Your first year as a homeowner is kind of like the first year of a marriage. There’s the honeymoon phase, where the fact that you never have to pay rent again feels freaking awesome, but there are also a bunch of new responsibilities. You’re building a foundation that will last for decades to come, and small decisions can have large effects on the rest of your life.
People love to give relationship advice, but your friends and family may not be rushing to share tips on being a new homeowner. So, we’re going to help you out. Here are seven things to do during your first year of homeownership:
1. Prepare for breakage. Being your own landlord has a lot of perks (you can kiss that whole “no pets” policy goodbye!). But it’s less exciting when your dishwasher craps out and you have to foot the bill. You can’t stop things from breaking, but you can set some cash aside to pay for unexpected replacements. As a general rule of thumb, you want to save 1-3 percent of your home’s initial price each year so that you can afford unexpected problems.
2. Form an inspection habit. Detecting certain issues early (like a rodent infestation or mold growth) can be the difference between a simple fix and an unaffordable disaster. Take the time to properly inspect your basement, attic, insulation and roof at least once during that first year. Then, make an annual habit of it!
3. Buy a bunch of furnace filters. Changing your furnace filter regularly is one of the easiest ways you can save money (since your furnace will last longer) and improve your health (since the air you breathe will be cleaner). But remembering to pick up a filter from the hardware store every few months isn’t always so easy. Nip that problem in the bud by purchasing in bulk! Take a look at your furnace and write down the filter size, then order enough to last for a few years (the exact number you need will vary depending on the type of furnace you have). Tip: Need help remembering when it’s time to change them? Sign up for BrightNest and we’ll send you regular reminders.
4. Get to know your appliances. Just like cars and televisions, the appliances in your home have different life expectancies. For example, furnaces usually last for 15-20 years, but water heaters tend to start wearing down after 10 years. It’s worth figuring out how old each appliance in your house is because then you can plan ahead for their replacements. A new furnace can cost as much as $5,000, so a little heads up can really help!
5. Take advantage of tax credits. Owning a home opens up a whole new world of tax incentives! For example, you can receive credits for things like installing solar panels or purchasing Energy Star appliances. Do some research early on about the different tax credits that may apply to you, and then reap the benefits when tax time rolls around! Tip: In general, your taxes will be much more complicated now that you own a home. It may be worth hiring a professional accountant (if you haven’t already) to guide you through the process.
6. Start keeping records. Every improvement or repair you make to your home – from adding caulk around your bathtub to installing a new roof – will increase its resale value. Make sure all of your hard work pays off by keeping track right from the start! Tip: If you’re not crazy about creating an enormous filing cabinet of records, BrightNest members can store their home details online (for free!) in the Homefolio.
7. Beef up your insurance. Your new home is probably the most valuable thing you own, and you need to protect that asset! Take a good look at your homeowners insurance policy and look for any relevant gaps (this is a situation where professional advice can be really helpful). Two areas of coverage to consider are flood and fire protection, which aren’t always included in standard policies. Tip: It’s also worth taking another look at your car insurance because you now have a much bigger asset (your home) to lose in the event of a lawsuit.
This list is a great start, but there’s still plenty to do! For more simple, important tasks to tackle during that first year, check out BrightNest’s New Homeowner Guide.