Oh shit, we bought a house! What now? #Moving#advice#buying a house#new home February 20 2012 | Guest post by Siouxzi Donnelly Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter. UP Balloon House in Glass Ball Container from NOVOSupplies So the call came from my realtor today: our offer was accepted, we got the house. It's been a long wait but to be fair, not too bad of one considering it's a short sale property with two liens and both banks had to negotiate amongst themselves as to who would get what. Truthfully, you can't complain when it only takes five months to buy a short sale (and Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's all fell in that time). We expected to get the house but since it was a short sale, we had no idea of the timeline — so it's not like we've been planning anything. I called my husband and told him, "Oh shit, we bought a house." He said, "Okay, we need to sit down tonight and make a list…" A list of what? He owned a house well before I met him so he's gone through this before; but we've been together seven years now, which means that house was long long ago and what to prepare for was a distant memory. What I need is a checklist — and I don't mean things like get an inspection and such because that's been done. We've got a house that we need to prepare to move in to, so what do we need to do? I mean, I get the change of address to the USPS and the utilities, pack, get a rental truck for the small stuff and price movers for the furniture but what else is there? One person gave me a tip a few weeks ago, "if nothing else, paint the closets before you move in otherwise you'll either never do it." — That's a really really good tip I never would have thought of. So you brilliant Offbeat Home-owners out there: what tips do you have from when you bought a house? Reporter Name * Reporter Email * Original text Enter the original text here. Edited text* Enter your suggested copyedit here. Notes You can add a note for the editor here. * Required information. Fix Typo Siouxzi Donnelly Siouxzi Donnelly is a web content specialist who has been featured on Offbeat Bride and Mama. The proud mama of a Little Bot, Siouxzi describes herself as a creatively schizophrenic jane-of-all-trades who will try to make anything at least once and twice if it's fun. PREVIOUS Oranges! Blues! Feet! Dogs! Tiny lizards! All this week in our reader photos. NEXT Are dolls appropriate for one-year-olds? Show/Hide comments [ 90 ] I agree with the painting idea. I hate painting, so I decided to put it off. It's much harder to do when the house it full of stuff… Especially the ceiling. Change the locks! Who knows who has a copy of the keys. Have the furnace and ducts cleaned, and clean out the dryer vent, for safety. I would rip out any carpet as well. It can be full of nastiness. Even if you can't afford to replace it right away, it's better to have nothing, IMO, than have icky carpet. Reply Change the toilet seats and shower heads too. Those are yucky as well. Reply Yes! I did that as well! Reply Not sure about changing the shower head and toilet seats. Just do the plastic bag of vinegar over the shower head and put the toilet seats through the dish washer (unless they are wood). And yes, I am serious. If you are just moving into a house, do you really have money to rip out carpet, hire movers, buy paint and all the painting supplies, and replace several shower heads and toilet seats and the locks? Really? I think the locks are the only vital thing there, paint is practical (to a degree), and carpet, as you wish. Reply Our previous owners left us brand new toilet seats. It was a nice bonus 🙂 !and, if you dooo rip out the flooring, paint FIRST, so you don't have to worry about drips on brand new carpeting…matter of fact, might wanna wait to put all your thing in one room or something, so you can get it put away without moving men and/or friends trampling in and out dragging heavy stuff over the nice new flooring… Yep, carpet is one thing to definitely do before moving in – once furniture is in it is a giant pain in the arse to do anything with flooring! Reply changing the locks should be #1 on the list. now's the time to install deadbolts, if needed, or swap out the doors to more secure metal doors. also, if you plan on wiring the house for high speed internet or whole-house speakers, do it before you move in. Reply I am in the exact same position right now (our offer was accepted on Valentines Day – how's that for a fabulous present??) and my head is spinning. I'm excited to see what people say! Reply Make a list of the reno's that you need/want to do. Start with the need to do's and give yourself a time frame and a budget. Move to the want to do's and give yourself a longer timeframe (ex. in 5 years we will start renovations on the attic). You can always re-evaluate these at a later date, but its nice to have a goal. Try to accomplish the Need to Do's along your timeframe that you set up, otherwise you procrastinate and the little things will continue to bug you until you just snap one day. Reply I would say just to remember that everything isn't going to happen at once. Not matter how perfect your house is when you move in, there will be things you want to change, and it's not going to be totally perfect in a year, or ever, really. And that's ok. Two things though: 1) Start a filing system for bills, receipts, etc. right away. We didn't, and now we have the 'drawer of death', and I really think a $20 file from Craigslist could have saved us from quite a few headaches. 