1.Buying Your First Home

Are You Ready to Own Your First Home?

Buying your first home is a huge accomplishment in life that you and your family are sure to be proud of and an exciting adulting rite of passage so congratulations for making the leap!

Being successful and confident in the home buying process is all about empowerment and education – it’s simply the more you know, the better you’ll be able to deal with unexpected scenarios. And be assured, there will always be unforeseen situations or costs when buying a home, but by investing some time beforehand to learn the ins and outs, you’ll be prepared to manage them.

While it can sometimes be challenging to find the right  home that meets your needs and is within your budget, know this; owning your own home is the most financially empowering option in the long run. The National Association of Realtors cites that homeownership creates stability and tangible wealth, along with mental and physical health benefits for both you and your family. Statistics show that taking pride in one’s home transcends into caring about the neighborhood, civic participation and even to personal educational goals.

Purchasing a home, the single largest asset most people own, requires preparation and planning. And while the multitude of decisions to be made along the way can be somewhat daunting, DomiDocs has prepared our New Homeowners Guide to get you through the home buying process as efficiently as possible.

DomiDocs offers you a comprehensive cloud-based platform so you can digitally manage your home and property with ease. We provide organization, education, and technology to save you time, money, and increase your new home’s value – all designed to keep you ahead of the curve.

2.The First Steps to Take

Grow Your Nest Egg: Gather your down payment with as much money as possible. As stated by Redfin research, 69% of homebuyers save money for their down payment directly through their paychecks. Some took it to the next level: 36% took on a second job, 13% pulled money from their retirement fund, while 10% dabbled in the cryptocurrency investment market. Other options according to the survey included taking on roommates or splitting homeownership among friends, renting out a room to an acquaintance, or making some additional income by driving for a ride-sharing company. If none of these options appeal to you, it’s perfectly okay to slow down the home buying process to establish a solid down payment.  I am sure you have heard the myth about needing a down payment of 20% of the purchase price of your new home.  In reality you can buy a home with only a down payment of 3.5% of the purchase price.  If you are a veteran you can purchase a home without any down payment.

Money, Money, Money: Financial challenges such as pre-existing debt (credit cards, student loans, etc.), along with the challenge of saving for a down payment are the biggest obstacles to homeownership. But the financial requirements don’t stop with the down payment.   You’ll also need money to cover closing costs, prepaid insurance, property taxes and other charges. According to Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather, “underestimating the hidden costs associated with buying and owning a home, including the ongoing responsibilities of maintaining it, is the No. 1 new homeowner frustration.”

Get Your Finances in Order: Prepare your finances by knowing your credit scores and having all of your basic financial documents in order. This can include tax returns, recent pay stubs and bank statements. See the “Before you approach the buying process” checklist for a full outline of documents to have in order.

Obtain your credit score:  Obtaining your credit score is easy, it’s your right, and it’s a very good idea to do so before beginning your home search or mortgage process.  Many credit card companies offer free credit scores to cardholders. Your bank or investment broker may also make it available to you for free and you can obtain a free copy of your entire credit report once a year from each of the three major credit repositories, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, from the Federal Trade Commission’s authorized website http://www.annualcreditreport.com.  These reports will list your entire credit history in detail.  It’s important to review them and be certain that the information they have is correct.  If you discover an error on any of them, the process for correcting the information will be provided to you with the report.  You definitely want to correct any errors you might find, as incorrect information could impact your ability to obtain home financing.

Make sure you’re paying your bills on time and are paying off high-interest debt. If you’ve got available credit that you’re not using, that’ll be in your favor. But if you apply for a credit card or close one out you’re not using, that’ll go against your credit score.

Get Ready to go Mortgage Shopping: Research various mortgage lenders through comments on sites like Yelp and Google  as well as recommendations from family, friends, or other trusted sources.  Your mortgage lenders will counsel you on the mortgage finance process and help you find financing you can afford.

Know You Will be Stressed:  Yes, buying a home can be overwhelming, but if you educate yourself as to the entire process, you’ll be able to achieve this goal with much more ease. Stress is definitely a normal part of the home buying process, so don’t think you’re alone in experiencing it. DomiDocs offers you tools to manage the home buying process and manage homeownership, reducing the stress of both along the way.

Being prepared and planning are the keys to making your new home buying experience go as smoothly as possible.

How Much Savings do You Need?

