If you’ve ever gone through a long house hunt, you know the feeling: your hand is cramped from all the mortgage or lease paperwork, but a last you have the keys. Finally you can take a deep breath, and try not to panic as you think about the enormous list of things you need to do for your move-in.
But don’t worry! Below is a list of the most common time-savers and useful tips to help smooth the move to your new home.
Before the Move
These are best done in advance of your move-in date, but if that didn’t happen, now’s the time to get them done!
1. Switch Utilities to Your Name
If you haven’t already switched the utilities, do so as soon as possible. You don’t want a utility company cutting you off, especially if you’re moving in the winter. The exact list of utilities will depend on your specific home and needs, but the most common are: gas, electric, water, telephone, and cable/internet.
Also, find out what day garbage collection is scheduled. You’re going to produce a fair amount of trash from the moving process, and it’s a headache to let it build up if you miss a collection day or two.
2. Change of Address
Again, it’s best to do this in advance, as it will take some time to go into effect. The U.S. Postal Service will forward mail for a period of one year, and the form to do so is available online. (Note that the online form requires a nominal payment. If you stop by a Post Office you’ll be able to pick up a form for free.)
A bonus of filling out the change of address in advance is that you’ll receive a big batch of coupons for moving-related resources. This can be a nice way to save some money, and also to find out about what shops and services are available in your new neighborhood.
After the Move
3. Quick Walk-through
When you get to your new home the very first thing you should do is walk through the whole property and give it a once over. Look at every room as well as the exterior of the building, but you don’t need to spend the hours involved in a full home inspection. At this point, you’re just looking for anything alarming. If you see anything amiss, such as a broken window or missing or damaged appliances, then you’re much better off contacting your landlord or Realtor now rather than later.
I learned this lesson first-hand, when I finally had an apartment all of my own. I came in the front door, walked into the bedroom, and found the previous tenant sleeping on the floor. Hopefully whatever you find will be less surprising than that!
4. Change the Locks
Changing a lock is a simple but essential step in moving into your new home. Even if you’ve met the previous owner or tenants and are comfortable with them, you can never know who else may have a copy of the house keys.
If it’s a rental, ask your landlord if they changed the locks prior to your move-in. Different landlords have different policies about locks. I feel strongly that landlords should always swap out the locks between tenants, but it is almost never a legal requirement. The fact is that some landlords simply never do it. In that case, ask if you can change the locks yourself, as long as you provide the landlord a copy of the key.
If you’ve bought the home, you’ll be the one responsible for changing locks. This is a good DIY project, or you can have a locksmith or handyman service take care of it for you. For most homes, a contractor will charge around $150 to $300 to change the locks. The exact cost will depend on the number and type of locks, and whether or not you’re providing the hardware yourself. This Pro Referral Expert Q&A covers the basics of hiring a contractor to swap out the locks on your new home.
5. The Move-In Clean
It’s a scientific fact that someone else’s dirt is grosser than your own. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely scientific… but it can certainly seem that way! Giving your new home a good scrub down will make it feel fresher and more like your own.
The obvious areas such as sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping should be done, but also wipe down areas that tend to get ignored, such as cabinet shelves. Unless it’s brand-new, change the furnace filter, and take a peek in the furnace vent runs while you’re at it. You can use a shop-vac to clear out the immediate areas behind a vent register, but you may want to look into a vent cleaning, especially if the previous occupants had pets.
6. Test Smoke Detectors
The importance of functional smoke detectors can’t be stressed enough. Make sure that you have smoke detectors on each floor, and in or near your bedrooms. Press the Test button to verify that the detector is functioning, and that the batteries have sufficient charge. If any detectors don’t give a proper test “chirp” swap out the batteries. If that doesn’t fix the problem, replace the smoke detector.
Also check to make sure that you have at least one carbon monoxide detector, or that one of your smoke detectors is a dual smoke/CO detector. This is also a good time to purchase and install any fire extinguishers as needed.
7. Attack Large Projects
It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best times to jump into big, messy projects is right when you move in. Painting, drywall, and floor refinishing are especially dirty work, so if you know you’re going to be doing such a project, just don’t move any furniture into that area to begin with. It’s best to go ahead and partition it off, and treat it like a completely separate space until you’ve finished the work and can move in completely.
8. Bring Some Uniformity
Unless you’re moving into a pre-built home, chances are good that you’ll find many small accessories that are dirty, damaged, or mismatched. Outlet covers, switch plates, vent registers, and cabinet pulls are all likely areas where some random replacements can give a room a “patchwork quilt” aesthetic. If you bring them up to a standard look, these relatively inexpensive purchases help convey a unified sense of design throughout the home.
As a way to keep the cost even lower, remember that there’s no need to replace everything, just the ones that deviate from the majority (assuming that the majority look good). If you have an interest in crafts, there are many ways to channel your personality into these ubiquitous features. A quick internet search will link you to resources such as this article on revitalizing cabinets and drawers.
9. Try a Few Layouts
Just as renovation projects can benefit from the emptiness of a fresh move, don’t be afraid to try a few furniture layouts to see what the best fit is for your new home. Even if you pre-measured before making the move, when you actually see your furniture in place you may find that a layout that looked brilliant in your mind’s eye just falls flat in real life.
Moving can be exhausting, and you may find that you just don’t have the energy to try multiple layouts. But if you’ve got the added muscle of movers or friends and family, this may be the best time to try out a few options.
10. Plan Your First Meal
Speaking of friends and family, it’s a good idea to plan out your first meal before the actual day arrives. Maybe it’s a popping a frozen dinner in the over, or just having a pizza delivered. If you have a designated box that holds some paper plates and napkins, then you won’t find yourself scrambling while your stomach growls.
Moving is tough work both physically and mentally, so you’ll need to refill your tank with a good meal. (And if you have friends helping with the move, they’ll need the energy boost as well!)
Depending on your temperament, you may also want to invite your neighbors over for that first meal. A casual pizza party has low expectations as far as flatware and furniture, and can be a fun ice-breaker.
Once you’ve enjoyed your first meal, you can begin unpacking in earnest. I hope these tips have been helpful, and congratulations on your new home!