Chances are, you or your real estate agent had a home inspector examine your new property before closing. The inspector surveyed the exterior, the roof, the attic, the basement. While that report can help you barter for a lower price and resolve major issues, it doesn’t help you know your home better.
In order to maximize your family’s safety and peace of mind, perform a little inspection of your own. Use this checklist (or download the printable version here) to identify all of your home’s important features and functions. What you do now ensures that your comfort, and your home’s value, increases.
Keep Track of Paperwork
In the chaos of a move, things get lost. It’s crucial to keep track of the important documents you signed.
☐ Make a copy of everything legal
☐ Store one copy in a fireproof container in your home
☐ Store another copy with your financial institution
You also don’t want to forget about that home inspection report. If your inspector found anything untoward, make it a priority to call experts and resolve the issues.
☐ Professional removal of asbestos or lead paint
☐ Remediation of mold
☐ Extermination of pests
While you’re proudly checking out the view of your estate, check in on outdoor security measures and familiarize yourself with your new address.
☐ Change the locks
☐ Install home security. Smart home technology improves your security and the value of your home
☐ Install outdoor lighting to prevent injuries and unwanted loitering
☐ Make sure that your address number is clearly visible from the street
☐ Update the mailbox to your last name and ensure that the number is clearly legible there, too
☐ Ask the post office to forward mail from your old address to your new
☐ Update your home address with your employer, financial institutions, mail subscriptions, insurance providers, DMV, etc.
☐ Teach your children their new address. Have them practice repeating it in case they ever need to dial 911
Install Safety Measures Inside the Home
When you’re inside your home, you should feel comfortable knowing that measures are in place to both alert you to and protect you from danger. Make sure you’ve covered the basics.
☐ Make sure all windows and doors fully close and lock for energy efficiency and safety
☐ Install smoke detectors in every bedroom plus one on every floor (including the basement)
☐ Install one carbon monoxide detector outside of every sleeping area (i.e., one on every floor with a bedroom)
☐ Test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
☐ Replace all batteries and note today’s date
☐ Place a fire extinguisher on every floor (Your home needs at least one)
Get to Know Your Home Systems
Purposefully exploring the interior of your home allows you to make discoveries both good and bad (a priceless antique! a racoon family!) early on. You want to feel comfortable in every square foot. Familiarize yourself with the major systems in your home so you know exactly where to look for common maintenance issues.
☐ Check pipes for rust and corrosion
☐ Identify the main water shutoff valve (Usually located in the basement or on an outside wall. Turn the valve clockwise to close)
☐ If your home runs on natural gas, identify the main shutoff valve (Usually located near the gas meter. The valve is a rectangular toggle that is open when it lies parallel to the pipe. To close, use a wrench to turn it perpendicular)
☐ Note any exposed wires. If you aren’t comfortable capping them off yourself, call an electrician
☐ Find your meter. It’s probably located outside and protected from the elements under a porch or inside a small cupboard
☐ If you have an older home with a fuse box, locate it. Unscrew the individual colored circles to turn off a single fuse, or tug out the rectangular box by its metal handle to turn off power to the whole house
☐ If you have a new home with a circuit breaker, locate it. Circuit breakers use On/Off levers for each individual breaker. To turn off all power, hit the largest On/Off lever, usually twice as wide as the rest and located at the top
☐ Clean and replace filters in your heating and cooling systems
☐ Check ducts for dust bunnies
☐ Hire a chimney sweep to clean out chimneys and flues, to be done annually
While You’re Furnishing
As you’re moving into your new home, you may want to keep in mind a few safety measures that you can install as you go. Taking on these projects early saves you hassle later down the line.
☐ Tackle painting and cabinetry projects before moving in furniture
☐ Get non-slip mats for showers and tubs
☐ Install grab-rails in the bathroom
*NOTE: If you’re deep-cleaning first, remember that heavy-duty cleaning agents are both hazardous for children and flammable. Store them out of reach when not in use, and keep them at least 3 feet away from any heat source at all times.
Make Emergency Plans
Having a plan for emergencies and evacuations, and ensuring it’s familiar to everyone living under your roof, can literally be a lifesaver.
☐ Identify two exit routes
☐ Furnish any upstairs bedrooms with escape ladders
☐ Identify two meeting points
One on your property — the mailbox, the birdbath, the carport
Another off your property — a neighbor’s home, a bus stop, a bench
☐ Locate your home’s best weather shelter — an actual underground shelter or a basement, or simply the lowest point in your home without windows. Think a bathroom or a closet
☐ Locate a good storage spot for a survival kit
☐ Equip your survival kit with enough food and water to last every occupant three days
☐ Prepare a first-aid kit and make sure everyone in the family knows where it’s located
☐ Download emergency update apps and set to your new address