How Much Can You Really Afford? Realistically determine how much house you can afford. In the opinion of David Weliver, founder of Money Under 30, you should try to “keep your total housing payments under 30% of your gross monthly income. When you spend much more than that on your mortgage, you risk becoming ‘house poor’ – where you might live in a beautiful home but may find it difficult to save or even cover other monthly expenses.” Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather of Redfin states “you need to know you can truly afford to both buy and own a home, and to get the full picture, you need to do more than simply compare your current rent payment with the potential mortgage payment.” Fairweather suggests doing a check of your full finances as “a lot of hidden fees come with owning a home that you might not consider immediately,” including property taxes, homeowner insurance and closing costs ranging from 2 to 5% of the home price. You’ll also potentially need money for moving, utility down payments, new furnishings and/or appliances.

You should try to keep your total monthly obligations (mortgage payment, student loan payments, auto payments, and credit card payments under 43% of your monthly gross income. Most first time homebuyers are declined because of a high debt service versus mortgage payment. This problem is becoming a major barrier because of student loan debt.

Emergency Home Maintenance Repairs: Experts at the popular HGTV broadcast network suggest building a home maintenance budget of 1 to 3% of your income annually to build a reserve of funds for unforeseen and scheduled repairs. The Harris Poll Home Improvements Report reveals that more than 30% of Americans have not set aside funds for unexpected home repairs and even more alarming, 44% of homeowners experience their first unexpected repair within the first year after closing.

Do You Have Everything in Order?

Financial Documentation: Some of the financial documents you’ll be required to produce during the mortgage shopping process will include income and employment verification, basic financials such as bank accounts, tax returns and a list of assets and liabilities, along with proof of your down payment and the property details of the specific home you want to purchase.

Where Do You Find a Home to Buy? In this digital-first generation, a report by the National Association of Realtors cites 81% of new home shoppers ages 29 to 38 found their new home via a mobile app. If you can swipe right looking for a partner, it only makes sense you can swipe right for your potential new home.

Finding the Optimal Real Estate Agent: Spend some time finding the right real estate agent for you. You’ll want someone knowledgeable about the local market, features of your potential new home and the neighborhood it’s in, as well as skills you can use during the negotiating and buying process. It’s important to note whether or not they’re actually listening to what you’re saying. A great real estate agent will make the entire home buying process seem easy. Don’t be afraid to interview your agent and make sure they are the right fit for you.

Does the Real Estate Company Offer Incentives? In some markets, realtors may offer incentives such as smart home products, home security systems, electronics, cleaning services and even cash or closing cost rebates to attract business. 

Know Your Must-Haves and Your Compromises: Having a basic wish list for your new home is a great way to break it down to the absolute must-haves like the number of bedrooms or a backyard for your kids or pets. Of course, there will always be dream items but knowing your non-negotiable aspects can weed out potential new homes quickly.

Checklist Before You Approach the Buying Process

  • Gather Down Payment & Closing Costs
  • Check Your Credit Scores
  • Shop around for a Mortgage Lender
  • Have Your Financials Readily Available:
    • Bank account statements
    • Cash value of any life insurance policies
    • Documentation of any supplemental income
    • Employment history for the last two years
    • Statements for all investment accounts, including  IRAs and other retirement funds
    • List of Liabilities including names, addresses, account numbers and contact information for credit cards, automotive loans and/or existing mortgages. This includes other financial responsibilities such as child support and/or alimony.
    • List of your current assets including vehicles, household items, collectibles
    • Paycheck stubs
    • W-2 statements for the previous two years
    • Self Employment income for the previous two years to include profit-and-loss statements, 1099’s and tax return.
  • Obtain Mortgage Pre-approval
  • Establish a New Home Wish List
  • Find a Real Estate Agent
  • Explore Open Houses

Be prepared to provide Your personal information: Social Security Number, driver’s license, home address (for the previous two years), divorce/separation/trust agreements as applicable

3.The Path to Ownership

First Steps to Ownership

It’s Never Too Early to Start: When you’re planning on buying a new home, start your research process as far in advance as possible. Take notes on properties of interest, including how long they’re on the market and what they sell for. Check out potential neighborhoods or cities you’re drawn to.

What Can You Really Afford to Spend on a Home? Knowing how much house you can realistically afford can save you a lot of financial heartache in the end. The bank or mortgage lender can provide you with two options:

Pre-qualification: this will provide you with a general price range of houses you can go shopping for

Pre-approval: establishes an exact loan amount of which you’ll be able to borrow. You’ll then receive a letter from the bank/mortgage lender stating you have financing in place, which means you’re an interested and serious buyer.

Important Things to Consider

How’s the Economy? If interest rates are falling, it may be a good time to purchase a home to take advantage of lower rates. In the same token, if interest rates are rising, it may make sense to lock in a mortgage rate before the interest becomes unaffordable. An example of mortgage interest variance by Consumerfinance.gov shows that the principal and interest payment for each $100,000 of a 30-year mortgage will cost $421.60 monthly at 3%; $536.82 at 5% and $665.30 at 7% interest.