2) do a 'walkabout' in your neighborhood. We do that every time we move, and it's a great way to get the lay of the land, maybe meet a few new people, and find some great shops, restaurants, etc. you might miss if you just drove by. Reply I agree with the receipt idea: Check out what are the tax incentives in your state/province for homeowners, you could be suprised about what is tax deductible! Reply Yes! And if your energy company offers home energy audits, DO IT. We just had one done, and even though we didn't really learn anything new about how to make our house more efficient, we got some free light bulbs, and, more importantly, learned that we can get rebates of 70% of the cost of repairs that improve energy efficiency, like insulation and weather stripping. All you have to do is fill out a form, and send in the receipt. Reply OMG YES. Save your receipts for anything you do to your house when you buy it. We just had our taxes done (the first time we've ever hired a professional, because after marriage and home-buying, shit got complicated) and there were SOOOO many things we could claim that we never would have known about!! On that note, it's probably worth getting professional help on your taxes as a new homeowner. Reply Yes to checking out the neighborhood. We'd never actually driven down the main road south of the turn for our house. As a result, it was months before we realized we had a grocery store with in walking distance rather than the one a few miles down the road that we had been going to. Reply You can also check it out on Google Maps and Google Earth to get an idea of what's around you. While it might not include EVERY business in the area–and might include a few that aren't around anymore–it does help to give you a bit of a lay of the land before you start exploring… Reply Do NOT rely on google maps to be correct – good for an idea of the area but not to be trusted. I just moved to a new city and used this method of trying to learn my way around a bit but it backfired! There are so many new shopping centers here that are just vacant lots in google maps. plus many of the older establishments have changed and moved to new locations with all the growth happening around here. Great way to learn the street names to get to places you do know about but check before expecting that cute restaurant to be where the streetview shows it :S Reply I liked taking lots of 'before' pictures and doing a video walkthrough of our house without a thing in it – we sent CDs of the video to friends and family who weren't near enough to visit. Now I'll never forget the horrible pink floral/bird wallpaper I spent so long scraping off. Since our house didn't require major work (all utilities worked, along with doors, windows, floors, walls … you know, the basics) – we scheduled a house-warming party early on because that motivated us to get things put away at least enough to have people over. But we also didn't expect things to be perfect by the party – everyone coming expected messy and casual fun for the evening, with makeshift loveseats made from construction scaffolding covered piled with pillows and blankets. The most important things for us in those early days were getting our appliances in and working, and building enough storage for our needs. By focusing on building really nice bookshelves and closets right from the get-go, when we unpacked a box, everything was in its permanent place and we didn't have to revisit and rehome items over and over again. I also took 2 days before we moved a single box in to scrub the floors, windowsills, base boards, and corners because you never get the chance again to clean completely unobstructed, and it made me feel very comfortable in the house knowing every surface was ours now and all the mess that would follow would be ours too. And introduce yourself to the neighbors – as soon as you get the chance! Use a postcard, knock on doors, whatever you can to meet them and learn names. Reply This… is all insanely good advice. ALL of it! Reply Want bonus points during the neighbor intros? Bring your dog if you have one. I like to make sure neighbors, esp ones I share a fence with, know my dog, and know his name. So if he decides to be stupid and bark at them while they are in their own yards, they can just say, "Hey Robbie, that's enough." Which is usually all it takes to get him to stop. (For some reason, my dog thinks if you know his name, he has to listen to you, so this works for us.) We also leave a business card with both our cell numbers on it in case the dog is either barking during the day, or if they notice anything odd. It sounds like overkill, but i had a neighbor call once to let me know my gate was hanging open during the day. Turns out the guys who were trimming our trees forgot to close it, so the dog was inside and it wasn't a big deal, but had it just blown open by wind or whatever it might have been a problem. It's nice to have other people on your side. Reply What I will say about mail is– see if your current landlord and/or future tenants will help you get a hold of mail that fails to forward. We had a lot of problems getting a hold of a lit mag I needed for school that was delivered to our old rental. Reply we have pink floral/bird wallpaper we have to get rid of still… I won't ever forget it either because we took pictures (and I sent some of the wallpaper leftovers we found in a closet to my sister. >.>) The cleaning while there's no furniture is a GREAT idea, definitely do that and any painting you can before you move. It is SO MUCH easier than doing it once there's furniture. Reply Ours was forest green with little white hearts all over it. Charming but horrid. A fresh coat of paint is a major game changer! Reply yes to the housewarming party! we had one about a month after we moved in, and it was totally motivating for things like putting art on the walls and clearing out the last box or two. It also helped that my parents were coming to stay with us for a wedding about two months after we moved in, and so our "room of trash and boxes and paint cans that will one day be a guest room" actually became a guest room with pillows and plants and all. Ditto for the above mentioned painting/cleaning before moving in and walking the dog (if you have one) to meet people. Also, borrowing tools for lawnwork! Having moved from an apartment, we had very little, but my husband got to know our neighbors very well asking to borrow a rake our first week and asking advice about gardening and all. Reply FYI, I don't recommend giving the USPS a change of address. They sell that information to marketers and you will receive more junk mail than ever before. Also, they do not always honor changes of address promptly. A few years ago, two weeks after filing with the old post office, I received a notice from the new post office, saying the old one had something for me requiring a signature – and even though it was just a small envelope, they refused to forward it to the new address. When I move, I update my address with the few people/agencies that have a legitimate need to know where I receive