Congratulations! You’re almost able to call yourself a first-time home owner. You’ve done your research on all the ways to stretch your money through rebates and incentives, and you finally saved up enough cash to make things work. Now it’s time to make a plan for the first day, week, and month at the place you’ll call home.
The good news is, the really hard stuff is over! Most of the things you should take care of shortly after (and some even before) moving into your new home are relatively simple. However, even though they’re simple, they are essential and will make life much easier down the road.
1. Hook Up Your Utilities
We’ll start the list off here, because ideally, you’ll want to do this before you arrive. Gas, water, and power are the most obvious. However, be sure to start setting up your internet beforehand too! If you do it with enough advanced notice, you could have the Internet on day one, saving you some frustration (especially if you’re working from home!).
Also, check the local calendar on your city’s website for useful information, including when garbage pick up is for your neighbourhood. Some cities have alternating weeks for pick up.
Each neighbourhood is different. Give your service providers a call before you move in and make sure there aren’t any additional hoops to jump through when setting up your utilities. Depending on your credit (or the utility company) you may be asked to provide a security deposit.
Don’t forget, call your existing providers and cancel services to your current address so they don’t continue charging you after you move out.
2. Protect Yourself From Unexpected Expenses
We trust you did everything you could to set yourself up for success when entering into the agreement to purchase your house, including hiring a reputable home inspector.
Best intentions aside, things break or wear out over time, including your large appliances like a dishwasher, fridge, HVAC unit, and even your roof. Once you take possession of your home, there is a very narrow window of time for you to confirm that everything is in good working order, after which the seller can no longer be held responsible. If something goes wrong with one of those larger ticket items, it’ll cost you a pretty penny to repair or replace.
A home warranty is something you may want to consider before closing. This is something your mortgage company or mortgage default insurance company may offer you. They may even throw in the first year for free. If not, it’s important to protect yourself and your bank account, as a first-time home owner, from any potential mishaps by putting aside money every month in a dedicated rainy day savings account.
Home warranties range in price. Always review what they cover and how to make a claim.
3. Change The Locks
You should feel safe and secure in your new home. You don’t want the previous owner to have access to your house.
Changing the locks will give you peace of mind and should ideally be done on the day you move in. Make a few extra copies to hide or give to a trusted friend or family member. You don’t want to get locked out of your new house! By now, you’re aware of smart technology and home automation. There are also a number of quality lock systems that offer code, biometric, and smartphone integration.
Also, if the house has additional security systems in place, you’ll need to contact the provider to have your account set up.
Don’t forget to change the garage door code too!
4. Check Alarms
Speaking of alarms, you’re going to want to make sure all the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. This should include popping in fresh batteries or replacing the unit entirely.
Before doing it yourself, check with your local fire department. Many offer free inspections and fire safety talks to make sure your family is safe, and that you have a reliable fire safety plan in place. Note, fire prevention is the goal of every fire service. They will be happy to ensure that your house is up to safe standards, and there should be no charge for this call.
Always check your alarms every six-months too. There should be a smoke detector on every floor and the best spot for them is in the hallways leading to your bedrooms. Carbon monoxide (the silent killer) detectors should be present in every bedroom.
Refer to your municipality’s website for any specific fire code regulations.
5. Be Emergency Ready
Finally, always be prepared for the unexpected.
Never say never. After 37 years of relative calm, Southern Ontario was rocked by a category 2 tornado that did billions of dollars in damage, leaving many people out of their homes and in need of temporary shelter.
You can either buy a ready-to-use emergency kit or get everything you need yourself. What should your kit include? For starters, things like water, food, can opener, flashlights, and a first aid kit. The Government of Canada provides a full list of what you’ll need for a basic emergency kit along with additional items that can improve it.
6. Forward Your Mail
This might be the simplest tip. Call your mail provider or fill out a form online to temporarily forward all your mail to your new address. This usually lasts around a year, but ensures you don’t miss anything, while you’re taking more permanent steps.
7. Change Your Address
Forwarding your mail won’t last forever! While it’s a simple enough process, there are more than a few places you’ll need to update with your new address.
If you love ordering in, make sure you switch the drop-off location for all your favourite food delivery apps too! We’re sure the tenants at your old place would love the free food though.
If you have an internet-based phone (VOIP or anything besides a traditional landline), you must update your 911 and home address details. Otherwise, in the event of an emergency, first responders will show up at the wrong location.
8. Introduce Yourself
Plenty of neighbours are going to say hello when they see the moving van pull up. For those who don’t, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself.
There’s even an app called Nextdoor. It’s a sort of social media hub just for your neighbourhood. You can reach out for the first time or seek tips on enjoying the area. As a first-time home owner, you can ask for help too!
Other social media networks, such as Facebook, have groups and pages dedicated to geographic areas too. Nobody knows the 411 on your new neighbourhood quite like the locals, and you never know when you’re going to need a cup of sugar. Especially if you’re new to the area, be sure to shop local by asking for referrals to local shops, service providers, and of course, the best places to eat!
With keys in hand and checklist complete, you’re ready to start your new life as a bonafide first-time home owner.
Welcome to the neighbourhood!