Looking for a DIY? If you’re looking at purchasing a home to which  you can make improvements, don’t overestimate your skills as a handyman. If you have a reputable contractor in mind and are prepared to pay for their expertise, a fixer-upper could be a great option but it needs to be financially feasible for you to afford. If the kitchen or bathrooms require major repairs or the inspection reveals issues like rot, termites or a weak foundation, will it really be worth your time, money or inconvenience while you wait as they’re being upgraded? Know the limits of what you and your family are willing to endure during a renovation process.

The Five-Year Rule. Do you plan on living in your new home, possibly in a new city, permanently? As a general rule of thumb, financial experts encourage new homeowners to keep their new properties for at least 5 years before considering selling. Why? It’s based on profit/loss, appreciation of your home’s value, and the overall recouping of your investment during those initial years of homeownership. The National Association of Realtors states the majority of homeowners remain in their homes for 10 years before considering selling.

When Should You Move? Spring traditionally offers the largest inventory of homes for sale, as many families with children who are going to move seek to do so during the summer to avoid intra-school year disruption.  But there is often ample inventory available during other times of the year, so if you’re open to moving anytime you find the right property, don’t hesitate to begin your search.  A tip from Investopedia.com states “some savvy buyers also like to make offers around holidays, such as Christmas or Easter, hoping that the unusual time, lack of competition, and overall spirit of the season will get a quick deal done at a good price.”

What Are You Willing to Sacrifice? Will your lifestyle change for the better if you purchase a new home, or will you need to give up some much loved personal spending like that daily coffee or a gym membership – and are you prepared to do so? On the flip side, a new neighborhood may provide access to a trendy arts or local music scene you’ve never experienced before. Do your research and know about what you’re personally willing to compromise, think: non-essentials; entertainment; clothes; vacations; or making a home purchase a first priority over buying a vehicle.

Let’s Talk Location

Choosing a Location Is As Important As The Home You Decide To Purchase:  Will the location suit your and your family’s needs both now and for years to come?  There are many things to consider when deciding upon a location for your new home.  What things about a location or neighborhood are most important to you and your family?  Does an urban, suburban or rural location best meet your needs?  How long of a commute is acceptable to you?  Do you need highway access?  Is taking public transportation part of your plan?  How close to public transportation do you need to be?  Do you have or do you plan on having children?  What are their schooling needs?  What amenities do you want to have near your home — shopping, recreation, exercise, etc.?  These are just some of the questions to ask yourself when you begin to think about where to look for your new home.  Selecting your new home can be an emotional experience and filtering through all of the decision points can be overwhelming, but doing so is worth the effort.  Because each homebuyer will have a different list of considerations and will likely assign different levels of importance to them, it is a good idea to create a decision matrix through which you can filter each property you consider.  You can make a relatively simple spreadsheet, listing on one axis the attributes you desire in your new home and on the other the homes you’re considering.  Then assign a point value from 1 to 10 to each home on each of the attributes in the matrix.  The home with the highest score should be the one that best meets your needs.  Even if it is not the home you ultimately select, going through this decision-making process can help you make a data-driven decision and avoid the all-too-common pitfall of falling in love with a house that isn’t really a good fit for your needs.   (Note – the best way to compose a matrix is to build the spreadsheet, assign a weight to each attribute. For example, for a particular buyer, school quality might weigh in as an 8 while proximity to highways is weighted at a 3 while for another buyer those weightings might be reversed.

Can You Afford to Live in the City You Want? Besides the housing market, determining factors in choosing a location can include job opportunities/transfer and the city’s cost of living. You’ll also need to factor in property tax rates, state tax, city tax, town tax, school districts, possible HOA and associated fees, and/or accessibility to health care as applicable. Or maybe it’s not a city at all that you’re looking for – maybe your dream property exists in the suburbs, or a larger property with land and room to grow.

Will there be an HOA, POA or CCR?: A Homeowner’s Association (HOA) grants the developer privileged voting rights in governing the association. Usually, the developer transfers ownership of the association to the homeowners after selling a predetermined number of lots. Generally, homebuyers within the purview of a homeowners association must become members, and must obey the restrictions set forth by the association. Most homeowner associations are incorporated, and are subject to state statutes that govern non-profit corporations and homeowner associations. State oversight of homeowner associations is minimal, and it varies from state to state.

A Property Owners Association (POA) is a governing body that encompasses HOAs and COAs. POA fees are combined with HOA or COA fees. Serving as a type of umbrella organization, a regional POA often provides legislative, educational, and networking opportunities for property owners.

Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (commonly referred to as CCRs) are the written rules and restrictions pertaining to the use of property.

