Buying a home is no small feat. Organizing your documents, making an offer, and closing on a sale all take a lot of effort—but they’re just the first steps to homeownership. Once the keys are in your hand, a whole new world of responsibilities opens up.
Learn what to do after buying a house, including changing your mailing address and reassessing your monthly budget.
- Make sure as you move that you change your address on all important accounts. You also should change your address officially via the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
- Transfer or create and activate service with any utility companies, including gas, water, electricity, and internet.
- Reassess how you’re spending your money. Be sure you’re not overspending and that you’re taking into account the full cost of homeownership.
Notify Others You Have Moved
Raise your hand if you’ve received a holiday card from people you don’t know, addressed to someone who doesn’t live at your house. As common as this occurrence is, it’s possible to avoid the same happening to you.
It’s always a good idea to let loved ones know you’ve changed houses, but it’s more important to make sure that your address is updated everywhere else. Not having the correct mailing address can lead to plenty of problems down the road, especially if you miss out on important notifications. Here are some common places you’ll want to tell about your new address:
- Insurance company
- Credit card company
- Cellphone provider
- Friends and family
- Car loan provider
- Voting registration
- Health-care providers
- Monthly subscription services
You’ll also want to change any settings you have on your personal devices. If you’re someone who creates a “Home” space in your GPS apps, update this to reflect your new address.
It’s OK if you miss out on notifying a person or two. Why? Because the post office has a handy change-of-address system that will forward your mail to your new address for a certain amount of time.
It costs a little over a dollar to change your address via the USPS website, and the application can be completed online. Once you’ve filled out the information, USPS will forward your mail to your new address automatically. The standard period of time that it will do this is six months, although you can extend it for up to a year.
Changing your address with the post office doesn’t mean that packages from other delivery companies will be forwarded, so make sure all your information is up-to-date.
As a renter, you may not have had to deal with utility companies before. They include providers of things such as water, electricity, gas, and internet service. However, as a homeowner, setting up your utilities should be at the top of your to-do list. According to California real estate agent Jason Zaitz, not notifying your utilities prior to the close of escrow is the most common mistake new homeowners make.
Sure, a good cellphone may provide you with the ability to hotspot using cellular service in times of need, but not having water or electricity in your home makes it virtually uninhabitable. If you have an existing account with your service provider, it should be possible to have it switched over to your new home.
Otherwise, you’ll want to sign up for services as quickly as possible. If you can, do so before the house purchase actually closes—and schedule your service to start on your closing date. This way, you’ll have everything you need once you step foot in the door.
Check Smoke Detectors, Circuit Boxes, and Safety Equipment
There’s a lot to learn about a new home, but the very first thing you should do, Zaitz told The Balance by email, is to call a locksmith. “This is the easiest way to make sure you're not surprised by the previous owners' housecleaners who didn't receive notice of the move. Often, neighbors and relatives have keys to the home as well. A quick call to a locksmith will make sure you're safe,” he said.
And while a home inspection will have ensured that the property is in safe condition, you still need to check the details. Little things such as knowing where the fire detectors are, that they’ve got fresh batteries, and how to replace them are important.
The same goes for any other specifics about the new home. Test outlets to see which ones work, make sure that there are fire extinguishers in proper locations, and check how your appliances are running.
You’ll also want to review your circuit breaker and figure out which circuits affect which locations in the home; this will be very valuable in the inevitable event that the breaker flips and power goes out temporarily.
Finally, check any doors, locks, and windows for security. If any of these need replacing, make sure to note this and take care of it as quickly as possible.
Reassess Your Budget
Almost no amount of advance planning is going to prepare you for the cost of owning a home. Although you may have earmarked funds for daily expenses, keep an eye out for any major, unexpected spending that may occur. This is the most important advice Zaitz said he offers to new homeowners: Budget for those unexpected repairs.
During the first period of homeownership, you’ll just want to settle in and figure out where your money’s going. Are utilities higher than you expected? Were there little things that needed to be fixed when you moved in?
This relates to the budgeting recommendation above, especially when it comes to financial constraints. If you purchased the house with the idea that you’d be doing some renovations, you'll want to create a timeline for how they will be done. Are you planning on taking them on yourself? Can you afford the cost of everything you’d like to do? Will you be able to stay in the home while the renovations are being completed? These are all questions you’ll want to have answered once you own your house.
Often, it’s possible to tackle projects during the weekend, but be wary of taking on too much, especially in the early days. It’s simple to tear a bathroom apart, but putting it back together is a lot of work.
The Bottom Line
There’s a lot to unpack when you purchase a home, and although there’s a definite feeling of victory when you get those keys, the process is just beginning. Make sure you take these steps after buying a house so you’re prepared for what comes next.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much money should I save before buying a house?
The amount of money you’ll want to save before purchasing a house will vary. Most lenders will require a down payment of at least 5%. You’ll also want to factor in closing costs. In California, for example, closing costs make up approximately 11% of the sale price of the home.
How does buying a house affect my taxes?
Buying a house can make a big difference for your taxes. If you’re itemizing your deductions, you’ll be able to deduct the first $750,000 in mortgage interest on your taxes each year, thus lowering your total tax burden. You also may be able to deduct the amount you’ve paid for mortgage insurance premiums.
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