Owning your first home can be an exciting time, but there’s a lot we wish we’d known going in! Here are seven new homeowner tips that will get you started on the right foot.
1. Save extra money now
You may think that the hard part’s done once you hand over your down payment, but you should still be saving about 1 to 3% of your home’s value per year to cover unexpected repairs. For a $250,000 house that’s between $2,500 and $7,500 a year, or between $208 and $625 a month. That may seem like a lot now, but when your washing machine breaks or your roof gets damaged in a spring storm, you’ll be happy you have the extra cash on hand.
2. Focus on one project at a time
Owning your first home can be a bit overwhelming, especially when it comes to tackling everything you want to do to make it truly your own. Rather than taking on too much at once, make a list of priorities and work on them one at a time. This way you can really think about which projects need to be taken care of right now and which ones can wait. Start with any repairs that can head off bigger problems down the road, such as replacing old windows that risk water intrusion. Aesthetic improvements can wait until you have the budget set aside for them.
3. Make sure you’re properly insured
Most mortgage lenders require you to carry insurance that covers the entire cost of your home in case of total loss, but just because you have this doesn’t mean you’re as covered as you could be. Depending on where your home is, you may need to think about things like flood insurance (because homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flood damage), and it’s always a good idea to carry adequate life insurance coverage so your family doesn’t lose the home if you die unexpectedly. If you have any questions about how much insurance coverage you need, seek out a local insurance agent who’s familiar with your area to get personalized advice.
4. Know what’s in your walls before you hammer a nail
You’re excited to start making your new house into a home, but before you start hanging your art collection, you need to have a good idea of what’s in your walls. It’s not just empty space—in fact, there’s a complex network of different systems that keeps your home running smoothly just behind your drywall (or plaster, or what have you). Besides structural components like wall studs, there are things like air ducts, electrical conduits and water lines that, if punctured, would lead you to have a really bad day. You can use a stud finder (invest in one that also detects metal) to locate any wiring or pipes before you start decorating.
5. Keep your furnace in top shape
Maintaining your furnace is one of the most important steps you can take as a new homeowner. As it turns out, it’s also pretty easy to extend the life of a furnace with a couple of steps. First, make a point of replacing your air filters regularly. These should be changed out every 1 to 3 months depending on the amount of dust and other airborne pollutants you deal with in your area. This will keep your system working efficiently, extending the life of your furnace and improving overall air quality in your home, which is especially important if you suffer from allergies.
Second, most furnace manufacturers recommend having a furnace tune-up performed every year. This will help catch any problems with the system early, so you’re not surprised by the furnace breaking down on the coldest night of the year.
6. Know where your main water shutoff valve is
If you ever find yourself with a broken faucet or cracked pipe that’s gushing water, the fastest way to stop the flow is to turn off your home’s main water valve. The thing is, most homeowners don’t even know where that valve is. Don’t be like them—get to know your home’s main water shutoff valve, where it is and how to turn it off in an emergency.
7. Study up on your drain traps
Notice a strange sewage smell around your new house? It could be coming from an empty drain trap. Every sink and floor drain comes equipped with a drain trap (that U-shaped bit of pipe that comes straight down from the drain opening). The drain trap is designed to hold water, creating a seal that keeps sewer gas from coming up into your house. If you don’t use a sink or drain very often, this water seal can evaporate and let sewer gas through the pipe. Luckily the solution is simple—just pour about a gallon of water down the drain to refill the trap and the smell should disappear.
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Your NPI inspector has the knowledge and expertise to help both new and veteran homeowners save money and add value to their homes. Call us and book an appointment today.