9 Things First-Time Homeowners Don't Know to Do

Congratulations, you’re officially a homeowner! But along with the new address comes a new set of responsibilities, including some you may not even know about. The secret to not only surviving but thriving during the first year—and every year after—is simple: Adopt good habits from the get-go! Here are 9 often-forgotten tasks that will get your homeownership off to the right start.

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  1. Test the Smoke Detectors


    New homeowners are consumed by the stress of moving in and getting settled. The risk of fire may be the last thing on their mind. But safety should always be a top concern, and fire can strike at any time. The National Fire Protection Association suggests placing smoke alarms in each bedroom, outside sleeping areas, and on every level of the home. If your new home lacks smoke detectors, install them immediately. If the house already has appropriately situated smoke detectors, new homeowners should replace the batteries as soon as they move in, then set a monthly reminder to test the alarms and confirm that they’re still working.

    Related: 9 Ways to Boost Your Fire Preparedness


  2. Hire a Tax Accountant


    Even if your DIY skills extend to doing your own tax returns, as a new homeowner, it may be in your best financial interest to hire an accountant to maximize your refund. Owning a home changes your tax status as well as the eligible deductions you’re allowed to claim. Hire an expert for a one-time fee, then use this year’s return as your guide for future filings.

    Related: 13 Home Improvements That Are Illegal to DIY


  3. Locate the Water Main Shut-Off Valve


    Don’t wait for a water emergency to locate your home’s main H2O supply shut-off valve. In northern states, the shut-off valve is usually found on an interior wall facing the street; in southern states, it is often located outside the house near a faucet. Once you locate the valve, keep it free from brush and debris so you can easily access it in a crisis.

    Related: 10 Easy Repairs Never to Pay Someone Else For


  4. Obtain Sufficient Insurance


    Unfortunately, bad things happen to good people, which is why it's imperative to be armed with adequate insurance. While homeowners insurance and replacement coverage need to be in place before you go into escrow, check that your policy also includes fire and flood protection, as certain plans call for additional riders to cover such catastrophes. 

    Related: 5 Things Your Homeowners Insurance May Not Cover


  5. Change the HVAC Filters


    Homeowners can extend the life of their heating and cooling unit with this one simple task: changing the air filters. If you have a hard time remembering, especially as a new homeowner, try stocking up on a year's supply of filters at once. Then, change them out bimonthly to ensure proper performance and improve the overall air quality in your home. 

    Related: The 1-Hour Home Energy Audit That Can Save You Money Every Month


  6. Aerate the Lawn


    If the grass seems greener on the other side of the fence, it’s probably because your neighbors are remembering to aerate their lawn. Aeration involves puncturing the soil with small holes to allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the grass roots. If you want your new lawn to serve as the bright green backdrop for all those barbecues you have in mind, then don't forget to aerate twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.

    Related: Ultimate Lawn Care Guide: 12 Steps to a Prize-Winning Yard


  7. Keep the Receipts


    Did you know money spent on capital improvements can help lower your tax bill when you sell your home? Substantial remodeling, such as building a deck or installing new cabinets, increases the cost basis of your property. Tax rules let you add capital improvement expenses to the cost basis of your home. A higher cost basis will reduce your total profit—your capital gain—when you ultimately sell. As you pay tax on this profit, a lower gain will equal less tax. So, keep the receipts and save!

    Related: 8 Things New Homeowners Waste Money On


  8. Sweep the Chimney


    New homeowners have a lot on their minds and usually aren't thinking much about fireplace maintenance. But even if you don't plan to use your fireplace regularly, you still need to hire a chimney sweep to get the stack, smoke ducts, flue pipes, and the rest of the structure in order. This is an every year must-do, not only to prevent gas emissions and soot fires, but also to keep animal nests, deterioration, and other unforeseen factors from causing potentially dangerous problems.   

    Related: 10 Easy Curb Appeal Updates


  9. Label the Electrical Box


    When you move into a new home, it's important to spend time labeling all the breakers in your electrical box. The first time the power goes out or an emergency situation arises, you'll be glad you did this. Simply determine which circuits serve which outlets, and then label the breakers accordingly. If the previous homeowners have already labeled the box, double-check that their map is correct before crossing this off your to-do list.

    Related: 10 Essentials for Any Survival Kit


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