Congratulations, you’re a homeowner! Your real estate agent and mortgage lender likely guided you through the home buying process, but what happens once you’ve signed the paperwork and received your keys? If this is your first experience buying a home, you may be wondering what’s next. Below, we’ll share 10 tips for making your transition into homeownership a little bit smoother.
1. UNDERSTAND YOUR MORTGAGE STATEMENT
When you receive your first mortgage statement, you may find that there’s a lot of information to review. While all of it is important, you’ll want to pay close attention to the amount due, how to pay it and the due date – this pertinent information will help you stay on track with on-time payments from the start. You’ll also find your loan servicer’s contact information on your statement – use this resource whenever you have questions related to your home loan.
2. GET TO KNOW YOUR LOAN SERVICER
Speaking of your mortgage, it’s possible your lender may sell your loan to a mortgage servicer, which may be done soon after closing or even later down the road. This is a common practice, since many lenders lack the resources to retain servicing on all the loans they originate. What does this mean for you? Not much, other than making sure to send your monthly payment to the new servicer. However, your loan terms won’t change, regardless of your servicer.
3. DISREGARD REFINANCE OFFERS
One thing you’ll notice right away is the increase in unsolicited mail you’ll receive after buying a home, since your information becomes public record. Specifically, you’ll see a lot of refinance offers come through – but beware of these, as it could end up being very costly to you. Refinancing typically isn’t beneficial early on in your mortgage repayment, since you’ll need to shell out closing costs. Certain factors may make it worthwhile down the road, including the ability to reduce your interest rate, to change the terms of your loan, or to reduce the life of your loan.
4. KEEP TRACK OF DOCUMENTATION
On closing day, you’ll sign a stack of legal paperwork to officially complete the transaction, and you’ll be given copies of all documents. It’s important to hold onto this information, as it’ll be to your benefit come tax season. That’s because homeownership presents you with some pretty great opportunities for tax savings – and since your year-end mortgage statement may not reflect items you paid at closing, you’ll have the documentation you need to claim it on your taxes.
5. TAKE INVENTORY
Your home insurance will take effect the day you sign the title to your new home, but there’s still work to be done after closing day. You should create an inventory record of the valuables in your home via handwritten list or by taking photos. Doing so will help immensely in the event your personal property is stolen, damaged or lost and will help your insurance company expedite the claim.
While taking inventory, it may be good to also revisit your replacement coverage amount to ensure you have enough if you need it.
6. CHANGE LOCKS
The keys to your new home have been handled by a lot of people, so one of the first things you should do is have a locksmith change all of your exterior door locks. This step is often overlooked, but one that you shouldn’t skip in order to ensure safety. When we were in the process of buying our home, I called a locksmith several days before closing and scheduled an appointment to have new locks installed the morning after we closed. Knowing that we were the only ones with keys to our house made me feel so much more comfortable!
7. DEEP CLEAN
Whether you’re moving into a newly constructed home or a well-loved one, you’ll probably find one thing in common: it could use a good deep clean. After all, a long list of people have walked through the door and tracked in dirt while it was on the market – from prospective buyers to inspectors, contractors and more. Plan a floor-to-ceiling cleaning session before you begin moving your belongings in – trust me, it’s much easier to do it while the house is empty!
8. MEET NEIGHBORS
It’s never too soon to meet the people living around you. Some neighbors may take it upon themselves to stop by and say “Hi,” but if not, take a few minutes to introduce yourself. Staying close with your next-door neighbors is especially important, as you can keep an eye on each other’s homes to ensure nothing is awry.
9. LEARN HOME SYSTEMS
Your home inspector might have given you a brief overview of your new home’s systems, but by the time move-in day arrives, you may have lost track of the details. Familiarizing yourself with how everything works can help ensure all systems are used properly, which can help maximize lifespan and efficiency.
10. DEVELOP A MAINTENANCE PLAN
As a new homeowner, you’ll realize pretty quickly that it takes a lot of work to protect your biggest investment and keep it in tip-top shape. From smaller tasks like careful cleaning of wood floors or changing furnace air filters to bigger things like cleaning gutters and power washing your home’s exterior, there are a number of things you’ll need to keep track of. Create an annual home maintenance plan or checklist to help you stay on top of projects that should be completed throughout the year.
It’s easy to begin your homeownership journey on the right foot with a little bit of planning ahead.