- Make and implement a maintenance plan now so you don’t forget and leave important maintenance unattended.
- Make the most of your home’s being vacant, before you move in.
- Do it now, while you’re in the “new home” frame of mind – otherwise you’ll never get around to it.
Just joking, there’s not 1,723 things to do. Well, not quite, anyway. Buying a home can be overwhelming, and my intent is not to stress you more, but to provide a useful, quick guide to knock out all these things while you’re in the “home buying zone” and still thinking about it. Otherwise, trust me, from personal experience, you’ll never do it.
Locks and Security
Obviously change the locks! You have no idea who has keys when you buy a home. But it’s not just changing the locks. You will want to put locks onto your backyard gate and the outside electrical panel. This is simply to discourage shenanigans. You don’t want people easily accessing your backyard. Nor do you want people getting into your electrical panel, where the breaker for the entire house is located. That’s right, if you didn’t already know, the power to your home can be cut very simply by flipping a switch outside your home. Literally while writing this, I took a break to watch Hush with my wife on Netflix, and the bad guy turns off the power to the lady’s home through the outside electrical panel. Not even kidding!
Why in the world is there a power switch to my entire home on the outside of the house? It is there for emergency responders like firefighters. Firefighters will swiftly cut through any locks if they need to access the panel and turn off the electricity. Don’t make it any easier than that for mischief-makers.
Also, now would be the time to install a security system. Your home may have the equipment still from the previous owner, and hopefully it is at least pre-wired for security. Pick a company and plan that meets your needs!
They can sometimes be a pain (not known for A+ customer service), but they also can be a godsend when the upstairs bathroom leaks through the ceiling and you’re cash strapped. Or worse, the A/C goes kaput just as summer hits. A $2000 repair can become a $100 deductible if you have a home warranty.
It is currently common in the Fort Hood market to negotiate for the seller to pay the first year of a home warranty. There is a place on the contract to request this very item. After that, it will be up to you to keep up the monthly payment and keep yourself covered.
The cost of a home warranty depends on the company and the coverage you choose – they usually run $40-$80 / month for a single family home. Check out here for home warranty companies I recommend in the Killeen area.
Get Post Box Keys
Most homes in the Fort Hood area, especially newer ones, have community boxes. The seller won’t be able to give you a key – you must go to the post office directly to get your box number and key. You will need to have your closing documents (either the CD for financed deals or the HUD-1 if you paid cash) to prove that you are the new homeowner. Also note that you can’t just go to any of the post offices in Killeen, but only the main office one on W S Young.
Change Your Address
Make sure your mail moves with you. Losing mail is always a bummer, and can be expensive if it is either checks or bills. Go online to all your accounts and update your information now. You are also required to change your driver’s license address within 30 days of moving.
Clean your home? It’s possible you negotiated the seller to have it professionally cleaned before closing. But even then, it will never be this easy to clean your home again, while still vacant. That way you are getting a clean start in your new digs!
Set up a maintenance account
You are a homeowner! And that means you are responsible for maintaining it. If things break, property insurance and home warranties will hopefully cover a lot of the expense, but seldom all of it. Don’t let your wallet get surprised by an unexpected maintenance issue. I recommend putting aside a little each month – either 10% of your mortgage payment, or $100, or whatever you are comfortable with. Set up a checking account just for this, and autodraft your main bank account so you aren’t forgetting or spending your maintenance stash.
Set up Maintenance Reminders
That money will come in use when doing routine maintenance.
Here is a great article from LifeHacker on how to set up maintenance reminders on a program like Google Calendar (what I use for all my scheduling, personal and business). The following is a sample of some of the regular maintenance items you will want to remind yourself of.
Change A/C air filters (usually once a month). This is one of the most obvious and most neglected maintenance chores. Often it needs to be done every month. Your filter locations vary depending on your A/C type, location, and house style. Often times it is in the tray at the bottom of the A/C unit itself. Sometimes it is in the vents the A/C pulls air from. Sometimes there are two vents like in my home (two vents – two filters – and both of mine are different sizes to boot!) Failing to keep the filters changed can lead to your A/C freezing over, damage to the motor, and decreased life span. Get it done!
