10 must-dos before moving

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | May 22, 2015

So your move-in ready house turns out to need some work. That's pretty common, unless you're closing on your own newly custom-built dream house. If you just bought a new-construction spec home or a resale, something always needs fixing, changing, or stocking up on before you move in -- even if it only means replacing the locks and the toilet seats. New toilet seats top the list of must-dos before moving for some -- though more germs typically live in your kitchen sink. But you don't need to agonize over real or perceived dirt and germs. Hiring a professional cleaning service to spiffy things up frees you to concentrate on tackling the rest of this list of new homebuyers' must-dos before moving.

10 must-dos for new homebuyers

1. Steam clean

The good news is that within days of your move-in, you and your family's own microbiome -- your special mix of micro-organisms -- trumps that of the previous inhabitants. If you have additional concerns about lingering germs, sanitize the floors with a professional steam cleaning prior to your move. Washing sinks, tubs and toilets with a mixture of bleach and water can also dispatch pesky pathogens.

2. Order utilities

Contact the utility companies at least a few days before your move to set up accounts in your name and arrange for them to turn on the power, gas, and water. Unless you handle stress well and like camping indoors, you don't want to arrive to find there's no heat and hot water in winter or power to run the A/C or ceiling fans in summer.

3. Appliances and energy-efficiency

Speaking of hot water, make sure the appliances function properly -- especially the water heater -- if you want to be able to take a hot shower after unpacking boxes. If they work, but not very efficiently, or are nearing the end of their expected life, purchase new Energy Star-rated appliances. Install them before you move so they can start saving you money right away.

4. Home security

You may opt to install a complete home security system, but if not, at the very least change the locks. You have no way of knowing who has copies of the previous owners' keys, nor do you want any surprise visitors. Other security measures: replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and if you don't already own one, get a fire extinguisher.

5. Home inspection repairs

Did you let the seller off the hook for problems discovered during the home inspection? If the home inspector noted concerns - especially with roofing, foundation cracks, plumbing, or electrical components - making those repairs sooner rather than later may help avoid leaks, flooding, or even a fire caused by previous remodeling that was not up to code.

6. Learn your home's systems

Take time to find out about the systems in your new home including electrical, plumbing, and HVAC -- their location and who serviced them last, if possible. When there is a problem, you want to know right away where to look for the breaker box, the water main, the gas main, the water heater, the furnace -- and whom to call.

7. Start a maintenance schedule

Your home's components and systems perform more efficiently and can last longer when you follow a home maintenance schedule. Some maintenance tasks should be done monthly, like changing your HVAC air filters, while others can be done once a year in the spring or fall. Set up your checklists and get started creating the habit of inspecting and maintaining your home regularly.

8. Painting

Not every home needs a new coat of paint. Sellers often repaint to make the home more neutral to appeal to a wide range of buyers. If you are more of a Crayola 64-crayon-box kind of person, moving into an all-beige-or-white box may make you agitated. On the other hand, if the place looks a tad Goth, it might need some lightening up. Don't wait until you've placed the furniture against the walls. Break open the paint cans and go to work on those walls before moving in.

9. Flooring

An empty house means you don't have to remove the furniture to lay new flooring, either, so why not do it now? If you plan to sand and refinish wood floors, you may want to wait before calling in a cleaning crew until after the dust has settled.

10. Disaster kit

Take inventory of the supplies you keep in case of a disaster. Toss expired items, replenish them and make sure you keep all emergency supplies handy during the move. Mother Nature, for one, does not care that you can't remember where you packed the flashlight and batteries. Even if you're not camping on your first night in the new home, you should always be prepared.

Photo credit to Myryah Shea

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.