Home Sweet Home: New Homeowner Checklist

New home owners moving into house.
Turning the keys on your very first home is a special milestone, and you’ve likely been looking forward to this moment ever since you made an offer on the house. In the weeks leading up to the closing date, a whirlwind of activities and tasks can make it all feel a bit overwhelming; after all, owning a home comes with responsibilities beyond just moving in your furniture. Let’s be honest - you have enough to remember during this busy time. To help you stay organized and proactive, we’ve put together a checklist outlining the first things you should do after buying a house. Your first-time homebuyer experience should be a positive one; use our checklist to stay on the right track.

Understand Your Mortgage

On closing day, you’re agreeing to a legal, binding commitment to your mortgage loan. It’s crucial to review the details of your mortgage, including interest rates, payment schedules, and any potential penalties prior to closing. Ensure you're aware of the financial oath you’re taking and explore options for making extra payments if it suits your financial goals.

Additionally, confirm you understand the costs that make up your monthly payment, including but not limited to property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. In most cases, if you have homeowner’s association (HOA) dues, those are paid directly to the association and are not a part of your monthly mortgage payment to your lender.

Review Your Homeowners Insurance

Before you close on your home, you will need to shop for homeowner's insurance. Your new investment needs protection, and your lender will more than likely require you to obtain a homeowners insurance policy prior to closing. As soon as you find a home you’re interested in purchasing, start researching and comparing policies to find one that suits your needs and budget.

If your mortgage lender will pay your homeowners insurance through escrow, you may be required to pay for an entire year of homeowners insurance as part of your closing costs.

Build an Emergency Fund

If you haven’t started an emergency fund yet, take this as your sign to do so. Buying a home is a big financial responsibility; while you can’t control when your home might need an expensive repair, you can control how prepared you are to absorb the cost.

Maintenance and repair costs are an inevitable aspect of owning a home. In 2023, homeowners are spending an average of $1,206 annually on emergency home repairs. “I always recommend saving between four and ten percent of your home’s value in an emergency fund,” says Tim Bazell, Mortgage Division Production Manager at SouthState. “Even if you have to start small with $500 or $1000, you can keep adding to it over time. Eventually you’ll need it and you’ll thank yourself later.”

Transfer Utilities

Transferring utilities when moving to a new home is an important step in the relocation process. This ensures essential services like electricity, water, gas, internet, and cable are up and running when it’s time for you to move in. Begin by contacting your current utility providers and informing them of your move - you might be able to transfer your service if you’re staying within their footprint. If not, you’ll need to schedule service disconnections at your old address for the day after you move out. Then, get in touch with the utility companies in your new location to set up new accounts and schedule service connections before your move-in date.

Make a list of the services you need to transfer, and don’t forget to update your billing information to avoid any disruptions. Proactively managing the transfer of your utilities makes it more likely that moving day will go smoothly, so you can settle in comfortably from day one.

Rekey the Locks for Peace of Mind

When you move into a new home, you never know who may have had access to your home previously. Your home's previous owners might have shared keys with friends, neighbors, pet sitters, or contractors. Start fresh by rekeying or replacing your locks. This simple step provides an added layer of security and peace of mind, ensuring you're the only one with access to your home.

If you don’t want the hassle of replacing all the locks, you can purchase a rekeying kit that allows you to change the internal components of the lock. This is often a cheaper alternative to buying and installing new locks.

Update Your Driver's License and Address

Any time you change residences, it’s important to visit your local DMV to update your driver's license with your new address. Local and state laws often require you to update your license within a specific time frame after changing your address, and you also want to ensure your mail and important documents (tax notifications, voting information, jury duty notices, etc.) reach you at the correct location.

Set Up a Home Maintenance Schedule

Regular maintenance is key to preserving your home's value and avoiding costly repairs. Create a home maintenance schedule for recurring tasks like cleaning gutters, replacing air filters, and checking for leaks. Some tasks may need to be performed on a quarterly basis, while others you might only do once a year. Sticking to a proactive maintenance schedule can help you catch small issues before they escalate into major repairs.

Create a Homeowner's Binder

Think of a homeowners binder like a user manual for your most valuable asset: your home. Organize all essential documents related to your home purchase. From mortgage paperwork and insurance policies to warranties and maintenance records, this binder keeps all your information organized and easily accessible in a dedicated binder.

Get to Know Your New Neighborhood

After you’ve done the heavy lifting and unboxed your belongings, take the time to explore your new neighborhood, meet your neighbors, and familiarize yourself with nearby amenities, such as schools, hospitals, grocery stores, and parks. Immersing yourself in the community not only fosters a sense of belonging but also provides valuable insight into local businesses, events, and safety measures. For example, if you live in a coastal town, you may want to familiarize yourself with the nearest evacuation route in case of a hurricane.

Understanding the neighborhood dynamics, from school districts to public transportation options, helps you make informed decisions about your day-to-day life. Don’t be afraid to embrace the adventure of getting to know your new neighborhood - it’s the first step in transforming a new house into a home.

Plan Your Home's Future

Think about your long-term plans for your home and try to envision how your living space can evolve and adapt to your changing needs and desires. Are there any renovations or improvements you'd like to make? Perhaps you’re thinking about starting a family, enhancing energy efficiency, using your property to generate rental income, or adding personalized touches to transform your house into your dream home. Creating a vision for your home's future can help you set financial goals and prioritize projects.

By tackling these tasks, you'll be well on your way to enjoying your new home to the fullest. Owning a home is not just about the structure; it's about creating a space that reflects your personality and provides security and comfort for you and your loved ones. We’re proud to serve you on your home buying journey. Welcome home!

About the Author, Tim Bazell: Tim Bazell is a Mortgage Divisional Sales Manager for SouthState Bank with a wealth of experience in the mortgage industry spanning over three decades. As a Florida native, he graduated from Eckerd College in 1984 with a Business Administration Degree, which served as a foundation for his successful career.

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