Casuality Underwriter (CPCU) designation. She also has experience in the ecommerce realm from runnning her own online store (shopofminiatures.com). Over her career, she has earned three Content Marekting Awards, a Hubbies award, and two awards from the Insurance & Financial Communicators Association.