Moving is stressful, and as soon as you unload all your boxes and things into your new place, you probably want to just sit back and relax. But there's a checklist of things to do before you can get fully settled in to your new home—and it goes beyond unpacking your stuff. Moving is a delicate balancing act of remembering to disconnect, turn on, and transfer various services, while also trying to make the move as efficient as possible, and it can be quite hectic.
So, we rounded up a team of home and real estate experts to explain the first things you should do when you move into a new home. The tasks can differ depending on whether you're moving into a home you bought versus one you're renting, but the faster you check them off your list, the faster you can focus on enjoying your new space.
Before you move yourself, your family, or any of your belongings into your new home, you should first change the locks. “Most people think of the obvious reason, which is because the previous owners have a key—and that’s true,” says Candice Williams, a realtor at Coldwell Banker Realty in Houston. However, she says there may also be friends or family who have a key. “Some of these other people may not even know the owners have moved and may stop by,” she explains, and this can create a very uncomfortable and possibly dangerous situation.
If you're renting, make sure to ask your landlord or rental company before changing the locks.
One way to avoid mix-ups with family and friends is to ensure that they have your new address. “Update your address information with key contacts such as your employer, school, and insurance company,” says Williams. “Also, avoid any missed mail by setting up mail forwarding with the post office—and as mail gets forwarded from your previous address, use this as a point of reference as to who still needs your new address updated for their records,” Williams recommends. And don’t forget banks, as well as credit card companies and other creditors that may typically send digital bills and notifications. (While you may never get a physical bill from your credit card company or bank, don’t forget that they’ll send your new credit or debit card via snail mail—and it may be after the mail forwarding period is over.)
If you're in an HOA (homeowner’s association), you should already have a point of contact to ensure that you get everything you need when you need it. However, mistakes do happen, so Lisa Harris of RE/MAX Center in Braselton, Georgia, recommends double-checking with them, since it’s better to be safe than sorry. “Ensure that you have gate access codes, pool access, security codes, and also download any applicable apps,” she says. In addition, she says you need to be clear on how to make your monthly or annual HOA payments.
In a new home, it may take a while to figure everything out. However, Thomas Dougherty, VP of operations of Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, recommends finding your home’s main shut-off valve as soon as you move in. If your household plumbing suddenly springs a major leak, he says you’ll need to shut off the water immediately so it won’t flood your home.
“Every home connected to a municipal water supply has a main shut-off valve that can stop the flow of water to all pipes, fixtures, and appliances, and in most cases, this valve is located next to the water meter.” (It’s also a good idea to address any insulation problems before winter to avoid frozen pipes that can burst.)
But you’ll need to do more than just know where the main shut-off valve is located. Dougherty recommends knowing, in advance, how to turn it off. “If your valve doesn’t look like it can be turned by hand, it may require a pipe wrench or a long-handled plumbing wrench called a water key—which can be picked up at any hardware store,” he says. However, you don’t want to be running around during an emergency trying to find a wrench or figuring out how to use it, so it’s best to know what you’re dealing with in advance.
You can’t be too careful when moving into a new home—especially as it relates to where you prepare and store your food. “Before breaking bread in your new-to-you kitchen, clean your cabinets, shelves, appliances, and floors,” says Leanne Stapf, COO of The Cleaning Authority.
She recommends using a vacuum hose to reach the back corners of the cabinets to remove any crumbs or dust. “Keep a close eye out for pests or rodent droppings,” Stapf warns. Next, she says you should use warm water and soap to wipe down the shelves, sides, and cabinet doors.
“Lastly, pay special attention to your appliances and move the ones you can (without hurting yourself or damaging the floor) and clean underneath, behind, and even inside the backs of them,” Stapf adds. This is important for removing dust and hair that can get trapped in the intake filters, and around the wheels and legs of the appliances.
“Then, give the inside of your refrigerator, microwave, stovetop, and oven a deep clean—simply wiping down the inside of your appliances with warm water and soap should do the trick,” she says. To sanitize, she recommends spraying with vinegar and then wiping clean.
Problems with your HVAC can make your summers hotter, your winters colder, and your utility bills higher. Mark Dawson, executive vice president of trade brands at Authority Brands, recommends checking and cleaning your HVAC unit to ensure smooth sailing. “Clear around the outdoor HVAC unit, removing any debris, shrubs, sticks, etc., since these items hinder the HVAC unit from doing its job, making it work harder and increasing your energy usage,” Dawson says.
