Quick! What’s the first thing most homeowners want to do upon closing on a new house? If you said “move in,” you’re correct. Unless you bought a total fixer, moving into the new house is at the top of the list. But, slow down there, Skippy. You have a few things to take care of if you want to ensure that the home is safe and in move-in condition. These projects are best done before moving in, while the home is empty.
Change the locks
Since you have no way of knowing how many sets of house keys are floating around out there, changing the locks before moving in is a no-brainer but you’d be surprised how many new homeowners don’t do this. It’s an easy, quick and inexpensive way to have peace of mind.
Popcorn is for movies
You have to wonder who the genius is who thought up popcorn ceilings. Concocted in the 1950s as a way to hide imperfections, way too many homes are still plagued by them. They’re unattractive and almost impossible to clean.
Thankfully, ridding the home of the eyesore is a DIY project and there are three ways to get the job done, according to Katelin Hill of thisoldhouse.com.
- Scrape off the offending surface
- Cover the area with drywall
- Cover the popcorn surface with plaster, creating a new texture.
Thisoldhouse.com offers walkthroughs of the three methods.
Paint the walls
It’s a rare home that comes with fresh paint on the walls so most new homeowners have “painting” at the top of their to-do list. And, if you’ll be laying new flooring as well as painting, do the paint first. Imagine not having to worry about splashed or spilled paint ruining the floors – if you’ll be pulling them out, you can be as sloppy with the paint as you like.
How are the floors?
If you need new flooring, and you have the budget for it after that big cash outlay at the close of escrow, now is the time to get it installed. It’s far easier to redo the floors in an empty home than having to find a place to stash your furniture while it’s being done after you move in. Even if all is needed is a steam-clean of the carpets, or a buff and seal of the wood floors, you’ll be glad you did it before moving in.
Fix what’s broken
Why live with the previous homeowner’s shoddy home maintenance problems? If something leaks, fix it now. Leaks are typically easy fixes, but if it turns out that the plumber will need to rip out a wall or floor to access the pipes, you’ll be glad you took on this project before you move in. Remember as well that the longer a plumbing leak goes unchecked, the larger (and more expensive) the eventual repair job will be.
Other easy-but-necessary fixes include tightening loose stairway banisters, checking the deck for safety, changing HVAC filters, dusting ceiling fan blades, finding the home’s fuse box and water shut-off valve and putting new batteries in all smoke alarms,
Whether the home has the occasional creepy crawly seeking shelter from the elements or it houses even creepier pests such as bats, rodents or reptiles, ridding the home of them before moving in is a smart idea. Especially if the “ridding” includes a toxic product, get it done now.
Many pest removal techniques are DIY in nature, while others may require the services of a professional. If you’re looking for a non-toxic way to get rid of insects, check out Prevention’s “12 Natural Ways to Kill Bugs.” Traps and baits are often effective remedies for rodent infestations. Call a professional if it’s wildlife that has taken up residence in the home.
Make it safe for the little ones
Take a tour of the home while it’s vacant, with an eye toward possible hazards to pets and kids. You’ll need electrical outlet covers and cupboard latches, of course, but where else do hazards exist? Will you need to buy baby/pet gates to block stairway access? Take a tour of the garage and decide if you’ll need to build shelves to keep chemicals, paint, sharp tools and the like up high and out of the reach of the little ones – both two and four legged.
Walk around the exterior of the home, taking note of what’s planted in the landscape. Plants, such as oleander, foxglove, rhododendron and even the charming lily-of-the-valley are toxic if ingested and, in the case of oleander, if the fumes are inhaled while burning the plant. If you have any doubts about the toxicity of a particular plant, check The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ large database of toxic and non-toxic plants.
Finally, check the fencing for any space large enough for a pet or child to squeeze through and the irrigation system to ensure none of the sprinkler heads are stuck in an upright position, causing a tripping hazard.
Sure, it’s frustrating to slow down the move-in process once the house is yours and you have the keys in hand. But taking a weekend to ensure the home is safe and habitable can save your family from safety hazards and from being inconvenienced in the long run.