Don’t Take the Realtor’s Word For Granted. While you can no doubt trust your realtor, after visiting your property of choice, do a couple of drive-bys on your own at different times of the day on weekends and weekdays. Where does the sun rise and set? Will you receive the majority of sunshine in your living room or other areas? Is it a quiet neighborhood at night? How’s the parking in the area? How much traffic occurs along the street – is it a shortcut during the rush hours? Is it close to schools, restaurants, and shopping? Is there public transportation nearby?  If you commute by car, drive from the home to your place of employment during the morning rush hour and back during the evening one.  What is that commute like?  Is it one you can live with?

Future Implications:  It is always important to think about the future implications of the home buying decision that you make.  While buying an inexpensive house near a busy road could be a fantastic deal at the time, it also pays to think ahead of what will happen when it comes time to sell your house in the future.  Will that noisy road make your home difficult to sell?  The same goes for a home that backs up to a school.  Some buyers will find that appealing and others may find it a reason to cross your home off of their list of homes to consider. Be aware of neighboring vacant lot zoning codes for potential future development that may impact the value of your home. Keeping potential future buyers in mind is a fundamentally wise idea.

Are Similar Property Values On The Upswing Or Downswing? While all US housing markets are different, are property values in that neighborhood on the rise or the decline? What is the median age of homes in the neighborhood?  Do zoning laws allow for commercial buildings or mixed-use buildings in the area you’re considering?

Don’t Compromise on Location. Buyer’s remorse tends to happen when you don’t get what you really, really want. If at all possible, the preferred location for your home shouldn’t be up for too much of a compromise. If you’ve decided on a specific neighborhood that you absolutely love, do your best to stick to that choice, as anything else could prove disappointing, maybe not at first, but after a few years could be a frustrating experience.  Are you ready to forgo a larger home for a smaller home with room to grow your organic garden? Maybe the city is more of your thing where you’ll be close to public transportation. Being close to nature and walking trails could also be a deciding factor in choosing your new home location.  Moving to a distant suburb may enable you to buy a home at a lower price.  The longer commute will cost you both time with your family and additional costs for gas and car maintenance.

What’s Next?

  • Ensure you have everything on the checklist before you approach the buying process
  • Know your true homeowner buying budget to help avoid any unnecessary dreamer moments should you find the perfect house at the wrong price.
  • Be prepared to ask questions about everything and anything that comes to mind.

Look Into Loan Options

Can you afford to pay cash for your new home? If not, you’ll need to explore your options for obtaining financing.  While looking into loan options can seem like a daunting task, getting a loan to purchase your new home is crucial. Banks, credit unions and mortgage bankers are eager to have your business, but making sure you find the right lender and the right loan terms for you is critical.  Here are some options and ideas to help you do so.

Who Will Lend You Money to Buy a Home? Based on your assets, liabilities, income and credit scores, lenders will establish your ability to pay back any money borrowed. Meeting minimum income, down payment and liquid reserves (funds remaining after your loan closes) requirements, is key to qualifying for a loan for your new home.  Your lender will work with you to help you determine which loan type and program are the best fit for your borrowing needs.  You’ll want to review your options.  Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured loans include a mortgage insurance premium paid by you every month for the life of the loan, but offer you the ability to put very little money down to buy your home.  FHA loan size maximums vary geographically, and your lender will be able to tell you whether you qualify for one.  What the mortgage industry calls “conventional loans” are mortgages that conform to the guidelines issued by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.  These two government-sponsored enterprises set the standards for mortgages that are at or below a certain size (set by Congress and adjusted every year) and do not have FHA insurance.  Your lender will be able to explain the options available to you in the conventional mortgage space, where you can often make a small down payment, pay a monthly mortgage insurance premium that does not last for the life of your loan or, if you can pay at least 20% of the purchase price with your own funds, avoid mortgage insurance entirely.  If you are a veteran, you’ll want to explore VA financing with your lender.  Under the VA programs, qualifying veterans can obtain home financing with no money down at all.  If the property you’re considering is in a location that qualifies for it, a Department of Agriculture Guaranteed Rural Housing loan might be a good fit for you.  Each program and loan product has features and benefits that will be of different value to different borrowers.  This is why finding a qualified, responsive lender is so important.  Ask friends, family members and your realtor (if you have one) for their recommendations and do some homework.  Check Yelp and Google reviews, and other online rating platforms and services to learn about the experiences other borrowers have had with lenders you are considering.  Financing your home is likely the largest financial transaction of your life to date.  It is worth spending some quality time to find the best lender and best loan program and product for your needs.

An offer to purchase a home is a legal contract, and as with any legal documentation, you’ll need to read the purchase agreement and any/all attachments very carefully, as well as to have your attorney review it before signing.

