–New Home Owner Checklist

Sharon Noll, Realtor of the Year

BOLD notes are STRONGLY recommended.

  1. TAX SAVINGSTake advantage of tax benefits and other incentives.
    • Apply for Homestead Exemption A homeowner exemption, sometimes called a homeowners’ exemption or exempt status, is a property tax exemption that reduces the portion of your property’s value that you are responsible for paying taxes on. … This lowers your annual property tax bill.  https://legacy.bcpao.us/asp/hxWelcome.asp 
    • The energy tax credit, means homeowners who made energy-based improvements to their homes are eligible to receive a tax credit for 10% of the cost, up to $500 lifetime http://www.energystar.gov/about/federal_tax_credits/2014_federal_tax_credits .  Depending upon your city, the government may offer even more benefits, from no-interest loans to rebates, so do some research when you invest money improving the efficiency of your home — you may save even more money than you expected.
    • Some local utility companies provide home energy audits for free or at a discount. Someone will thoroughly inspect your home to find where you’re wasting energy. They’ll look for air leaks and uninsulated pipes, test the efficiency of your heating and cooling equipment, etc.
  2. Attend to Your Hot Water Heater
    • HOT HOT HOTLower the temperature on your hot water heater down to 120°F (55°C).  This is the optimum temperature for your hot water heater. Most people don’t use water hotter than 120° — indeed, water hotter than that can scald you or a child — and thus the energy needed to keep the water above 120 degrees isn’t used effectively. Lower the temperature and you may save money on your energy bill.
    • Toss a water heater blanket over that hot water heater.  While most modern hot water heaters are well-insulated, some are insulated better than others, and many older heaters aren’t insulated well at all. A small investment in a blanket for your water heater will slowly and gradually save you money on your heating bill over time by keeping the heat in the water instead of letting it disperse slowly into your garage or utility closet.  The Department of Energy recommends being “careful not to cover the water heater’s top, bottom, thermostat, or burner compartment.” And of course, on-demand (or “tankless”) water heaters don’t require this treatment.
  3. Attend to your Air Conditioning Situation
    • CHANGE YOUR FILTERSReplace your air filters.  When you first move in, you almost always need to replace the air handling filter or the filter on your furnace or AC unit. Then, put a note on your calendar to check/replace the filters every 3 months.
    • Find your air handling unit, find where the filter is (it’s almost always a large square or rectangle), and mark down the measurements (printed around the edges). Then, go to the hardware/grocery store and pick up a few of them. Go home and replace the old one with a new filter, and save the rest so you always have a clean one ready to go. An outdated filter not only doesn’t filter air as well, but it also has a negative impact on airflow, meaning your air handling system or HVAC unit has to work harder — and use more energy — to pump out lower quality air.
  4. SPARE KEYChange the locks and make spare keys.  It may seem unnecessary, but there’s no way to know whether there are copies of your old key floating around, and who might have them if so. Investing a bit of money and time today can protect you from burglary down the road.  While you’re at it, get an extra copy of your key made and leave it with someone you trust, so you don’t have to shell out $100 to a locksmith when you inevitably lock yourself out.
  5. NEW HOUSE DOCUMENTSMake Copies of your Closing Documents. If you’re a first-time buyer, the documents handed to you at closing are probably the most expensive pieces of paper that you have ever encountered in your life. While all the documents are still together and in order, take at least one copy of everything.  Chances are that copies will also be filed with your county’s recorder of deeds, but all it takes is one clerical error for that safety net to vanish. Cover your tush and make the copies. 
  6. Make sure that your circuit breakers are properly labeled.  When you need the information, it’s hard to gather.  If your circuit breakers are labeled at the time of an emergency, you will be a lot less stressed!
  7. Add 3 telephone numbers to your phone. If everything goes pear-shaped, chances are you’ll need one of the following three numbers in your phone: your insurance company, your warranty company, or a locksmith. If you are in a situation where you need any of those three, chances are you will not be in a position or mindset to be looking up phone numbers.
  8. Download a quarterly home maintenance checklist, run through it for the first time and add it to your calendar.  This list should include regular home maintenance tasks that you’d want to do on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. Then, make it a habit to run through the items on this list at least yearly. Doing so will extend the life of almost everything in your home, saving you buckets of money over time.  A sample is included at the end of this document
  9. Install ceiling fans in most rooms.  Ceiling fans are a low-energy way to keep air moving in your home. Because of the air circulation effect, you can get away with keeping your thermostat a degree or two higher in summer and a degree or two lower in winter, netting rather large savings.  As a side note, the air directly below the fan should be blowing down on you in the summer and should be pulled upwards away from you in the winter — you can use the reversal switch on your fan to switch between the modes at the start of each season.
  10. Get a Safe Deposit Box or a home safe and put the original documents in it along with your important papers. 
  11. Install LED or CFL light bulbs.  LED and CFL bulbs can save you a lot of money on energy use over the long haul, plus they have much longer lives than normal incandescent bulbs, making them well worth the upfront investment. Consider installing some in various places — especially in areas where the lights may be in use for long periods, like the living room or kitchen, or left on accidentally, like a back hallway or basement. CFL bulbs tend to be cheaper, but LED bulbs are usually preferable in terms of performance.
  12. Put your name on the Mailbox &/or Buzzer. If you’re living in a multi-unit complex, like a condo building, you’ll want to get your name on the mailbox as quickly as possible, since the post office won’t deliver to nameless boxes. People are of mixed opinions on whether you should also label your intercom buzzer. It can compromise your privacy, but if you’re expecting a lot of guests or deliveries it will make things easier.
  13. Meet your closest neighbors. You’ll want to meet the people who live immediately next to you in all directions. In a multi-unit building, this means everyone whose floor, ceiling or walls are touching yours, and your neighbors across the hall for good measure. You’ll also want to track down the President of the Condo Association if they’re not included in the prior group. If you’re living in a single-family home, start with your eight immediate neighbors in a circle around your property. Get their contact info and learn what they and their cars look like so that you can be aware of suspicious activity. Make sure they can also reach you if they see anything out of line.
  14. Measure everything. Unless you received the developer’s plans for your home at closing, you’re going to have to recreate them yourself. Get every dimension you could possibly need. Once furniture is in place this gets more difficult. Measure room sizes, window sizes, different lengths of walls, space between electric outlets. 
  15. Photograph everything. You’ll eventually want to take an inventory of everything you move into your house, for insurance and home records.  In the event of a catastrophic loss, you’ll need to refer back to those pictures in order to restore your home, so make sure you store them offsite, email them to yourself at a webmail address, or upload them to a cloud-based server.