mail (i.e. family, DMV). I then contact the post office in the community I'm about to leave, and notify them that I am moving and do not want any mail forwarded. I haven't received junk mail since my last move. And pick up a copy of the first Apartment Therapy book! It'll help you set up your home in a way that works for you. Reply I disagree strongly with the USPS thing. It's sad that you had problems, but I have moved a few times and have been very glad that I set up forwarding as soon as I did. I frequently forgot to change my address for important things, and would not have realized it in time (since I would not have gotten a forwarded letter from them that reminded me) to prevent big problems. Also, we moved into a house and the people who lived here before us did not forward their mail, and we continue to get endless amounts of THEIR junk mail on top of ours, and Christmas cards, and important mail, all of which we either have to send back via the post office (which is pretty painful) or store up and eventually ship to them (which costs money), because legally we're not exactly allowed to do with it as we please, and I woudl feel bad losing something important for them. But seriously, it's darn annoying. Anyway, I have never had problems, and it has only helped immensely. They have also never signed me up for junk mail of any kind, as long as I refused the offers while I was on the site. Reply Previous poster may mean doing it through their website. Their website will send you a whole packet of info and coupons (welcome for some, annoying for others.) Either way, I'm fully in support of changing your address with the USPS because there's ALWAYS something you've forgotten to change addresses on. As an alternative, do your change of address directly with the local post office branches on paper. And call to confirm that it's set up. You'll usually have a little slip of paper in your mailbox that will let your carrier know to start delivering mail and to start forwarding your old mail. You do have to call and confirm because I've had mine slip through the cracks before. There was a previous post on here about cutting down on junkmail. Refer to that. You're probably inheriting some of the old occupants' junk mail! Reply Huh, I have always done it on the website. I did sign up for a couple things the second time, but only got those (and they went away after about 2 months). Never had any other issues. But I'm sure it's not consistent, so who knows. I just wanted to point out all the benefits of forwarding that I found. 🙂 Reply I was always glad for those coupons. Especially since my neighborhood Lowes ended up honoring them even after they expired. There are some really great deals in that "welcome to your new house" envelope. Especially if you're going to be doing ANY renovating. Reply I disagree as well. You DO have to be careful about check-boxes when doing the change of address with USPS (they'll often sneak in a "check here if you DON'T want to receive "special offers" box). The previous owners of our house didn't set up mail forwarding. The first two weeks we lived there we got SOOO much mail for them, and we had no idea what was important and what wasn't. I figured maybe their forwarding hadn't kicked in yet. Since our neighbors were still friends with them I got their new address and took it upon myself to send them a big packet of their mail. But their mail kept coming. I'm a nice person, but I wasn't about to keep doing that every week so eventually I started returning their mail to the sender. You'd be surprised how easy it is for forget to update your address with this magazine or that agency. Consequently, when what looked like important tax documents arrived for our home's previous owner – they went back from whence they came. Save yourself the headache and use the USPS. There are ways to opt out of lots of common junk mail if that's a concern: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt063.shtm Reply Stiletto: My husband works for the USPS, and he says it is illegal for them to pass on your forwarding address information. Even your carrier doesn't know unless you want him/her to know! Reply Perhaps I wasn't clear enough…my old post office had my new address. They just weren't forwarding that one specific piece of mail (the rest of it arrived!). And the carrier for my old address address harassed and stole from half the people in my neighborhood, btw. I assume your husband is a good citizen, but my experiences have all been terrible. Reply I absolutely agree about painting everything you might want painted before you move everything in (if you can manage it). Our problem was, we didn't know what we wanted painted, or what color, or anything like that. So in order to do this, I would suggest what was suggested about a week ago on OBH and make a list of your rooms, and then say what functions you want each room to provide. **Plan out (at least initially) where you want EVERYTHING to go.** That should help you decide how you will want the room to look, and then you can paint it accordingly. I also strongly agree with inviting people over in advance, to give yourselves a reason to put everything away and get organized. But make sure it's reasonable (I would say give yourself at least 2 weeks over what you initially want to say). Make a daily schedule of "Come home, do necessary things, clean out half a room (or whole room, depending on number of people helping and size of room and number of boxes), watch a show, go to sleep", and then take 1-2 days off of this schedule each week to remain sane. Reply That's why it's advised to hire a painter. They can help with color selection and have great ideas! Reply Floors. Scrubbadubdub. Maybe clean the carpets? They're so much easier to clean without furniture hogging the joint. Granted, you could be moving into the cleanest house in the world, but, if it's been vacant for a while, you might take the opportunity to do some deep cleaning. Reply Huh. Don't know if this is going to be helpful, but I would do almost none of what was advised above : ) Aside from the cleaning as soon as you get in, especially the bathroom, and meeting the neighbors. What I would concentrate on is the _packing_ – label, label, label, And not just "kitchen" or "bedroom" or "books" but "kitchen – basic utensils, unpack