4.Navigate the Mortgage Loan Process

Loan Decisions

The process of obtaining financing to purchase a home requires that you submit a formal application for a loan.  As with any other consumer good, it’s a good idea to shop around for the best terms.  With the power of the internet, it is relatively easy to obtain and review terms from several lenders to find the terms that best meet your needs.

Submitting a mortgage application requires that you provide detailed information to the lender about your income, assets and employment.  Once you have done so and provided authorization for the lender to obtain your credit background, they will pull your credit report and, by analyzing that and the information you have provided, determine how much you can borrow and for what type of loan you qualify.  When you add the amount of money you plan to use as a down payment to the qualifying loan amount the lender provides, the result will be the highest-priced home you can afford to purchase.  Knowing this number will help you frame your home search and enable you to determine what adjustments you might need to make to your ideal home’s wish list in order to find the right home in your price range for your family.

How to Make the Best Loan Decisions

When it comes to choosing the best mortgage for your new home, don’t be shy. Ask any and all questions that come to mind, remembering there’s truly no such thing as a dumb question, they’re all just learning opportunities.

How Many Years Should You Choose For Your Mortgage? Obviously that will depend on your financials but according to consumerfinance.gov, a 30-year fixed-rate loan is the most popular mortgage option, which provides a steady monthly payment you can be comfortable with. A 15-year fixed-rate loan is gaining in popularity as it cuts the mortgage term in half, while also providing significant interest savings during the mortgage lifespan.  A 30 year fixed rate mortgage allows you to make additional voluntary principal payments to reduce the term of the loan and the interest paid over the life of the loan. Another option is an adjustable-rate mortgage where rates fluctuate with the current market conditions. The most important thing to note is that the decision about whether to fix your rate or allow it to adjust to market conditions over time or what loan term you select is entirely up to you.  Your lenders should be able to give you valuable insight into the best solution for you.

Should I Consult a Mortgage Broker?  It’s important to understand the roles played in the mortgage marketplace by mortgage brokers and mortgage bankers.  Mortgage brokers act as middlemen between borrowers and lenders, bringing together the needs of the borrower and the resources of the lender.  Mortgage bankers (affiliated with depository institutions such as banks and credit unions and also unaffiliated with depository institutions) have a direct lending relationship with the borrowers they serve.  Mortgage brokers do not underwrite loans and they do not provide the funds used to close them.  They are dependent upon the mortgage banker to perform those functions.  When using a mortgage broker, any questions or resource or documentation requests that the lender has will be communicated to you by your broker — you will not deal directly with the company that is making the approval decision and providing the funds for your loan.  When you work with a mortgage banker, you will be directly engaged with the company that will provide the funds and will close your loan.  Questions or issues that the lender may have during the lending process will be discussed directly with you.  An oft-stated advantage of working with a mortgage broker is that brokers maintain dozens of lender relationships and can shop your loan around to secure the best rate and terms for you.  In practice, the mortgage industry is so competitive that you are likely to be able to secure terms at least as attractive when dealing directly with a mortgage banker.  Lending terms, rates and prices are driven by the large investors who purchase or securitize mortgages — companies with names like Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and Ginnie Mae.  A mortgage banker will have direct relationships with them and will be well-positioned to streamline your process and secure competitive terms for you.  In the end, whether you decide to work with a mortgage banker or a mortgage broker, the most important thing you can do is to check them out.  Look at online review websites like Yelp.  Check with the Better Business Bureau.  Ask around – ask friends, neighbors and family members who they would use or have used to obtain a home loan.  A little time spent upfront doing research can pay off down the line.

Analyze Your Loan Options

Generally, your loan options are going to be based on your credit rating so it’s imperative to make sure it’s the best it can be before you begin your mortgage-shopping journey. As an example, if you’re looking at a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), you’ll need a 580+ credit score to qualify for a mortgage with a 3.5% down payment. If you’re between 500 and 579, you’ll need a 10% down payment. And if your credit score is under 500, you won’t qualify with the FHA at all.   To obtain a conventional loan you will need to have a minimum credit score of 620.  Credit scores not only determine if your loan application is approved but also the interest rate you will have to pay.  To receive a reasonable interest rate on a conventional loan you will need to have a credit score above 680 for an FHA loan your credit score should be above 640.

Are There Any Ways to Reduce Expenses as a Buyer? Ask your real estate agent about potentially eliminating costs during the buying process. Are you able to pass any costs back to the seller such as title insurance? This can reduce the overall cost you need to borrow. Sometimes the underwriter and processing fees lenders charge are negotiable, ask if they can be reduced or eliminated entirely.

Do You Need Private Mortgage Insurance? Chances are that if you apply for a conventional loan and have less than 20% of the purchase price of the home to provide as a down payment, you’ll be required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) to protect the lender in case you’re not able to make payments. This monthly cost will be included in your payment and will be factored into determining the amount you can borrow.

