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After an arduous house hunting process, you’ve finally reached your closing date. You’ve paid closing costs (usually between 3% and 6% of the loan amount), tracked down all the important documents, and now you’ve been handed the keys to your dream home. But before you roll out the U-Haul, there are some things you should do between closing and move-in. Changing your address with USPS and hiring a pest control company, for example, will go a long way in making your move to a new house go more smoothly.
Make copies of all title documents
All those documents received from title companies? Don’t lose them. These legal documents are often requested by lawyers, utility companies, and other organizations as proof you own your home. “I encourage my clients to make a copy of all those documents and store them in a safe place, like a fireproof storage box or safe deposit box at the bank,” says Miss-Ashley Kendrick, Esq., associate broker and attorney at the Maricopa Real Estate Company in Georgia.
Set up a will
It may seem morbid, but it’s never too early for estate planning. Using a new home as one example, having a will can help prevent confusion or even contention over who owns the home in the event of your death. A will is also useful if you are alive, but temporarily or permanently incapacitated. “If you get sick, you could end up in the hospital without anyone speaking for you,” says Jacqueline Cooper, president and executive director at Financial Education Associates in Boston.
An estate attorney can be particularly helpful, as estate laws vary from state to state. Attorneys can help navigate the complex issues involved in planning for your family’s future. But there are also online resources you can use that cost much less than hiring an attorney.
Hire a moving company
Whether you’re hiring moving trucks or trying to DIY, now is the time to compare pricing across competitors. “You want to get a couple bids from moving companies,” says Yawar Charlie, an estate director at Los Angeles real estate agency Aaron Kirman Group. Look at the number of movers hired, services offered, estimated amount of time, and other factors that will affect moving day. Keep in mind, though, it’s not just about the money. “Go with the one who will take care of your stuff in the move,” Charlie says.
Change your address
Start the process of changing your address “as soon as you close,” Kendrick says. Fill out the official change-of-address form with USPS and switch the address on your driver’s license. “It’s really important now because most people are ordering what they need rather than going to the store,” Kendrick says. Additionally, “don’t forget your subscription companies as well — newspapers, subscription boxes, financial entities, your children’s school.”
Contact your internet and utility companies
The water won’t turn itself on. “Once the property is in your name, make sure all utilities have been switched over to your name,” Charlie says. This includes electricity, gas, water, heat, and internet. Some of these may require a service appointment. Start early, because “with the pandemic, it could take a while.” Charlie says, “You don’t want a home without internet for [the first] two weeks.”
Preparing the Home
Take photos before you move in
Before you make yourself at home, take photos of the interior and exterior of your new home. Kendrick says these pictures offer a record of any issues that arise. If you discover certain issues or defects the seller knew about but didn’t disclose, the seller may be responsible for covering the costs of fixing the issue. The photos will also be helpful if and when you resell the home someday.
Re-key the entire home
Buying a home doesn’t mean you have to keep everything you inherit. In fact, keeping the same locks is a potential security issue. Kendrick recommends re-keying the entire exterior of the home, including garage doors, exterior doors, garage door opener, and mailbox. This also includes updating any keypads that provide access to the house. You don’t want any uninvited guests in your home.
Hire pest control
The best time to deal with bugs is before you’re cohabitating with them. Kendrick says it’s best to hire pest control when the house is empty. “They can access areas that are typically not accessible once you move in your furniture,” she says.
On the same note, clean your home before introducing your furniture or yourself. This becomes especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as you may have contractors and professionals in and out of the home before move-in. Kendrick says disinfecting is the “first thing [people] should be doing, to even new and resale houses. I’ve had sellers pay for a housekeeper after they left and before new buyers have come in. I would have [buyers hire] housekeepers to go in after to clean to their own satisfaction.”
Some more checklist items:
- Change air filters
- Disinfect the dishwasher
- Plug in the refrigerator so you can get it flowing and cool for food storage
- Disinfect all carpets and surfaces
Moving day is often chaos, no matter how well you plan. Stocking up on essentials for your new place can help mitigate the stress. Kendrick recommends having quick meals on hand, such as frozen pizza and granola bars, plus bottled water, paper towels, toilet paper, and disposable cups and plates. “Have pretty much anything that may not be accessible while unpacking,” she says.