first" and "books – must display." Then, as you're packing, do so thoughtfully, with an eye towards purging as much stuff as you can. There's nothing worse than opening a box in a new home and thinking "where am I going to put this garbage?" Why bring it with you in the first place? I have never been able to get something into its "forever place" as soon as I move in. Tables get moved around for weeks, the bedroom gets reoriented, chairs move from one room to another, etc. I need to live in a space a bit to know where things make sense. Anyway, unless you have a really great spacial layout in your head or very little space and/or furniture, I'd be willing to let the new place grow on you a little before you commit to anything. Good luck and Congratulations! Reply Oh, yes, label boxes as specifically as possible! We still can't find the PS3 controllers and we've lived in our house for almost 6 months! Reply SO true! We moved to our new house just a week ago and it took AGES to find the cables to connect our screens to our computers. And we needed to put up the computers ASAP because of our work. Anyway, at least we did find them in the end. Reply Color code. Set up a spreadsheet on your laptop, with tabs for each room. Assign a color to each room, and an additional color to "OPEN FIRST." Buy Sharpies in those colors (the mini ones are like $.50 each at office supply places, and they come with lids that you can attach to a keyring so you will be less likely to lose your ring of Sharpies as you pack). Label each box carefully, and use the spreadsheet to list the exact contents. Be sure to mark the box on multiple sides, as you won't know which side will be up/forward when you're packing/unpacking. For example, you might use a red Sharpie to mark B10 on a box, plus "Kitchen utensils". In the spreadsheet under your B tab, box 10 would say "Kitchen utensils – big spoons, spatulas, meat forks, whisks, etc" This seriously, seriously saves a TON of time when it comes to unpacking what you need when you need it. Reply hands down the most brilliant idea I have ever seen about moving. thank you. Reply I move this way, with the color coding and labeling, and it's amazing. Friends make fun while I'm packing, but it makes it SO easy to unpack, store what you don't need right away, and direct the movers. I put big colored circle stickers on each box, then tape a piece of colored paper on the lintel of each room so the movers know where stuff goes. House tips: 1. If you're not doing an energy audit, wander around with a stick of incense or a candle to check around each door and window for air leakage. Caulk and replace weather stripping and door sweeps as needed. It's kinda messy and hard to get to once furniture is in. Doing this has made our electric bill about 1/3 of what the neighbors on either side pay. 2. Practice some daily routine stuff before unpacking/organizing: kitchen, getting ready in the morning, walking in from the garage, etc. to think through furniture placement. Reply One of my stepmoms is a professional painter/artist and she strongly encouraged us NOT to paint (walls, not closets) until after we'd lived in our house for a bit. That gives you time to see where and how the light falls, and truly get an idea of what colors you want. Also, one of the first things we did was find a reliable handyman. For me, I knew there would be a point I just couldn't take it anymore and I needed someone cheap but reliable to take over with little projects for a while. I even gave him a few (okay, more than a few) bucks to move boxes that were stacked in our garage into the basement on my husband's birthday. He said all he wanted for his gift this year was to be able to park in the garage… Oh, and lastly, depending on where you live, find out what the deal is with box pickup with your garbage or recycling. I was so embarrassed – I had put dozens of wardrobe and other boxes out front for pickup when one of our neighbors came out and said they had to be all broken down. Er, wasn't going to happen. Way too much work. She helped me with some, but it was still too much and the garbage truck just drove on by. When I called to complain and explained it was all from our move, I found out recycle would come once for free to pick up all of the boxes and recyclable packing material, no matter how much we had. We just had to schedule it. Had I known that from the start, it would have saved me tons of embarrassment with the new neighbors, as well as frustration. Reply To get rid of boxes set them up by the curb then post them on Craigslist. Someone will come by and pick the good ones up. Reply 1.) Plan where you want your cable run. We had to have holes drilled through the floor, and we had to know FOR SURE where to have it done while the cable guy was there setting up our internet/TV. 2.) Measure everything. You really want that huge couch in the living room. So measure the wall to see if it will fit. Take into account all three dimensions. There's NOTHING worse than carrying a heavy-ass piece of furniture into your home, only to discover that there's no humanly way it will ever fit in there. Buying something new? MEASURE FIRST. 3.) Decide whether you're a no-shoe household. Decide whether you're going to recycle. Decide how you'll mow the lawn. Decide where you'll store your MISC stuff. Small decisions, but they'll make your home feel like YOURS. 4.) Keep, Toss, Donate. Replace, Refurbish. Decide what you're keeping, throwing away or donating. And take stock of what you have–if it's worn down, decide if you plan on replacing it with something new or whether it's worth fixing up later. If you're replacing it, decide whether you need to have something new or something used from Craigslist/Goodwill/etc. If you have a list, you know what to keep your eyes peeled for. And, in all likelihood, someone is eventually going to want to buy you a housewarming gift. Know what to say when they offer to buy you something–because money IS tight now, and you CAN say yes to their generosity. 