What Can I Afford for a Down Payment? A basic down payment worksheet can be broken down into three sections:

Available Funds:

  • Savings on hand
  • Cash value of insurance policies
  • Equity in your present home, if you own it
  • Investments, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.
  • Other funds like a cash gift
  • Subtract the amount you want to keep in savings to give you your Total Available Funds

Expenses:

  • Moving costs
  • Other Expenses including homeowner’s insurance
  • Closing/settlement costs (approximately 5-6% of the loan amount, but this amount may be higher in certain geographies. Check with your lender for a good estimate of closing cost requirements where you are planning to buy.)
  • Add the above to obtain your Total Expected Expenses

Down Payment:

  • Total Available Funds minus your Total Expected Expenses minus 2-3 months of mortgage payments for a contingency fund will indicate how much you have available for a down payment.

What’s Next?

Sometimes patience is a real virtue, especially when it comes to waiting on the loan status for your new home. While it can be frustrating, your new home will be worth the wait.

Lender Approval:  When your lender pre-approves you, they will provide you with a letter that you can submit along with your offer to purchase a home.  This letter will let the seller know that you are a serious buyer and that they can treat your offer with serious consideration.  It is important to understand that a pre-approval from your lender is NOT a formal approval.  The pre-approval means that as long as your lender can validate the information you have provided as well as other information they may request and if the home you seek to purchase appraises for an amount that supports the loan request, you will be able to obtain a mortgage to buy it. Once you’ve got your financing in place, you’ll be able to go out visiting open houses with confidence in knowing you’ll be able to place an offer for the new home of your dreams. Or at least as close as you can get to it without doing any major compromising.

Choosing Your Mortgage Details: Once you identify the home you wish to purchase and its seller accepts your offer, the clock will start ticking.  Although both shorter and longer closing timelines are absolutely possible and routinely occur, a fairly standard timeline for purchasing a home requires that the transaction close within 60 days of the seller’s acceptance of your offer, during that time, you’ll need to get your financing in place, get the home inspected, and ensure that you have the funds needed to close your transaction.   You’ll then need to determine details like the type of mortgage you want and your preferred length of term when securing your loan. See Applying for Your Loan

Secure A Great Real Estate Agent: One who’s knowledgeable and willing to work with you to find a home within your budget that will also meet or surpass your housing needs. Experts say that the number one reason first-time home buyers missed out on the home of their dreams was due to their initial offer not being high enough. They also noted that 40% of buyers “were very comfortable in negotiating the purchase price of the property with their real estate agent,” which means 60% were not.

Don’t make any changes that will affect your credit. Once you have obtained your pre-approval, don’t make any changes that will affect your credit and score. It is important to pay all of your bills on time and do not let any checks bounce, as this affects your credit score the same as making a late payment would. It is also vital that you do not take on any additional financial responsibilities during your home buying process. Consult your lender first if you must make a change due to an unforeseen occurrence.

5.Constructing a New Home

If you decide to construct a new home, there are important things you should know and consider.  Constructing a new home is different from other manufacturing processes in a variety of ways, and the process of purchasing a newly constructed home can also be quite different from that of purchasing an existing home.  Are you seeking to purchase a home in a building or subdivision in which all of the homes are being constructed by one builder?  Or do you have or are you planning to purchase land and hire a builder to build your new home on it?  Either way, when you are building new, there are more ways you can participate in the construction process and help create just the home you’re seeking.  Many homeowners find this perk of customization the most appealing when they are considering new home construction.

Because you are building a new home, you will be  able to personalize it by selecting the fixtures and finishes it will contain.  You will have the opportunity to select things ranging from flooring to paint – interior and exterior – to sinks, bathtubs and much, much more.  . If you’re purchasing a home from a builder-developed subdivision, you’ll likely have selected one of the builder’s several available models and will then work with a designer in the builder’s design center.  There you’ll select all of the fixtures and finishes for your new home, but be aware — the design center is filled with temptations.  It can be easy to select upgraded fixtures and finishes, but it is important to be aware of the impact on the budget of doing so.  Upgrades come with a price and it can be very easy to find yourself well over budget if you’re not careful.  It’s very common for the appeal of upgraded finishes to conflict with the reality of a housing budget.

If you are hiring a builder to build your new home on land you own or purchase, you’ll still need to make the same decisions about colors, fixtures and finishes, but your builder probably won’t have a design center for you to visit to make them.  Instead, you’ll need to work with retailers of the various components to select the items you wish to have in your home.  Most home builders have relationships with retailers of each of the finish and fixture elements that you’ll need to select, so your builder will likely be able to refer you to qualified retailers with whom you can work.

