What are some smart tips for new homeowners?

Whew! You’ve successfully negotiated the process of buying a house — the search, the negotiations, the inspections, mortgage application and approval, the closing. Now you need to successfully negotiate a whole new process — home ownership. Here are 5 smart tips for new homeowners to help get this fresh chapter of your life off to a good start.

1 Don’t go crazy on the fun stuff

First, fight the urge to go on a whirlwind spending spree to make your new purchase perfect. It’s so tempting to buy just the right drapes — in silk — plus that nice couch you’ve always wanted. And doesn’t a new dining spot cry out for a new dining table? Stop, wait a few days or weeks, and proceed with caution after making sure you’ll have the more practical expenses comfortably covered. There’s a lot more to homeownership than paying the mortgage.

2 Start a house file

File cabinet

Owning a house generates an incredible amount of paperwork. You’ll need to keep up not only with mortgage documents but with insurance correspondence and policies, receipts for repairs and renovations, warranties for purchases, contracts for services and so on. Before one more paper comes in, designate a stand-up file box or file-cabinet drawer and create digital folders on your computer for house-related documents. You’ll also need a place to jot down notes, reminders and important dates — a notebook or binder, or a digital text file that can serve as a sort of running house planner and diary.

Going forward, become a document squirrel, tucking away all receipts and house-related correspondence that come your away, as soon as they come your way. Even if the house file is not well organized, having papers in one place is a tremendous help when you desperately need a document for insurance or tax purposes.

3 Get to know the place

Between your personal inspections of the premises and a professional inspector’s assessment, you’re likely acquainted with the home’s major systems. After you move in, however, it’s time to move from acquaintance to intimate relationship.

Notebook in hand, take a closer look at major appliances and systems — everything from washer and fridge to the roofing and HVAC — with an eye toward noting when replacement or service will be needed. When will the furnace or HVAC system need a new filter? When will the deck need to be resealed? How much life does the roof have left? Information in hand, you can start to map out a schedule for what you’ll need to do when.

Taking notes

Keep a notepad or file with all relevant service dates for household fixtures and appliances.

4 Put aside money for maintenance

This is where a person might start missing a landlord. All that maintaining and replacing is going to take money. Naturally, the pocket it will come from is yours.

Financial experts recommend putting aside from 1 to 4 percent of your home’s value each year for home maintenance. The suggested number varies by expert and should be adjusted for a home’s age and condition. For an older house, save more. With any luck, over time what you set aside will cover the $300 plumbing emergencies and repainting projects as well as big-ticket essentials such as reroofing, which will set you back several thousand dollars.

Quick Tip

As an exercise, let’s do the math. For a house worth $200,000, the minimum suggested set-aside would be $2,000 a year, or about $166 a month.

5 Keep inspecting

The initial getting-to-know-you investigation is only the beginning. Several household systems and components will need routine inspections and maintenance at least once a year, including:

  • The roof
  • The water heater
  • Plumbing
  • The furnace or HVAC system

PLUS: A quick quiz for new homeowners

Here are a few questions adults in the household should be able to answer without hesitation:

  • Where is the water shutoff valve for the whole house?
  • Where is the plumbing system’s main clean-out plug?
  • Where is the water heater?
  • Where is the circuit breaker box?
  • Where is the attic access door?
  • If there is a crawlspace, where is the access point?

Are you still looking for your new home? Find a local realty expert who can help or search our real estate listings.