In addition, he recommends replacing the air filter. “The air filter needs to be replaced every 1-2 months, so likely you’ll have to replace the air filter when you first move in,” he says. In rentals, it's typically the tenant's responsibility to replace the air filter, though the landlord may put in a fresh one at the beginning of your lease.
When you finish checking your HVAC unit and changing the air filter, make a note of the date that you did so. “It’s a good idea to establish a record keeping log for home maintenance tasks and expenses,” says Williams, noting that this can be a spreadsheet application or a paper document. In your log, simply record what was done and when, so that you can reference it in the future and know exactly when you need to check on or clean your appliances again. “[This] takes the guesswork out of home maintenance," Williams says.
While there aren't as many maintenance tasks that fall on renters, keeping a log can help you know when to change your air filters, and can help you hold your landlord accountable for maintenance tasks they should be taking care of.
If you're a repeat homeowner, you may plan on just transferring your homeowners insurance from one home to the next. But, according to Monica Sinha, wealth management advisor at Northwestern Mutual, choosing the right risk management plan is very important. “There are various types of home insurance, and depending on which option you choose, there are supplemental homeowners insurance options you may also want to consider adding to your policy,” she says. For example, if you live in an area prone to floods and earthquakes, you’ll want additional coverage.
“In addition, your ability to pay your mortgage needs to be considered in the event you are blindsided by a job loss, illness, injury or death, so having a proper emergency fund, disability income plan, and life insurance are all an important part of home ownership,” she says.
Getting the right insurance coverage is also just as important for renters, so make sure you're covered when you move.
Depending on the time of year, Lisa Harris of RE/MAX Center in Braselton, Georgia, recommends applying for your Homestead Exemption discount when you move into your new home. This exemption can reduce the amount you pay in property taxes. However, since it varies by state—and even by city or county—and the due date may also vary, contact your county tax commissioner or local government for details. This can usually be done online.
When you start unpacking all of those cardboard boxes, you’ll realize how important your waste and recycling services are. Jeremy Walters, sustainability ambassador at Republic Services, which provides residential and commercial recycling and waste services, actually recommends calling your local service provider at least one or two weeks before your move-in date. “This will allow ample time for them to deliver your carts and save you the headache from stockpiling your waste or transporting it to a local facility for disposal," he says.
When you’re unpacking in your new home, he recommends designating a space to consolidate those empty boxes and other packing items. “Doing so will help to minimize clutter and expedite the process of throwing them away or recycling them,” Walters explains.
Walters also provides some tips for what can be recycled, reused, or discarded. “Cardboard boxes and packing paper are great for recycling, and if you find that you have more than you can fit in your curbside cart, see if your local provider has a drop-off location, save them for next week’s collection, or ask around to see if anyone you know may be moving and needs boxes,” he says. Always cut the boxes down and flatten them to save space.
“Packing peanuts, bubble wrap and stretch wrap should never be placed in the recycling bin, so either discard these items or offer them to someone else with an upcoming move,” he says, adding that you can, however, recycle plastic water bottles, jugs, and tubs.
If you have clothing, dishware, or furniture that you no longer want, he recommends donating them to a secondhand store instead of putting them in the trash.
“Electronics with rechargeable batteries, such as cell phones and laptops, should never be placed in your trash or recycling bin,” he says. These items can pose health and safety hazards to sanitation workers and the community—including fires. “Always make sure to drop electronics off at a designated electronics return center,” he says.
According to Williams, you should jump right in and meet your new neighbors. If there’s an HOA, she recommends attending the meetings. If you don’t have an HOA, waving to neighbors as you drive or walk by is an easy way to show that you’re friendly and approachable. “If you’re comfortable with it, knock on a neighbor’s door to say hello and introduce yourself,” Williams says.
Making these connections is important, Williams explains, because neighbors who have lived in the area a long time often have a lot of insider information regarding the community. They can also help to make your transition a lot smoother.
Harris agrees, adding that you should join local networking groups and organizations as another way to meet new people in your area. And don’t forget the role of social media. “Joining local Facebook groups can ensure you know about future events and neighborhood happenings,” she says.