If homeownership is on your mind, you’ve likely done your research about the home buying process. You know the importance of getting pre-approved, finding a quality real estate agent, and navigating the ups and downs of finding that perfect home. But what happens when you finally do become a first-time homeowner? Once the last document is signed and closing costs are paid, the true joy—and responsibility—of owning a home begins. It is never too soon to prepare for your first home, so whether you’re just starting your search or about to make an offer, get ready for real estate ownership with these 9 tips for new homeowners.
Aside from the changes you may wish to make immediately to your new home—paint, minor repairs, new air filters, and deep cleaning—saving for longterm expenses will help you navigate some of the bigger challenges of homeownership. Experts suggest saving between 1% and 4% of your home’s value each year to set aside for home repairs.
If you paid $200,000 for your home, consider saving at least $2,000 each year for home repairs. Anything not used at the end of the year can roll over into the following year so that you have an increasing maintenance fund for larger projects down the road.
If home repairs or renovations are on the horizon—especially if you bought a fixer-upper—it is important to first understand any permitting requirements for your home. Not all renovations require permits, but if you are altering your structure, building an addition, or removing walls, there is a good chance your local code will require a building permit.
By skipping this one step, you could run into problems should you ever choose to sell your home, making the home selling process that much more challenging. Whether you explore your local code yourself or work with a contractor to get the proper permits, the upfront work will be well worth your time in the end.
Excited about your new home, furniture, appliances, and upgrades? Remember to take time amid your excitement to save every receipt related to your home. From furniture and your new fridge to the lighting fixtures you added to your bedrooms, these purchases should be recorded and saved for future reference. Not only will you want proof of capital improvements for taxes, but you will want to easily show future home buyers what changes you made, how old (or new) appliances are, and how well you maintained the property.
New homeownership comes with a collection of important documents. Keeping track of your property deed, title insurance, home inspection report, mortgage documents, and even your purchase agreement will ensure you have the data you need when you need it.
Whether you like to keep a hard copy of your records or prefer a digital solution, it is important to create a method for organizing your data. Create a 3-ring binder and/or virtual folder to store everything from appliance warranties to home repair receipts and contractor information.
Another aspect of new homeownership is making sure your investment is protected. When you purchase your home, you will be required to get a lender’s title insurance to cover the amount of your home loan. In many cases, your lender will also require you to get homeowner’s insurance to cover your property in the event of a fire, theft, or other unexpected events.
Ask your agent if there is any other insurance coverage that you should consider as a new homeowner, such as owner’s title insurance. This coverage protects you should there ever be a claim against the title of your home. Review all your options, and know that there is insurance coverage beyond what your lender might require.
A huge part of being a new homeowner is taking care of the regular maintenance of your property. It helps to create a maintenance schedule that tracks when you last replaced or repaired an item, so you can better navigate your time and your budget. Common home maintenance needs include changing air filters, checking your water heater temperature and function, changing lightbulbs, cleaning gutters, and replacing water filters in your fridge. Having a maintenance schedule also goes a long way in helping you sell your home, proving to buyers that your property is well-maintained.
Before the tax season rolls around, take some time to research the different write-offs that may be available to you as a new homeowner. Some home improvements are tax-deductible and you’ll certainly want to take advantage of any savings. Since you have taken the time to save and organize your receipts and documents, finding the right information to use for deductibles on your taxes will be simple.
If you purchase a previously built home, then many home buying experts recommend that you change the locks before you even move in. It is impossible to know how many spare keys from previous owners are floating around (or even hidden somewhere in your new yard). The safest solution is to have a locksmith come to replace all of your locks and change any digital garage codes. Either that or make it your very first DIY project as a new homeowner.
When it comes time to make those must-have home renovations, look to other homeowners for references. Your neighbors—especially those who have just done repairs—will likely have suggestions for quality contractors. Asking your neighbors and friends for references can save you both time and money, and spare you from low-quality work that you have to repair yourself in the long run.
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