10 Practical Things Every New Homeowner Should Know

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You’re so excited – you’ve just bought your first home, thumbed your nose at your old landlord, and printed out the invitations to your housewarming party.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of purchasing a house and it’s understandable that you’d want to spoil it like a new baby. But if you're not careful, you might wind up having to get a second mortgage just to pay for your enthusiasm.

By all means allow yourself to be happy and overzealous – but practical, too. Here are ten practical things every homeowner should keep in mind to ensure that you fully enjoy your new home without filing for bankruptcy.

1. Get “Covered Correctly” with Homeowner’s Insurance

Insurance Broker Dan Luigs of Insurance Store Inc. in Missouri says that more than 60% of people don’t have their house insured to the rebuild value, and that the most common question homeowners ask him is “Am I covered correctly?”

As a renter, it’s quite possible that you never had renter’s insurance, but as a homeowner this is a important thing to do. Although legally you don’t need to have insurance on your house, if you have a mortgage, the lender will require you to purchase it. If you want peace of mind, we’d definitely recommend getting insurance regardless of whether or not it’s required. If your home is damaged by natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, tornadoes or fires and you don’t have insurance, you will be crying for a very long time.

2. Winterize Your Home

Insulating and winterizing your home, particularly if you live in a colder climate, will help reduce your heating (and/or cooling) costs dramatically. We hear from a lot of homeowners that they take action after a storm has hit and have to deal with higher costs of repair. Check out this handy list of ways to winterize your house and protect it from storm damage.

Also, here’s a guide from the Department of Energy on insulating your attic based on where you live. A federal tax credit is available for homeowners to help offset the cost of insulating their homes.

3. Save Your Home Improvement Receipts

This tip is especially helpful in the event that you ever decide to sell your home, as the money you spent on improving your house can contribute to its value and maximize your tax-free earnings on the sale of your home.

4. Budget for Furniture and Interior Design

When you purchase a new house, it’s natural to want to furnish and decorate it all at once so that it matches the vision of your ideal home. It can be frustrating sitting on your old, worn-out sofa in your beautiful new house, but if you go crazy and buy everything immediately, you’ll be in for a big financial surprise.

Keep in mind that money is usually tight for new homeowners as they are faced with additional costs that a renter’s landlord often pays, such as electricity, water, property taxes and insurance.

Make a list of everything you wish to buy for your new home, prioritize it in terms of needs and wants, and create a budget. Then every month you can have fun buying one or two items knowing that you're not breaking the bank. Remember that if you have a housewarming party, you will inevitably receive many of these items as gifts!

5. Reduce Your Energy Bill

The cost of owning a home can easily add up and make you nostalgic for the days when you lived in a utilities-included apartment and your landlord was the only one who saw those bills. Implementing the following energy-saving tips will not only help you cut your utility bill, but it will allow you to brag to people that you are “going green” and doing your part to save the planet.

Check out these 10 Energy-Saving Tips to Reduce Your Utility Bill.

6. Learn How to DIY

Most people are afraid to try doing repairs and home improvement projects themselves, but you’d be surprised at how easy it can be. Start with a small, simple project and as you gain confidence and experience – not to mention the basic tools – you will naturally be inclined to move on to some bigger projects. A great place to get tips and easy-to-follow how-to videos is This Old House.

7. Know the Storm History in Your Neighborhood

Weather can impact properties to vastly different degrees over a small geographic area, so it’s always good to know what to expect so that you can prepare ahead of time. With our Missouri Storm History Search app, you can easily check the weather history in your area, and our system searches NOAA data to find weather events based on a given location going all the way back to 2011.

This research tool is especially ideal for realtors and property managers, but it’s also handy for homeowners who want a more thorough understanding of the geographical area in which they live in order to take the appropriate steps to ensure that your property won’t be affected.

8. Budget for Expected and Unexpected Expenses

Unless you buy an absolutely brand-new house, chances are there will be a few things, big or small, that need repair or replacement on a semi-regular basis. Your house might be in need of a new furnace, air conditioner or roof. There might be landscaping and fresh paint or siding costs. If you have a lot of storms in the area, you might need to invest in a generator, or the plumbing might be prone to backing up whenever it’s most inconvenient. And you never know when your neighbor’s kid will slam a home run baseball through your living room window.

If you’ve transitioned from renter to homeowner, chances are all these expenses – some planned for, others unexpected – will be a surprise to you. But rather than freak out each time something comes up, create a savings account for your home’s expenses and put aside some money each month.

9. Be Prepared for a Residential Disaster

Jennifer Donley, president of Claria Clean, a damage restoration and cleanup company located in the St. Louis area that provides services following damage from water, fire, mold, smoke and trauma, says that it’s important to be prepared for these disasters.

The most common residential disasters she sees is water damage. Second-most common are failed supply lines (to the dishwasher, washing machine, refrigerator, etc.), toilet overflows and sink overflows. They also see a lot of burst pipes in the winter and in the spring when people first turn their hoses on. And of course flooded basements from sump pump failures and backups during heavy rains. 

Check out her advice on some simple ways to prepare your house for these types of unexpected disasters.

10. Hire Qualified Contractors

DIY projects are great, but there are some improvements or repairs that you just aren’t qualified to do. Building a shelf, installing lighting fixtures, and painting the walls are great DIY projects. But you’ll probably want to avoid all things electrical or replacing the shingles on your roof. Finding (and putting on speed-dial!) professional contractors is the best way to prevent both your house and yourself from going up in flames!

Here’s how to choose a reputable roofing contractor.