A Checklist for New Homebuyers

Graphic showing pen, checklist and a cup of coffee

Making a new house into a home is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. Beyond packing, cleaning, and unpacking, there are phone calls to make, services to coordinate, and neighbors to meet.

From hooking up the electricity to pest control issues, it helps to have a new homebuyer’s checklist to make your move a bit easier.

Your New Homebuyer’s Checklist

Step one is to check out community bylaws as laid out by the homeowners association, if applicable, and the city and county ordinances. These regulations will give you a heads-up on everything from allowable mailboxes to street parking limitations. With these regulations in mind, it’s time to make your new house a home.

Electric meter with five dials showing kilowatt hours of power used.

Once you’re officially moving in, it’s time to set up power, water and other home services at your new home.
Photo credit: Electric meter / Jc3s5h / CC BY-SA 

√ Utilities

Before you close, do some work to get power, water, Wi-Fi, and trash service set up and transferred. With all these to-do boxes marked done, you can settle in as soon as you get the keys. Or eat Chinese food sitting on packing boxes.

Most utility companies will schedule shut-offs and turn-ons based on your move-in date, allowing you to make these arrangements well in advance. You also can request the annual average power and water usage for your home, which can help you shop around and plan your budget.

√ Gas and electric

Your real estate agent should be able to give you basic information about utility providers in your area. You also should be able to find this information on your city’s website.

Some states allow you to choose a power provider, which means extra time shopping around. Compare rates and incentives using the information you gather about annual usage.

√ Water and sewer

Easy to overlook, water and sewer are the most important utilities. Some areas require you to arrive in person with multiple forms of identity; others just bundle all municipal services together.

Figure out what’s needed ahead of time so you don’t end up unable to shower for three days… forcing you to arrive at your new job unkempt and sweaty. Unfortunately, I speak from experience.

√ Garbage and recycling

Most municipalities make it pretty simple to coordinate waste removal services. But some areas have more than one provider from which to choose. Read reviews online and price-compare your options. Ask your neighbors for their recommendations.

Be sure you understand recycling limitations and ask about yard waste. Many waste removal services have specific parameters for what, when, and how they will remove items from the curb. Make sure you understand and follow these guidelines.

Open pizza box with three-quarters of a pepperoni pizza inside. Takeout pizza is a traditional way to thank friends and family for helping you move, but may also serve as dinner if you’re exhausted from all the work of settling into your new home.
Photo credit: Pepperoni pizza / Pixnio

New Home Buyer’s Checklist for Incidentals

√ Cable, Wi-Fi, and streaming services

You may be able to simply switch your service address with cable and internet providers, depending on which company you’re working with. Or you might have to find a new service provider. Many TV providers are notoriously hard to deal with, so give yourself extra time to arrange services.

Contact the companies and seek out new customer specials, but inquire about when and how much rates will increase once the introductory offer ends. Schedule technicians to arrive within the first couple of days after closing so you don’t have to go too long without your favorite trash TV.

Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu can be dealt with in time, as all they will need is an updated billing address.

√ Change of address

Set up mail forwarding with the postal service. This can be done before you close, but you will want mail to bounce to your new address. And, while you’re at it, update your address with credit companies, banks, employers, and friends.

Mailboxes are often the victim of careless driving, so repairs may be necessary. If you use a community mailbox, you’ll need to visit the post office to get a new key.

√ Takeout restaurants near you

After a day of unpacking, cooking will be the last thing on your mind. The closest pizza place will come in handy, especially if they deliver.

Hospital sign pointing to emergency room and parking. Your homebuyer’s checklist should include the emergency room phone number and address.
Photo credit: Hospital sign pointing to emergency room / Needpix

New Home Buyer’s Checklist for Safety

Once you have the keys, there’s a series of things to do to ensure safety and make you feel at ease in your new space.

√ Locate the nearest emergency room or urgent care

Accidents happen, and the majority of them happen at home. From falling off a ladder to cutting yourself with sharp garden tools, chances are someone in your family will need emergency care sooner or later. Part of your new homebuyer’s checklist should include putting together a list of doctors, emergency care centers, and the fire and police departments.

√ Change locks

As soon as you leave closing, stop by your neighborhood home supply or hardware store and pick out new locks for the front and back doors. Most locks are easy to switch out, but enlist a handyman if this seems above your paygrade.

√ Find the circuit breaker

During your home inspection, it’s likely you were shown your circuit breaker, but it’s also likely you’ve forgotten the details since then. Take a quick walk through your new house, and locate the breaker. If nothing is labeled, make a note to do that as soon as possible.

√ Locate the water shut-off

Knowing where the emergency water shut-off is located is crucial – as is making sure you have easy access to it. If something begins to leak, you don’t want to waste time trying to unscrew a panel and finding the right nozzle.

√ Check smoke detectors

Make sure the smoke detectors are working and have batteries in them. Have a look at the carbon monoxide, radon, and other warning systems as well.

New Homeowner’s Checklist for Outside Your House

A push lawn mower cutting the grass.  Care of your lawn can be something you do yourself or contract out to a lawn care service.
Photo Credit: Lawn mower / Prasannanossam3 / CC BY-SA 

√ Yard Care

This homebuyer’s checklist item is especially important for first-time buyers. Yard care is a little more complicated than you first expect. Think carefully about what you can do, are willing to do, and what is just not going to happen.

DIY yard care

All the equipment you need as a first-time homebuyer is shocking. Lawn mowers, gardening shears, fertilizer spreaders, gardening gloves, hoses, snow shovels… and then you have to figure out how to store it all. If you enjoy being outside and doing yard work, it’s absolutely worth the investment to start acquiring these tools.

Hire a lawn care service

If you don’t have the time or desire to seed, weed, and mow, finding a regular lawn care service is probably one of the first things you’ll want to do. Many lawn care companies are small, family-owned operations, so you can feel good about supporting your community. You also can save money by working with a company that’s already servicing your neighbors.

√ Landscaping Your Yard

Depending on the climate, it might take a full year to identify all the plants in your yard, and how they’re growing. Then you will need to learn how to care for them. You also may find that you want new plantings, so you have to figure out what will thrive in your yard.

You may want a privacy fence or to add shade trees or flower gardens.

Whether you want advice or a complete overhaul, a landscaping company will be your best resource. They can educate you about what you have, and help you pick out what to plant in the future.

√ Pest Control Inside and Outside Your Home

A new house means new neighbors… including insects, spiders, and rodents. Ask your real estate agent to inquire about pest control issues the previous owners encountered. You also can ask people on your street what pest problems they have encountered. This might lead you to hire a pest control expert to help rid your home of an infestation.

Still More Items for Your New Homebuyer’s Checklist

Even after completing this checklist, there are still a few things to do: Transfer prescriptions, and update vehicle registration, and inspections as required.

Buying your first home is a huge accomplishment, so follow the new homebuyer’s checklist above to make the process a bit easier. And don’t forget the champagne and charcuterie. Or boxed wine and takeout. Either way, congratulations!

Alison Hoover

Alison Hoover

Alison is a Midwesterner through and through, and loves to spend her time baking and reading. Always at home in the dirt, as a kid, Alison raised a vegetable garden with her dad, and flower gardens with her mom.