Move-in Guide for Your New Home

You have a new home! Now what?

For many new homeowners, the initial excitement of, “Oh my gosh! We have a new home!” is soon replaced by the panic of, “Oh my gosh! We have a new home! What do we do now?”

Owning a home is a big responsibility, after all, accompanied by a seemingly endless list of tasks and concerns that you may have never had to think about before.

Don’t panic. We’re here to help. To make the transition into your new home as painless and as worry-free as possible, we have a list of items for you to address before and soon after your moving day.

Before you move in:

Change the locks on all your doors.

Just like you may one day provide spare keys for your friends, neighbors or long-lost relatives to come in and water your plants or feed your pets, the previous homeowner probably did, too. The problem is, you don’t know who those people are, or who might have keys to your new home. You’ll want to change the locks before your valuable belongings are in your new home.

Correct any safety concerns.
You probably know that you’ll want to fix a gas leak or clear an obstructed furnace vent before you move in, but don’t overlook the seemingly “minor” issues like missing cover plates on electrical outlets or missing balusters on stairs; you–or a child, or a pet–could easily get injured because of seemingly “minor” issues like these.

Locate your main water, gas, and electric shutoffs:

You’ll want to be familiar with where these are before you need to turn them off for any reason.

Verify the index on your electrical service panel:

The index shows you which lights/appliances/etc. correspond to each circuit breaker in your electrical service panel. Unfortunately, these indexes are often inaccurate or incomplete. Identify and label each circuit before you move in to save you headaches in the future.

Install new smoke detectors:

The National Fire Protection Association recommends that smoke detectors be replaced at least every ten years and, since most home sellers don’t know when they installed the alarms that are currently in your new home, we recommend replacing them all before you move in. There should be at least one smoke detector on every floor, one in every bedroom, and in any hallways outside the bedrooms.
Keep in mind that smoke detectors employ three different types of sensors: photoelectric, ionization, and dual (which utilize both photoelectric and ionization sensors). Most experts recommend a combination of photoelectric and ionization alarms. While ionization alarms can detect a flaming fire about one minute faster than a photoelectric alarm, photoelectric alarms are much better at detecting smoldering fires (an average of 30 minutes faster). Photoelectric alarms are also much less prone to false alarms (from burned cooking, for example), and, because of this, we recommend only photoelectric alarms anywhere within 20 feet of your kitchen (due to the tendency to disable ionization alarms in this area). There are also dual alarms that incorporate both photoelectric and ionization sensors.

Install new carbon monoxide detectors:

If your new home has a fuel-burning furnace, water heater, or any fuel-burning appliances or a fireplace, you should have carbon-monoxide detectors as well as smoke detectors. We recommend placing them in the same room as any fuel-burning device and adjacent to your smoke detectors in and outside your bedrooms.

Buy fire extinguishers:

The National Fire Protection Association recommends at least one fire extinguisher on every floor of your home. They should be easily accessible and their locations (and how to operate them) should be known to everyone in your family.

Map out fire escape routes:

Your escape plan should identify at least two exits from each room, where available. It should detail each family member’s role in the event of a fire. And it should designate an outside meeting place (a specific tree or mailbox, for example) where everyone will meet to make sure everyone is accounted for.

Install GFCI outlets where needed:

Ground-fault circuit interrupter outlets prevent accidental electrocution. A GFCI outlet has a built-in circuit breaker that stops the flow of electricity the instant it senses a ground fault or current leak (such as might happen if you plug in a toaster or hair dryer when your hand is dripping wet). Because of this, today’s standards call for GFCI outlets to be installed in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, garages and any outdoor locations.

Soon after you move in:

Service heating and a/c systems, if needed:

If the previous owner of your home kept an up-to-date service record for your furnace and air conditioner unit, that’s great. Most homeowners don’t, however. You’ll want to make sure that your furnace and a/c unit are serviced by a qualified professional every year. Service the a/c unit in the spring before it gets hot and the furnace in the fall before it gets cold. This will improve their performance (saving on your utility bills) and increase their service life.

Clean chimney:

If your new home has a fireplace, make sure you get it cleaned by a qualified professional before you build your first fire, and have it cleaned again every fall.

Clean or replace clothes dryer ducts:

Dryer vent ducts collect lint. Over time, this lint will become excessive and eventually turn into a fire hazard. If your home has a rigid metal dryer duct, it can be cleaned fairly easily in most cases. More care must be taken when cleaning the flexible aluminum accordion style ducts, but they can (and should) be cleaned as well. If you have any concerns about your dryer ducts, they can be replaced rather inexpensively. If your new home has a plastic or vinyl dryer duct, you should replace this immediately, as this type of duct is a known fire hazard.

Plan your maintenance schedule:

A home consists of several different systems, all working together to provide you shelter and to keep you comfortable. As such, these systems need regular maintenance to keep them working as they should for as long as possible. You’ll want to begin your home maintenance plan early and follow it regularly for as long as you own your home. Click here to see our Home Maintenance Checklist.

Plan your budget:

Too often, new homeowners forget to prepare a comprehensive budget for their home. If this is your first home, you might be surprised about how many different things you now have to budget for. Utilities, trash, recycling, lawn care, property taxes . . . the list can sometimes seem to go on and on forever. But as you calculate your weekly or monthly expenses, we encourage you not to overlook your maintenance budget. As inspectors, we see every day the consequences when homeowner don’t make a sincere commitment to home maintenance. You want your home to last. To do that, you need to set aside funds for an adequate maintenance budget. Click here for help on budgeting home maintenance costs.