Clean Sink Disposal (once a month). Sink disposals will start to smell over time. Don’t let that happen to your kitchen. There are several fun methods to try to keep your sink fresh.
Clean your Refrigerator Coils (twice a year). Your fridge is a huge energy consumer. Keeping it running efficiently will extend its lifespan, protect your floors under the refrigerator, and save you on your energy bill. How? Clean the coils every six months.
Pest Treatment (usually once every three months). Subterranean termites are an issue in the Killeen/Harker Heights/Copperas Cove area. As are carpenter ants. There are important measures to always keep in mind to reduce the risk that these invaders get into your home, which can result in $1000s or $10,000s in damage. You would also do well to schedule regular treatments of your exterior to keep the bugs out!
Fertilize/Weed the Lawn. Bermuda and St. Augustine are the most common lawn grasses in the Fort Hood area. Don’t know the difference? Bermuda is very sun/drought friendly and sturdy – a favorite for golf courses. St. Augustine needs more water and shade and has thick blades. Check out here for the pros and cons if deciding between the two. Texas A&M is an expert on the subject (and an expert on real estate, it so happens). Check out their definitive guides on maintaining Bermuda or St. Augustine lawns.
Prep Lawn Equipment for Winter. You will want to remind yourself to ensure your lawn equipment is stored properly during the winter inactive season. That means, for example, no gas in the lawn mower. If stored improperly, they may not function when you pull it out in the spring.
HVAC Cleaning / Service. Once a year, it is worth the $75-$100 to have a professional HVAC company come and clean the HVAC. Left undone, more expensive acid cleanings can run $500+, and of course, more major HVAC issues start in the $3500 range and can go up from there. It will also improve the air quality in your home.
Flush / Service the Water Heater. Once a year is a good idea to drain the water heater, which removes sediment that builds up in the tank and will eventually impair the unit’s effectiveness and reduce the lifespan. Old water heaters are far heavier than new ones, simply because of the sediment build up over time. Especially in Texas where the water is harder, it is a good idea!
Clean the Chimney. If you have and use a fireplace, you will want to set up reminders to have it cleaned every once in a while – perhaps once every one or two years – and reduce the possible fire hazards of creosote build-up.
For more ideas on regular maintenance items, check out here.
Your First Home Improvement Projects to Consider
Stain the Fence. Staining the fence is not about getting a beautiful hue. It will make it last longer. You also don’t want to do it right away on a brand new fence, but perhaps six months in – after the wood has “aged” a little. You may need to repaint every few years.
Install Gutters. For a while, I didn’t understand the purpose of gutters. Who cares if rain drips off the sides? Well, your foundation does. If rainwater pools in certain areas of the foundation, it can impact the dirt your home is built on and lead to foundation problems. That is a mega-bucks problem. Gutters also help with other issues like rotting siding. Definitely a worthwhile job!
Purchase a Water Softener. They are expensive, of that there is no doubt! Water softeners “soften” water by reducing a lot of the sediment and debris that is contained in water. Even though this sediment is not unsafe, it can be a nuisance – sometimes an expensive nuisance. Homes with water softeners are much more plumbing-friendly. Other, more cosmetic benefits include less water residue on your shower and dishes in the dishwasher.
Purchase a Fire Extinguisher. Okay, not really a home improvement, but definitely a good idea! I would probably keep it close to the kitchen 😉
Install Solar Screens. I can never remember the name – sun shades, window screens, dark stuff on the windows. Solar Screens! These are popular energy saving screens that go on the exterior of all your windows that keep your home cool and comfortable in the unforgiving Texas heat.
I hope that list is helpful! Think of more suggestions that new homeowners should consider? Please post below in the comments!
And if you still haven’t found your home in the Fort Hood area, please contact me. I am a Realtor and and am here to help!