You’re finally one step closer to achieving your dream of becoming a homeowner. After finding the perfect house, your offer was accepted — congratulations!
With your closing date approaching quickly, you’re probably wondering how to prepare for a smooth transition into your new home. Before you close and finally get the keys, review the following home buyer’s guide for peace of mind.
Tips for New Homeowners Before You Get the Keys
The weeks before closing on your new home can be a blur.
From scheduling a home inspection and choosing an insurance policy while trying to squeeze in time to pack, your to-do list hasn’t been this long in quite a while. Here are some tips we gathered to make sure you check everything off that list.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of a New Home Inspection
Many lenders require home inspections before moving forward with closing — but even if your lender doesn’t require one, it’s a good idea to schedule a home inspection before the sale goes through to identify critical information about the home’s condition before you purchase it.
Depending on the terms of your accepted contract, an inspection allows you to identify existing home condition issues and potentially get the opportunity for the seller to fix items found during the inspection, renegotiate deal terms, or back out of the sale.
When scheduling an inspection, work with your real estate agent to find a reputable company or certified inspector in your area. You can also ask a friend or family member who’s recently moved which company or inspector they chose. Once an inspector you’re comfortable with completes a thorough evaluation, you should receive a report that provides you with details on the home’s condition. According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, that list usually covers the following areas:
Review the report thoroughly and follow up with your real estate agent to develop a game plan to address any potential repairs before closing.
If your inspection report lists a few items worth fixing, you have some options, according to the National Association of Realtors:
If there were any potential areas of the home worth improving already listed in your seller’s disclosure, the seller most likely won’t be willing to address them, but any new items are typically on the table. You’ll need to hire a professional plumber or electrician to verify the issue and get an estimated repair cost before closing. The American Society of Home Inspectors says that home inspection costs vary depending on the location, but you can expect to pay between $300 and $1,000.
Get a Home Insurance Quote (or Several) and Pick Your Policy
Policygenius states that most mortgage lenders require insurance before they’ll allow you to close on a home, so you need to evaluate your options and pick out a policy. It’s also a good idea to insure your new home to protect it from the unexpected as soon as you take possession. Make sure to ask your closing agent or mortgage broker when your proof of insurance is due. The seller is responsible for canceling their policy on the home, and your policy should begin on the closing date.
Many lenders require your homeowner’s insurance dwelling coverage to be 100% insured for its replacement costs (the amount it would cost to rebuild your home after a disaster), while some lenders only require a coverage amount equal to the unpaid portion of your mortgage balance. Ask your insurance agent for advice if you’re unsure which coverages you’ll need to protect your new home.
Policygenius also explains that dwelling coverage protects the following parts of your home if damaged by a disaster:
There are other sections of policies that cover personal property inside your home, so take stock of what you’ll be moving in (and any big purchases you plan to make) before you choose your limits. Keep in mind that some risks, like earthquakes, wildfires, floods and others may require an additional policy. Familiarize yourself with what your policy covers and doesn't cover and look into what additional coverage you might need based on the location of your home.
Develop a New Home Security Strategy
You should start thinking about securing your house as soon as you take possession, even if you don’t know exactly what you’ll need yet. Even though you’re busy, you can start by picking up a few Ring products like a doorbell camera, alarm kit, or security camera. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Inspector General, people moving into new homes are often targets for theft, so purchasing some basic DIY security solutions and setting them up before your move is crucial to keep your belongings protected. Once you’ve moved into your new home and get to know your security needs, like where to install a floodlight camera or if you should consider a smart system for your garage, you can add on more devices over time. DIY security systems from Ring are easy to customize to fit the needs of your home, family, and lifestyle.
Notify Your Utility Companies
Imagine walking into your new home and realizing the seller turned off the power, leaving you without electricity on move-in day. There’s an easy way to make sure you won’t be stumbling in the dark as you’re moving boxes — set up the utility accounts in your name, making sure the service start date is scheduled on your move-in day.
If you’re using the same company at your new home as at your old address, you can contact them and transfer your services by providing them with your account number. If you’re moving to a new location that uses a different utility provider, cancel services with your former service provider and set up utility accounts in your name with the new company.
You can also try to get an idea of what heating, cooling, water, and sewer bills will cost by asking your real estate agent to get past utility bills from the seller. Some utility companies will give you an average monthly cost for the home you’re considering, so you can budget your utility costs and won’t be surprised when the bills start rolling in. Keep in mind that the cost of heating and cooling varies depending on time of year and your new home’s location.
Contact a Locksmith or Buy a Few Smart Locks
You never know how many copies of your house key are still living on past owners’ or renters’ keyrings, so you should always change your locks or have them rekeyed, according to This Old House, an Emmy-winning home improvement series on PBS. You can’t change the locks before closing, but it’s best to call a locksmith and get something scheduled for as soon as possible after you get the keys. You can also shop around for smart home devices like smart locks that allow you to create a personal code for an extra layer of security and install them as soon as you close on your new home and get your keys.
Look Closely During Your Final Walkthrough
You’ve finally checked off every item on your pre-closing checklist, except for one — the final walkthrough. According to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, this last visit before closing gives you a chance to:
Once you’ve checked all the nooks and crannies of your new home, you can head to your closing appointment with confidence. Congratulations! Don’t forget to have that long-awaited “sold” photo taken out front.