So you got your offer accepted by the Seller, conducted inspections, negotiated repairs, and finally closed on your new home. Congrats! What do you do next? You probably want to call or text your family, scream and shout, but what are the most productive next steps after buying a home?
Sure, moving in and getting everything organized are the most logical next steps, but what are some things you might not be thinking of?
First thing you should do is “Homestead” your house; if your lawyer doesn’t recommend it at the closing then you should go to town hall and do it yourself. The Homestead laws prevent creditors from seizing your house for unpaid debts. It’s always a good idea to Homestead.
Follow up on all those imperfections that the Home Inspector found and reported in his book. You paid 750 dollars (or whatever) for it so don’t ignore what he found. If he says the circuit box is overloaded, get it replaced. If he thinks the roof needs work, plan on getting it done. The job isn’t over because you own it now – it’s just begun.
Meet The Neighbors – many people don’t do this. Make a big effort to go and meet the neighbors. You’re going to be stuck with them for a long, long time. You want to make friends and avoid troubles.
Walk the property lines and make certain your stakes and corners are real and accurate. At some point it is worth paying an engineer to survey the plot and put in orange stakes so you know exactly what you own – and are paying taxes for. I’ve seen many people lose their property to neighbors who encroach for years and years. I had an aunt who lost a significant part of her property when a neighbor plowed a driveway on her land and she didn’t do anything for “n” years, after which the town said it was too late – she had “abandoned” it. Don’t do that.
Hire cleaners and clean, clean, clean that house. Clean it up before you move in! It will be too difficult to clean while you’re moving in and impossible to clean afterwards, not to the standards you like.
Same goes for plastering, painting, etc. If you can manage it, paint it before you move in. It’s a pain in the ass afterwards.
Change those locks! Hide an emergency key somewhere. You WILL need it eventually.
Have a tradesman you trust inspect your furnace, hot water tank and AC systems. You don’t want that furnace to crap out in the middle of your first winter, as mine did.
If you’re on city sewerage, consider having the soil pipe reamed. It’s only 250 dollars; you don’t know if the old owners ever did it and it’s cheap 5-year insurance to get it done now so you know what you’re facing. If a sewer line is clogged or collapses, it’s hundreds or thousands of dollars to get it fixed as an emergency. I’ve been there. It’s worth getting that sewer line checked.
If you have a brick chimney and your inspector suggested repointing or recapping, now is the time to get it down. The top bricks on chimneys fail and fall over over time, especially with oil heat which is corrosive to masonry. Keep on top of that.
Get those gutters and downspouts cleared.
Check your casement windows for rot and replace with modern, secure windows. It’s easy for a burglar to get into the house through an old casement window. If they are rotten, it’s much easier. And usually they are low and hidden so no one sees him doing his dirty work.
Know exactly where the furnace cut-off switch is.
Know exactly where the main water cut-off is – and any other valves that cut off water. I guarantee that sooner or later you will need to cut off the water in an emergency and that is no time to be hunting for the right valve. Not many homeowners realize that the weakest link in your house is the hoses that go to your washing machine. If they are rubber, they WILL fail eventually. If they fail when you’re on vacation – congratulations – you will have a new indoor pool in your basement when you get home. If you move in your old appliances in your new home, replace those hoses. Replace them with braided metal hoses. When you go on vaca, turn off the water to the washer.
Know exactly how to pull the main electrical breaker. If someone is being shocked or there is an electrical fire that doesn’t trip a fuse, you cannot stop this event without killing the electricity
Gas company doesn’t often let you turn off the gas – but you can if there is an emergency. Find the gas meter and know where the valve lug is located. It may require a pipe wrench. If you have gas appliances, know where the cut-offs are.
If your house was built before 1974 then you have lead paint, almost guaranteed. You had to sign a lead paint waiver at closing. If you have small children then it is absolutely critical you deal with the lead paint. Children are drawn to eat lead paint because it tastes like sugar. You cannot cover it with paint; you have to encapsulate or remove it and encapsulation is sometimes forbidden by law. Removing lead paint is an expensive and intensive effort. The same goes for asbestos. Asbestos is found in outside shingles, floor tiles and pipe insulation and removing it is expensive; screwing with it yourself is dangerous. You have to look to your inspection report for their determination and recommendation. I have steam pipe insulation on one of my apartment buildings; as long as it’s not disturbed, it’s okay. Once it’s disturbed it requires an expensive remediation process.
This will most certainly come out in the inspection report but one thing you absolutely should check is the age and condition of your oil tank if you have oil heat. If just five gallons – even fewer sometimes – spill from the tank, it requires hazmat remediation at enormous expense. Tanks are not that expensive and should be modern with modern piping to the furnace. If your tank has oil stains on the bottom, it could be ready to fail and when they fail it is a disaster; the smell of the oil alone will drive you from the house, even in small amounts. Check that tank!
Make sure your smoke detectors are in place and work. If not there, put in a combo, CO/Smoke detector hot wired in the basement near the furnace.
There is no end of stuff you can and should do – almost all of it requires money. All of it requires effort. But you sleep better at night knowing that something is done because you did it than depending on people who were moving out and knew they were moving out for awhile to do the maintenance before they left.