5.) IT'S YOUR'S NOW. Seriously. I cannot stress this enough. It belongs to YOU. You are a grown-ass person and you do what you want in YOUR house. So revel in it. Enjoy it! Make plans, feel like a king of all housedom, and take a pee in the back yard just for fun. (I'm probably kidding.) Take time in each room to just breathe deeply and savor the awesomeness that is having your very own domicile. It's your's! YAY! Order a pizza at your new address and be like YAY. Reply Before you move in, make a "mock meal" in the kitchen with a few disposable plates/cups/utensils. Move from stove to dishwasher to sink and place plates/cups/utensils in a few different cabinets/drawers to find the best flow and fit for you. It only takes a few minutes but it can be infinitely helpful in deciding what goes where to make things most efficient in the kitchen. Reply That is a really, really good idea. We just shoved dishes into cabinets that still had my parents's stuff in them too (parents moved out and we moved in, but they didn't take all their stuff right away. UGH endless frustration). It's more than a year later and we are still trying to deal with how much the kitchen layout sucks. We could have probably saved a ton of headache if we had just done it thoughtfully from the start. Reply Paint every ceiling that needs painting before moving anything into those rooms. That's the messiest painting job ever. Also, if anything needs to be power sanded (like crappy walls or a nasty paint job on the windows) or spray painted (nasty old light switches, doors with slats, or old radiators), do that before moving anything into the room. Seriously, you'll have spray paint dust settle on every surface no matter how many windows are open. Once those are done, paint any closet that needs it and make sure the kitchen cabinets are clean and/or painted. The first thing you'll want to do when you move in is unpack your clothes and kitchen things so have those areas ready. Everything else can be done while you're living there. Reply All good tips, but this one would have saved us a lot of aggravation. Painting ceilings is a huge pain. Doing it without furniture in the house would have saved us a considerable amount of aggravation. Also, I now have a strong aversion to ceilings painted anything other than white. Because when it's time to change/refresh the room color, I've got loads more work to do than simply repainting the walls. When we moved into our house, the living room and dining room had been painted (walls & ceilings) chocolate brown. Despite all the windows, the first few months in the house felt like living inside a wasp nest. My new rule – if contemplating buying house with non-white ceilings, immediately deduct $5,000 from offering price of house. *Been in house 2 years, just finished painting ceiling number 5… just 3 more to go! Reply THIS is when you hire a pro (three generations of house painters in my family)! Take that $5K deduction and hire somebody to do all, or the most important parts, for you. Faster and, sorry, often a way better job. My dad has a professional machine that's essentially a spray paint gun, it works from those giant vats of paint he buys. He can prime an entire room in less than a day… Most of the work is prep (taping and wrapping and floor covers). And the finish is even, but then, professional. I believe you can rent them in crappier versions, but you'd better RTFM. 😉 Reply 1. If there is a yard with stuff living in it, find out if you need to be watering it. The dude selling the house we bought stopped watering as soon as he knew it was under contract and we lost some of the plants that made us love the yard so much (granted, I live in the desert, so there is little time between stopping irrigation and starting the death process.) 2. Set up the area(s) you want anything that needs a cable, ie, TV, and try it several ways before calling the cable co. to come put holes in your walls. Reply This is SO weird to me! I can hardly imagine someone bothering to grow a garden but not caring at all if the plants died. If he had been selling puppies, would he not have fed those, either, before they were big enough to leave their mother? Reply This is a suggestion on the less practical side. The day we closed on our house, we brought over a pizza and a bottle of wine and ate on the living room floor after burning a smudge stick in every room – it was a positive way to start out! Reply I'm with you. Except we had a box of wine, and discovered just how handy a BOX of wine is to have in the fridge. Reply I agree with much of what was said. I'd like to add though, if your house isn't brand spanking new to buy a zip-it and shove it down all the shower/tub drains before you clean them thoroughly. Nothing worse than getting into a fresh cleaned shower and realizing that you have rapunzel's old house and the drain is full of sludge. Reply Yes. And fill it with enzymes. Drain enzymes are the best. Plus, who doesn't love saying "enzymes"? Reply 1. Definitely get a home warranty, especially if you have older appliances (our realtor asked the sellers to provide one for the first year). So far, the warranty has paid for a new dishwasher that would have cost us more than the warranty itself cost. 2. I agree with the person who said to not paint right away, but wait until you've lived in it a few days (though maybe paint before you fully unpack). You'll usually see a house during the day, so you may not get a good idea of how dark it'll be at night or when it's cloudy. 3. Set aside some extra cash for things you may find you'll need once you actually move in, like lightbulbs, longer powercords, outlet covers, and storage (or even little things like a new shower curtain if you have another bathroom, etc). Also be prepared to pay for things like having to get the gutters or fireplace cleaned. Reply Oh! If it's not far from your current place, try to do a few timed drives during rush hour*. Like, instead of going straight to your current place after work, drive to the house during different days of the week to get an idea of how the traffic will affect you. *(this may only be helpful if you're in a big city. We're in Atlanta near a major bunch of roads, and learning the backroads to the house early was much less stressful than trying to figure them out after moving). Reply Our realtor bought us a home warranty as a housewarming gift, which was really amazing of her! Reply 1) Clean!!! Check everywhere, especially in the kitchen. The previous owners said they cleaned, but the insides of the kitchen appliances were all *disgusting* (but the floors sparkled; everyone has their blind spots when it comes to cleaning). Air the house out, if possible, or at least start introducing your own scents with incense or perfume; this will make it easier to acclimate to it. 2) Make a prioritized list of renovations/repairs and check working order of all appliances. We found out after a couple weeks that our dishwasher wasn't getting the dishes cleaned because it was hooked up to cold water, and that it was nailed into the cabinetry (the first findings of a long list of previous owners' DIYs-gone-wrong). Get anything fixed ASAP; this is a good time to get the locks changed and also to label the circuit breaker, if it isn't. 3) Paint. We didn't finish before move-in, and so I ended up painting our foyer ceiling with the cats locked in the bedroom till 3AM on a school night because WE'D BEEN THERE TWO MONTHS. I'm sure the only reason I finished after moving in was because we had already started. 