Homeownership rates are on the rise, with 2.1 million new homeowners in 2020, and one-third of all home buyers buying for the first time, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and Pew Research Center. While buying a home can take a great deal of work, there’s still much to do after closing on a home. Some key essentials can help you fully enjoy and maintain that new home. As a homeowner for more than 35 years, and as a writer about home furnishings and home improvement for more than 30 years, I'd advise new homeowners to stock their homes (and garages) with these things as soon as possible.
Don’t wait until your grass is 2 feet tall, and your new neighbors are making snide comments about “the jungle over there,” before you break down and purchase a lawn mower. Over the years, we’ve had a variety of mowers, including Craftsman and Lawn-Boy gas-powered models.
My current favorite mower is the Greenworks cordless electric lawn mower (available on Amazon). I like this mower because it is lightweight but still goes through the thickest part of our lawn. The mower is easy to use and handles the entire front yard on one battery, and the second battery takes care of the backyard.
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I wish that someone had told me about the wonders of a power washer when I first bought my house. It would have saved me hours of scrubbing with a brush and probably a lot of money on various outdoor cleansers.
A power washer is great for cleaning sidewalks, patios, decks, outdoor stairs, patio furniture, vinyl siding, outdoor power equipment, cars, and even garden pots. I’ve tried a few different units, and prefer an electric-powered model with a long hose. For versatility of use, choose one that has at least three power settings for light, regular, and heavy-duty cleaning.
A snow blower is another must-have item if you live in a northern or mountain region of the country. I resisted the idea of a snow blower for years, figuring that my husband and I needed the exercise from shoveling. But I was wrong. Especially with some of the recent winters in the Northeast, our Craftsman snow blower has been a lifesaver!
The gas-powered unit features both a pull- and electric-start, and is wide enough to do the entire sidewalk in one pass. We bought a heavy-duty snow blower, which allows us to do our entire corner of sidewalks, driveway, and walkway, and it also handles the neighbors’ sidewalks and driveways.
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Good, sturdy garden tools are an essential item for every homeowner. Here are the must-have garden tools for different types of landscaping needs:
Small gardens: A quality metal shovel and a solid metal bow rake can be essential. I prefer models with a fiberglass handle and cushion grips.
Larger gardens: A set of gardening hand tools that includes both a wide and narrow trowel and a cultivator is handy.
Yards with deciduous trees: A wide-head leaf rake or a collapsible, adjustable leaf rake also are helpful.
Snowy climates: A good-quality snow shovel is a must. I prefer one with a plastic scoop so I can use it on the deck.
Yards with bushes and shrubs: For trimming, I use both a pair of long-handled hedge shears and a pair of long-handled loppers , both with comfort grips. And my go-to pruning tool is a Fiskars extendable pole pruner and saw (available on Amazon ).
Backyards: Invest in a good 100-foot garden hose and hose reel. You may not think you need one that long, but trust me, it will save you time and so many steps!
Trees, Shrubs and Perennials
The best time to plant a tree is when you first move into your new home, so that you can enjoy it through the years. Choose trees that suit your own individual style. I personally enjoy maples and winter oaks in terms of deciduous trees, blue spruce and Douglas fir for evergreens, and my neighbor has lovely flowering fruit trees.
Another worthwhile investment is in some nice shrubs. Flowering varieties like forsythia will give you some nice color in the spring, while evergreens such as juniper and boxwood are great for concealing a home’s foundation.
For perennial flowers, select different varieties that bloom at different times: daffodils, tulips, crocus and hyacinth for spring; daisies and coreopsis for summer; and sedum for fall. You may want to add some annuals every year as well, such as marigolds, zinnia, petunias, and begonias, to give the garden a pop of color all through the season.