Since new home construction takes a while, you’ll be able to watch the progress and discuss details as needed during the building process. A survey of construction by the U.S. Census Bureau found that single-family new home construction takes approximately 6 months to complete.

The importance of Working with a Reputable Builder or Contractor

Find a Reputable Builder:  Finding a quality builder is vital for successful home construction.  If you are buying a home from a large builder who is developing all or part of a new community or subdivision, finding information about them should be relatively easy.  Many large builders are public companies, so you can easily obtain their financial information from their annual reports.  The internet can provide you with reviews from previous customers, whether on the builder’s website or on Yelp, Google or other review sites.  Pay particular attention to comments that discuss how the builder handled issues that arose during the 1-year post-purchase warranty period provided on new homes.  If after you move in you have an issue that you need the builder to address, you want to have confidence that they will address and resolve it.

If you purchase a new home from a large-scale builder, you will not have to worry about building permits, site approvals, plans and specifications or any of the other zoning and permitting details of your home’s construction.  A large-scale builder will take care of all of that as part of the project they are developing.  The builder will also manage all of the inspections that are required during the building process, including the final inspection, after which — if the home passes — the city or county will issue a certificate of occupancy and you can close on the purchase of your new home.

Find a Reputable Contractor: If you are hiring someone to build your new home on land you either own or are acquiring, finding an excellent contractor is vital for successful home construction. The best way to ensure you get a great contractor is to read reviews thoroughly, take a good look at their completed projects, ask for references and talk to people for whom they’ve built homes in the past.  You will want to find a reputable contractor who has completed jobs in the same style of construction you envision for your home and who is experienced in building homes in the area you wish to live.  Many experienced homebuilders will have plans for homes that they’ve built in the past that might work for the home you wish to build, but you’ll likely need to work with an architect to design the home you desire and create the plans and documents you will need to secure a building permit from your city, county or town.  All building plans and specifications will need to be reviewed and approved by your local building department before the commencement of construction.

Financing Your New Home Construction

Builder Financing: If you are buying a home from a builder who is building an entire community or subdivision, you won’t need to worry about construction financing.  Large builders take on the financing costs of the homes they build, so all you’ll need to do is secure permanent financing (a mortgage) for when your home is complete.  If you are having your home built on land you own or are acquiring, you’ll need to decide whether to finance its construction yourself or find a builder who can do so.

Having the builder finance the construction means that you will not be required to close on your mortgage loan or be required to start making payments until your home is completed.  Any delays in the completion of your new home will be financed by the builder.  Since you are not closing on your new home and creating a mortgage the chances of builder-caused cost overruns that could cause you to run out of construction funds are dramatically reduced.  Having the builder finance the construction of your new home may limit the builders you can do business with.  Not all builders are able or willing to obtain financing to construct your home.  If you secure financing for the construction of your new home, you will likely be able to secure a better price for the home from the builder because they will not be including the cost of the construction financing in the cost of the home.  But obtaining the financing for your home’s construction means that you will be paying those costs directly to your lender during the construction period, so it’s important to keep that in mind while you’re determining your budget.  Your new home will be under construction, and during that time you will need to be able to pay both the payments on the construction loan and the rent or mortgage on the home in which you are living.

Construction Financing: If you are constructing your new home, construction financing is usually obtained from a local bank or mortgage company and provides in phases the funds necessary for the construction of your new home. To qualify for a construction loan, you will need to provide to your lender the specifications and plans of the home you wish to build, information about the builder you intend to hire to build it (your lender must approve your choice of a builder), your personal financial information, the sources of funds you intend to use for the portions of the home’s costs that you will pay from your own funds, and you must authorize them to pull and review your credit report.  If, upon a thorough review of all of your information and that of your builder, your lender approves you for a construction loan, they will set a closing date that lines up with when you and your builder plan to begin construction.

Most construction loans are a year or less in duration, are interest-only and will permit either 4 or 5 “draws,” the industry term used to refer to an advance of funds from the lender to the borrower and builder.  Allowable uses for the funds provided by a construction loan include all of the costs associated with building a new home – material, labor, permits, water and sewage connections, fees, etc.

Construction loans are structured in this way both to make sure that the funds allocated for construction are sufficient to complete the entire project and to make sure that the home actually is constructed as planned.  Lenders would not be comfortable advancing the entire amount necessary to build the house before the construction has even begun, so they use this draw process.

When your home is complete, you can either refinance your construction loan into a new, fully amortizing mortgage or, if your construction lender structured your loan as what is called a “one-time closing,” you can modify your construction loan into a fully amortizing mortgage.

Legal Obligations: A standard legal purchase agreement for building a new home will include such categories as standard features, optional selections like color choices, a proposed warranty (final to be included with closing), homeowner association documents if applicable, and buyer’s checklist. It’s extremely important to note that any agreement you come to between you and your builder needs to be in writing, as verbal commitments are generally not accepted and legally have no obligation to be honored.

