9 Things to Check For in a New House
These quick fixes will save you loads of future headaches. This article originally appeared on GoodHousekeeping.com.
A new house can be so exciting: The decorating possibilities! The organizational ideas! But before you start moving in your stuff and arranging your furniture, check off these must-do maintenance tasks to make sure everything is safe and in working order:
1. Change the locks.
“You just don’t know how many people have a copy of the keys,” says Agnes Bowman, a broker associate at Century 21 Peterson in Secaucus, NJ. When a house goes up for sale, a lot of people have access to it (think: listing agents, selling agents, and maintenance workers). Plus, you can’t be sure who the previous owners offered a spare set. If the house has an alarm system, remember to change the code. And don’t forget the garage door.
2. Check for moisture stains.
Your inspector should have noted any discolored yellow rings on your drywall, but give your home another once-over right before you move in. Any necessary repair work will be easier to tackle when the space isn’t crammed with your stuff.
3. Locate the shut-off valves.
Find the main water shut-off valve and check to see if you need special tools — like a wrench or a key — to operate it. “If you suddenly have a plumbing leak and there’s water pouring into your house, you need to be able to get to the valve and turn off the water quickly,” says Claude McGavic, executive director of The National Association of Home Inspectors.
And no, these valves aren’t in the same place in every home. “Sometimes the inspector can’t even find them,” laughs McGavic. Look in the home’s interior, in the attic, in the back of the house and around the fence. If you can’t find it, call a plumber to help you.
4. Locate the circuit breaker box.
“If an electrical fire starts, you should know where to go to turn off all the power in the house,” says McGavic. Now would also be a good time to label the switches if they’re not already marked. You’ll need two people: One to flip the switch and one to holler when the lights go out.
5. Replace the batteries in smoke detectors.
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors aren’t always checked during a home inspection. And even if they are, something could happen between the inspection and the time you move in. “I could push the button, it could work fine, and then the battery could die,” says McGavic. Working smoke alarms save lives, so swap out all the batteries with fresh ones.
6. Give carpets a deep clean.
Even if the previous owners didn’t have pets, it’s worth the couple hundred dollars to hire a professional to come in, says Bowman. “They have the heavy duty steam-powered machines that can kill germs and dust mites,” she says — and who knows when the carpets were last cleaned. We recommend calling in the pros once a year, so take advantage of the empty house and do it now.
7. Change the heating and cooling filters.
A new disposable filter costs about $4, according to McGavic. The damage that could be caused by an old filter? A whole new system could cost you up to $5000. “If you don’t replace the filter, it could cut down on efficiency, or worse, cause the system to overheat,” he says. McGavic also suggests having a professional come to service the equipment — and set up an ongoing maintenance schedule for every six months. “It’s the same reason you change your oil every 3,000 miles in your car. If you don’t take care of the equipment, it’s going to fail.”
8. Install closet systems.
Moving is one of the few times in life when you have a clear gauge of how much stuff you really have, so you can plot out a helpful closet system pretty well. “If you install drawers, shelves, and hanging rods before you move in, you can unpack and organize your stuff at once,” says Bowman. “Everything goes right into place and you’re done.”
Okay, so you can do some decorating before you move in: Paint your heart out. The benefits are two-fold, according to Bowman. Painting in advance gives the house time to air out before you’re actually living there, and your furniture won’t be in the way while you’re working. Some people say to paint after you move in (so you know how the light changes throughout the day) but if you spend time in the new place completing this checklist, you should have a decent idea. Paint some test swatches on the walls and see how you like them over a few days.