10 Home Maintenance Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Throughout the majority of the homebuying process you have a real estate guiding you, helping you make decisions, and hearing your concerns. Once all of the documents are gathered and the paperwork is signed, the house is all yours to enjoy. As I’m sure you’ve already heard time and time again, a home is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make. However, what you’ve probably not heard and what most agents neglect to tell you is how to properly care for your new investment.

As a new homeowner, there are a number of things you’ll want to keep track of to keep your home at its best. You should have a plan in place for how you’re going to maintain this massive investment. Fortunately, we’ve put together a list of some home maintenance tips to help ease the stress of being a first-time home buyer.

Change the locks.

One of the first things you should do when you purchase a new home is to have the locks change. Or, at least have them rekeyed. Depending on how old your home is, there could be dozens of people out there with keys to your house. Better to be safe than sorry and have the locks changed immediately.

Check the temperature on the thermostats.

Adjusting the settings to what fits you and your budget is one of the first things you should do when you arrive in your new home. Experts suggest a summer setting of 78 degrees Fahrenheit and a winter setting of 68 degrees. When you’re not at home for whatever reason, consider adjusting the temperature to between 7 and 10 degrees of the normal range. This can help you save roughly 10% a year on your heating and cool costs. However, how low or high you set your thermostats is ultimately up to you and the comfort of your family.

You also may want to consider upgrading your current thermostat or installing a smart one. Smart thermostats allow you to control the temperature from your phone, tablet, Bluetooth speaker, or even Alexa and Google Home. These devices learn your temperature preferences and will automatically adjust accordingly. Some can even sense when you leave your home and will alter the temperature in response.

Check your HVAC filters.

In addition to adjusting thermostats, you also want to take a look at the HVAC filters. Similar to furnace filters, HVAC filers are found in the return air duct of your system. They are vital to keeping your heating and cooling system functioning at its best. In order to prevent dust or debris from entering the filters and slowing the system down, you should change them out every year. Upon moving into your new home, you’ll most likely need to have your HVAC filters replaced.

Clean your dryer vent.

Your dryer vent is the part of the dryer that vents to the outdoors. Although you should already know to clean the lint trap after each use, your dryer vent should be cleaned out every six months. This is crucial to a fully operational dryer and to also prevent the risk of fires in your home.

Locate your circuit breaker box.

Since this home is completely new to you, you want to familiarize yourself with what each breaker corresponds to. If they aren’t already labeled, label them according to what they shut off. Your breaker box may be found inside or outside of your house and are basically metal boxes with doors. For safety reasons, avoid touching anything inside the breaker box except for the levers on the actual breakers.

Find your main water shut-off valve.

You want to find the main water shut-off valve to verify that it can be turned off as needed. It should be located on the outside of the house, on the side that faces the street. Depending on the age of the home, it could be located at the house. In this case, you’ll need to find your water meter and turn it off there.

If you can’t find a valve that enters your house, your meter is likely located near the curb at the edge of your property line. To remove the cover, you’ll need either a meter key or screwdriver. Then, you should see a handle inside. Turn it clockwise to close.

Clean your gutters.

The purpose of your gutters is to direct water away from your home. Keeping them clean is the greatest line of defense against damage caused by excess moisture. Your gutters should be cleaned out every season to remove leaves and any other debris that collects inside. This can be done by yourself or you can hire a professional gutter cleaning service.

Check your weather stripping.

Verifying that your home has sufficient weather stripping around all your windows and doors is crucial to keeping your utility bills in check. Inspect for any water penetration around them and look at check if your window sills feel soft. This is a strong indication that water is leaking between the wall and the sill.

You’ll may also consider caulking around your windows and doors to prevent air leaks and further cut down on heating and cooling costs. This is especially the case if they feel drafty, as caulk does degrade over time.

Inspect your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

First, find all of your smoke detectors and switch out the batteries. That way, you know exactly how old they are. If, for whatever reason, your home does not have smoke detectors installed, installing some should be one of your first tasks in your new home.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there should be a smoke detector in every bedroom, on every level of a house, and outside every sleeping area. Both your smoke detectors and your carbon monoxide detectors should be checked at least once a year. And, if your home doesn’t already have carbon monoxide detectors either, you should have these installed as well.

Clean your refrigerator coils.

Though it’s often overlooked, that dirty area behind your fridge needs to be properly maintained. To do this, simply slide the fridge out from your wall, unplug it, and give the coils a good scrub. If your refrigerator is connected to a water supply (like if it has a water dispenser or ice maker), you’ll also want to disconnect this before you start cleaning.

Your fridge’s condenser coils may be on the back, top, or bottom. If the coils are on the back, use a brush to clear away all the accumulated gunk and debris. If they’re on the bottom, take off the base grille, and use a brush to clean out dirt, debris, or even pet hair. For coils that are located on the top, disconnect the power directly from the fuse box first and lift the grille panel. Consult your manufacturer’s manual to determine where the condenser is actually located. In most cases, it will be found in the back right corner of the machine compartment.

Once you’re doing cleaning, replace the grille, and use a broom to sweep up any debris that fell onto the floor. Then, reestablish power and slide the fridge back into place. You should clean your refrigerator coils at least once a year. However, if you’re fortunate enough to have a newer model, this won’t be necessary.

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