4) Take stock of storage, and more importantly how to improve on it. Vertical storage is awesome, but most previous owners take shelves or never heard of them, or there's improvements to be made on what is there. 5) Take inventory of everything in your current home. Decide beforehand where it will all go in the new house, and pack and label accordingly. (On a personal note, this was impossible for me to do; my BF and I were both moving in from our rooms at our parents', and his mom tried to pawn anything that didn't sell at her garage sale onto us, AND I was receiving what didn't sell at my late father's estate sale; I ended up telling the movers to put my stuff in one bedroom, his stuff in another, and my father's took up our most of our first floor. It took us months to sort through it all, and now that he's moving out I'm realizing how much more there still is.) IN SHORT: Personally inspect every inch of your new home, and prioritize what needs done. Organize everything you own before it goes into your new home, and it will be much easier to organize once it's there. I'm so bookmarking this for my next house! Maybe a more enjoyable move-in experience will make me more likely to like living there. Reply Here's one I haven't seen: find out your local zoning and maintenance ordinances. My husband and I don't care about having a pretty lawn so we didn't bother to mow it. We were pretty surprised to get socked with a $50 fine. Apparently letting your grass grow too tall is illegal. How tall is too tall depends on your county/city/home owner's association. So find out! Is it illegal to let kudzu grow on your property? Let your grass get to tall? Have your fence fall into disrepair? Have your cat wandering the neighborhood? Have your dog off a leash? Have your motorcycle chained to a power pole? Leave your trashcans on the curb? Some of these you'll only find out through trial and error, but some you should definitely look up in advance. Save yourself the ticket. Reply Something to add to your list: Arrange for billing with your utilities for the new house. Reply If you have pets or kids, check the plants in the garden. After we moved, our husky who never ate plants before, started munching away on leaves that turned out to be poisonous! In fact about 80% of the garden we loved so much was toxic for the dog. 🙁 Reply ALSO check the fences. Our old homeowner assured us the yard was secured for dogs. And it may have been, but not for the 12 pound chihuahua who moved in. Which We only found out after he escaped, in a neighbourhood he wasn't familiar with. From three different places. Better to check all wire fence is secured, that there are no huge spaces between the ground and a wooden fence, and that none of the fence boards are loose first. Reply Wow what a great list, thanks everyone. This came just in time as we close tomorrow! Reply This is awesome! The fiance and I are buying a house this spring, and I've already made up a big list of what to look for at home tours and move-in tips just from the comments posted here. Please, keep 'em coming! ^_____^ Also, one that I haven't seen here yet but I remember from another Empire article a while back, is to unpack and assemble the bedroom basics as one of your first priorities. Then when you're tired and need to crash, you don't have to spend time setting up and making the bed. <3 Reply If you're a spiritual sort, it's nice to do a spiritual cleansing (be it sage smudging or a purifying ritual, as I did) before you move your crap in. I got an hour to do that in my old place, and it was so nice to not feel lots of foreign energy in a place I was already nervous about. Reply Check out all the electricals and appliances. If you have a heater or anything big with a cover get a professional to check that the insides match the outsides. We got a house with a '3 year old boiler' turned out to be a 3 year old case on a 20 year old boiler. For any large appliances that come with the house, research online and find out how easily repairable they are, it might be easier to replace them now that ship parts from Timbuktu when something breaks. Check that all the important bits like water stopcock, gas/electric meter are accessible and haven't been boarded over/concreted in/illegally removed, these things don't always come up on a house inspection. Reply If the house is in poor shape, fix everything before you move in. If you cannot wait to move, try to live in the biggest room while you fix the rest. Reply If the house has been empty for a while, I *highly* recommend calling in an exterminator before you move anything in. Ours had been unoccupied for over a year, and it took forever to get the spiders under control. Reply We just bought a place and are still going through this. Google Docs has been a lifesaver in the process! First we went through the house and made a list (in Google Docs) of EVERYTHING we wanted to change. Everything from major back yard landscaping to setting up electrical service to replacing burnt out light bulbs. Then we marked off things which would be considerably harder once the house was full of stuff. For us, this included electrical work, painting, and replacing the carpets. Then we sorted the list into things we could do ourselves (cleaning), things we might do ourselves (painting), and things we'd definitely need a pro for (carpet installation). Then we prioritized it. Some things, like