Enhance your personal comfort and help your heating and air conditioning system work more efficiently by investing in ceiling fans for your gathering areas. Installing ceiling fans in bedrooms also will help keep those rooms more comfortable for sleeping. Ceiling fans can help keep rooms cooler in the summer by setting them to run counter-clockwise to push cool air to the floor. Running them clockwise in the winter can create an updraft and help circulate warm air throughout the room. Many ceiling fans also have light fixtures built into the center
Keep moisture levels to a minimum in bathrooms and kitchens by installing exhaust fans. Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans can help dehumidify these areas, which is necessary to keep mildew and mold at bay. Exhaust fans also can help remove “objectionable” odors from these areas. There are many different sizes, shapes, and models of exhaust fans. Some are designed to be installed in the wall and others are installed in the ceiling, and both types need to vent to the outside. Many ceiling mount versions also include light fixtures.
Robot Vacuum Cleaner
I recently acquired a robotic vacuum and it has changed my life…or, at least, my housecleaning regimen. I was very skeptical of robotic vacuums until I tried the Yeedi. After one week, all of our floors were clean and gleaming. We have the pet hair model K650 (available on Amazon) and it works wonders on both our wood floors and our area rugs. You may have to robot-proof your home by tucking away the fringes on area rugs and making sure cords are tied up or tucked away. It’s a small bit of effort to save a major amount of work.
After you purchase a home, you may want to entertain friends and family. Some good quality cookware can help make cooking for a gathering easier. In terms of pieces, most usually benefit from one small 7- to 8-inch skillet, a larger 10- to 12-inch skillet, a small 1- to 1.5-quart saucepan, a larger 2.5- to 3-quart saucepan, and a large 5- to 6-quart stock pot or Dutch oven.
There are numerous options available, including cast iron, copper, stainless steel, and aluminum. The type of cookware you choose should be based on what you like to cook:
If you’re a steak lover , you can’t beat cast iron for searing.
Eggs, pancakes, and other delectable breakfast items area snap in a nonstick aluminum pan.
Stainless steel is a durable and all-purpose option.
Three Good Knives
Good kitchen knives can last a lifetime, and probably save you from cutting yourself during food prep. In terms of which knives to buy, most new homeowners need at least a 3- to 4-inch paring knife, an 8-inch chef’s knife, and an 8-inch serrated knife.
Quality knives are constructed of either high carbon steel or stainless steel, or a composite of the two:
High carbon steel is very hard and durable, but can be prone to rust if not cared for properly.
Stainless steel is easier to sharpen and doesn’t rust, but is not as hard and therefore needs more frequent sharpening.
The best knives are “forged” knives , which are formed from a single piece of steel, heated and pounded into shape.
Stamped knives are cut out of large sheets of steel and have a separate blade and handle attached with rivets. These are generally less expensive, but not as durable.
Make sure to buy a quality sharpening steel or knife sharpener to keep those knives in tip-top cutting condition.
Those of us who are vertically challenged know the value of having good sturdy ladders for both interior and exterior use. For outdoor tasks, a 6-foot metal or wooden step ladder is usually best, as well as a 15- to 30-foot extension or multiposition aluminum ladder.
For interior tasks, a 4-foot metal step ladder is a good choice, along with a few small 1- to 2-foot foldable plastic units that you can stash in convenient locations for quick and easy access, like next to the fridge, behind the laundry hamper, or behind the sofa. Make sure to choose ladders with nonskid treads, so you are less likely to slip and fall.
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Monitored Alarm System
We were fortunate that our home already had an alarm system when we moved in. Over the years, we have updated it by adding monitored smoke detectors, freeze sensors, and wireless modules. Today’s alarm systems can be integrated into a smart home setup and controlled from a mobile phone. You can add cameras and other devices to keep tabs on your home when you’re away.
Having a monitored system is great for peace of mind, because you don’t have to worry about calling the police or fire departments. The alarm company will alert the authorities if there is a problem.
If you have the money to hire a handyman for every household woe, go ahead. But if you want to hang on to your cash and exercise some self-sufficiency, check out these clever products that solve a million and one little problems around the house. Go now!