Oh shit, we bought a house! What now?

Guest post by Siouxzi Donnelly
Oh shit, we bought a house! What now?
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?

Comments on Oh shit, we bought a house! What now?

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    • 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.

  6. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

  7. 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.)

    • 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.

  8. 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!)

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!!!

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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!

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