replacing the gross gross carpet the house came with, weren't optional. Others, like installing organizer shelves in the pantry, were put on hold once we found out how much replacing the carpet was going to cost. Our Google Doc, titled "new house things" became our organizational lifeline. In addition to being a satisfying place to cross off things we'd finished, we kept a shopping list (light bulbs! a dust mop! snacks!) and we also used it as a place to organize decor ideas. When it came time for the painters to paint, we had a nicely organized list of which colors went in which rooms. Google Docs has been particularly helpful because it's impossible to leave it at one house or the other, and there's an app for my phone which lets me update it when we're out. Reply Inspired by this post, I shared our actual house to-do list over on my own blog. It has a lot of stuff specific to our place, but might be a good jumping-off point for someone: http://home.kellbot.com/2012/02/21/our-new-house-checklist/ Reply Change the locks!!! Our sellers tried to break in to our house the day after closing–and at that point we were SO glad we'd spent too much money on a terrible locksmith who changed the locks the day before. Also–Angie's List. We got great discounts on those new-house repairs from their deals. And! If you have pets, think about what repairs/reno would be really hard on them, maybe do those before moving in. Reply 1. Grab an air mattress and spend at least one night in the house before everything arrives. Have pizza on the floor and just enjoy the bones of your home for one night. It's a memory you'll never forget. 2. Do NOT host a painting party. I had 1200 sq feet of bare white wall and the idea of painting it all was overwhelming. So I invited a bunch of friends over to help. BIG MISTAKE. My friends are awesome people but I still have globs of brown paint on the ceiling in my bedroom. No matter how good your friends are, someone who doesn't own the home won't take the same care as you will and you'll be staring at those mistakes for a long time. If you can't get it all done, hire a painter to help. 3. Take pictures of everything before you move in. I've really let the yard go since I moved in, but I have a clear picture of how it looked before, so I know exactly what needs to be done to get it back to that state. 4. Don't take on any major renovations until you're settled. When we pulled the carpet up, we found a beautiful hardwood floor–completely splattered with paint because the previous owner knew they'd be carpeting. That project took way longer than expected and I'm glad we didn't take it on right when we moved in. Reply OMG yes! Do NOT have friends over to paint unless they know what they are doing! I spent twice as long cleaning up after my "helpers" as I would have just doing the job myself. On another note, Goof-Off is fantastic for getting massive amounts of latex paint off of 40 year old pristine hardwood floors. Reply If you have a septic system RidX immediately. You never know how the previous owners treated it and last time it was treated. I don't need to tell you that a septic problem is the last thing you want to deal with. First purchases needs to be lightbulbs, batteries, extension cords, and surge protectors. More than you think you need. Seriously you'll need more than you could imagine and you'll thank yourself later rather than make a bunch of trips to the store. Reply For sure about the lightbulbs. And get extras of the kind in the house. We've only been in our house three months, and almost all the bulbs have gone out in that time. Apparently the sellers used to just leave lights on all over the place. Reply If you're blowing bulbs frequently you may want to have an electrician check things out. We had an electrician in for some other work, and he found a few things that weren't wired quite right – causing the lights to burn out. Reply After living in an apartment for years, then moving into a house that was basically mine (rented, but from family), I discovered all the things I never needed in an apartment. 1. Check the height of your ceilings and any lights hanging from them. Also cupboards. Determine if you need a step ladder. 2. Get a step ladder regardless because you'll need it at some point, especially if you do paint. 3. Start figuring out what sorts of things you will need to have access to for tools, etc: do you need a lawnmower? Do you need a rake? What tools do you have for home repair (drill, screwdrivers, hammers, scrapers, caulking). You don't actually need to buy them all, but it's good to start thinking about it. 4. Figure out what you'll do with garbage. Do you need to buy a bigger bin for external storage? 5. Do you need blinds, shades, etc? 6. Learn where everything is: furnace, switchbox, electrical outlets, hot water heater, outdoor taps, etc. You'll need this stuff potentially so plan around having access to them and know where they are BEFORE you need them. My biggest change was realizing that I was in charge of dealing with the outside. That, and I couldn't just call a building super to fix something. (I still get a lot of my repairs done, but I do more myself now too.) Reply LOL Totally learn where everything is. I learned this the hard way. I didn't know where the water shut off valve was and my husband "tweaked" the bathtub faucet and it ended up being a biggest watery mess. Reply I just bought a house with my fiance last fall, and the first thing we did after getting the house tented for bugs and termites, was hire a cleaner. The house had been renovated, and was vacant when we bought it, so it wasn't full of previous-occupant dirt, but after months of vacancy and various potential buyers trekking through the place, it was pretty filthy, and had lots of cobwebs and dead spiders laying around. The idea of cleaning the whole place and *then moving and unpacking* was just exhausting. It was really the best $200 bucks I could have spent. (of course, after dragging boxes and furniture in, the house was dirty again… but at least it was our dirt!) Reply so, i guess it's just a point of view thing, but i basically endorse *waiting* to do as many things as possible. in part this is because i don't view our house as something that will ever be "final" – our needs and interests are always changing, and our environment changes to reflect that, and i would rather ease into that than try to finish it all only to re-finish it later. that said, note what projects are house-wide and get them done asap (preferably before you move in, but at least before you unpack and spread out). for us this was refinishing the hardwood floors throughout the house – loud, week-long, house-wide, dusty, smelly process (we actually did it first thing, but after moving, so we put the bed and *everything* into the one room that didn't need refinishing for the week). other things, even major projects like re-sheetrocking, are things that you can easily do one room at a time. it's not lovely, but it isn't really epically problematic to empty one room into another for the week or two it takes to finish. for me, it is a lot less stressful (especially financially) to realize that i don't have to do it all at once. one other note – if you have wood panelling on the walls, be aware that that stuff can withstand (and therefore cover up) *anything*. take it down. even if you want to keep it, take it down enough to make sure that the wall behind it is solid and put it back. ours held back a solid foot of standing water in the walls in one room. Reply We've moved a lot, and this is a list for most moves, but some are just for the house: -You will need to buy new locks on the first day, and take time to change the combo to the garage door if you have one. -Take a week before moving in at least to clean your new space and paint. -Painting the closets is a great idea. -Take a tour around the house, sans stuff inside, to note any other things that need to be fixed before or soon after you move in. Reply On moving day, make sure to pack yourself an emergency kit of stuff that you *need* to know where it is, that can't afford to get stuck in just some box… cups, tea and coffee and a kettle, in short!!! Reply Do a photo or video inventory of your house. Flooring, windows, furnace, finishes, everything. Next do an inventory of all the valuables you have and take a picture of each one and record model and serial numbers if possible. Make two copies of this valuable info. Put one at a friends house and one in a safety deposit box. If anything horrible were to happen like a robbery, flood or fire, these documents will speed up the insurance claims and make sure you get the full value on your claim. Also ask your home insurer to visit your house to make sure you have enough coverage. A family in my community lost their house to fire two years ago and were under insured. They took into account the cost of the house when they took out their policy but not the cost to rebuild the house. Finally, put 10% of gross monthly earnings into a house repair/improvement fund…for a rainy day when your roof leaks! Enjoy your new home! Reply pack a box or two to keep in your car (NOT THE MOVING TRUCK) with garbage bags, toilet paper, paper towels, windex, dish soap, a kitchen sponge, a kitchen towel, 4 place settings w cutlery, 2 bath towels, a bath mat, a shower curtain, your toiletries, your bedding, and an air mattress if you're not sure of when your stuff will be arriving. That way you can eat takeout off your own plates and occupy your new house, even if 99% of your stuff isn't there yet. Sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor and eating of paper plates is depressing! Reply Give the new residents of your old house (the one you're movie out of) a roll of stamps and 5-10 large mailing envelopes, pre-addressed with your new address, and with your work mail (or your parents address, or someplace you go often) as the return address. When something for you arrives at your old house–and it will– the new residents can slip it inside the envelope, slap a stamp on it, and stick it in the mailbox. Make sure that both the "to" and "from" addresses are someplace you'll get it, so in case there's not enough postage, it'll still go to the return address. Reply In prep for a neighborhood tour check out http://www.walkscore.com/ for proximity to libraries, the post office, gas stations, stuff that sometimes doesn't come up when you look around on google for local businesses. Also, my earth-magic/sacred space/woo-woo tendencies usually result in either smudge or salt in every room, just so it feels a bit less like it was recently somebody else's place. Reply when you paint, finish it by correcting any mistakes that happen. This is the part we wait too long to take care of. If you wait you stop seeing that blotch of color on the ceiling but it's still there. Reply If you already have all/most of your furniture for any particular room, get dimensions for the furniture, every wall, doorway, and window of the room. Put it in a floor plan/design program, photoshop, on paper*, anything, and then figure out your layout from there. Keep in mind how much space you'll have to move around. It's much easier than constantly moving furniture, especially large pieces. Also, when you are moving large, unwieldy furniture, 'moving men' (which aren't available but here's essentially the same thing: http://www.amazon.com/Waxman-Reusable-Sliders-Moving-Oatmeal/dp/B001W6Q4VU/) are lifesavers. * I did this when we renovated our spare room into a library/craft room. I measured in inches then just drew out the room and furniture using the same numbers, but in centimeters. I labeled each piece of furniture (and each window/door as to which way they faced on the room) and cut out all the pieces of paper that represented the furniture and moved things around to my heart's content until I had it mostly the way I wanted it, then went to test it out in the real world. It worked wonderfully. Reply Do not change your locks!! It costs a fortune when you do it that way; call a locksmith! They are cheaper than you would expect! A locksmith will re-key all of the locks to match the same key (including storms doors!). They will also oil your locks and advise you about the level of security the current locks offer. My locksmith charged me $85 plus $7 per lock. Replacing all the locks was way more expensive! Reply Join the conversation Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *Comment Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Subscribe me to your mailing list No-drama comment policy Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.