Will My Home’s Construction Experience Delays? Delays are often a fact of life when constructing a new home.  The delivery date of a newly constructed home can be delayed due to many factors with the most prominent being weather. If the roof isn’t yet in place and inclement weather occurs like rain, snow or freezing temperatures, home construction can come to a halt across an entire geographic region. Trade contractors will be scheduled in advance to ensure the building process runs as smoothly as possible, but sometimes tradespeople finish the task before their allotted time slot and there will be a pause before the next contractor is scheduled to start. So while it may occasionally seem as if nothing is happening on your home’s building progress, it’s all part of the normal building process when coordinating skilled contractors from different trades. There can also be a delay in progress while your home is waiting to be inspected by the building department, or because of labor strikes and/or construction material shortages. The construction sequence of your new home generally follows this order: foundation; framing; roofing; exterior, and interior.

Resale Value: Even though you may intend to live in your newly constructed home for the rest of your life, there may also come a time when you’ll want to sell. If you can keep the thought of building your home with resale in mind – adding extra bedrooms, storage or a den/workspace along with keeping an adaptable open-plan concept, or reducing your energy footprint by incorporating energy-efficient features such as smart lighting or a building envelope, and you’ll be ahead of other homeowners when it comes to maximizing your resale opportunity.

Construction vs. Selection

Custom-tailored just for you. Constructing your own home can offer several benefits including the satisfaction of being able to customize both the style of your home and all of its details from the flooring, paint colors and energy-efficient features to the fixtures, finishes and appliances. A new home will generally be free of repairs as everything within the home is newly built. You won’t have to compete with other buyers to purchase a home as you’re constructing it yourself. If you’re having your home built on land you own or are acquiring, and be certain that local zoning regulations permit the construction of the home you wish to build.  You’ll need to hire an architect, a builder, obtain all necessary permits, a landscaper and generally exercise a generous amount of patience throughout the construction process, which can easily take up to seven months or more, according to the US Census Bureau. Customizable options you’ll be able to choose for your new home build will include but not be limited to the following and available upgrades for each:

  • Appliances
  • Cabinets and Countertops – both kitchen and bathrooms
  • Electrical fixtures
  • Fireplace surrounds
  • Flooring
  • Plumbing Fixtures
  • Roofing
  • Siding
  • Cabinet and door hardware
  • Interior and exterior paint color

It’s important to note that once selections have been made and construction begins, your power to make changes along the way may be limited. Some builders require submission of a change order request, along with a non-refundable fee and payment of any difference in cost between the old and new selections before they will permit a change to be made.  And once the contract is signed, the builder has the right to refuse changes you may request.  Builders want happy customers, so most will do what they can to work with you, but it’s absolutely optimal for you to be happy with your selections from the get-go.

Your newly constructed home will come with warranty coverage such as a:

  • One year limited warranty on workmanship (foundation, load-bearing walls, roof framing, etc.)
  • Two years for system protection (electrical panels, fixtures, wiring, etc.)
  • Limited 10-year warranty on structural components (concrete, deflection of beam foundations)

A Model Home: There is sometimes a way to combine the best of both worlds – a newly constructed home whose construction you do not have to wait to be completed.  Builders who are creating new neighborhoods or subdivisions often build model homes to show prospective buyers of homes in the neighborhood what the completed homes will look like.  Frequently, it is inside one of these model homes that the builder will put its design center, which is the place buyers go to select the fixtures and finishes for the new home the builder is building for them.  When most of the neighborhood or subdivision has been completed, the builder will place these model homes on the market to be sold.  An advantage for those who purchase them is that the model homes usually contain the highest-end finishes available from the builder, as the builder uses the model homes to entice buyers to upgrade the finishes of their own homes.  While the design scheme may or may not line up completely with your taste, buying a model home can be a great way to get into a neighborhood you like with higher-end finishes than you might have chosen or afforded and yet at a price that fits your budget.

6.Moving Guide

Important Items to Consider Before You Move

When it comes to moving into your new home, organization and planning are the keys to a successful stress-free move.

Determine whether to Move Yourself or Hire Movers:  While it may seem as though the cost for professional movers makes moving yourself appealing, it’s important to fully analyze the differences between the two processes and determine which is best for you.  The more furniture and material you need to move, the longer it will take and the more logical it might be to hire professionals.  You can hold down the cost of a professional move by packing your household goods yourself.  Check trusted online resources such as Nextdoor, Yelp or Angie’s List for recommendations and ratings of moving companies and call at least three of them to get bids for your move.  There are often significant cost differences among moving companies so getting several bids will be worth your while.

If you decide to move yourself, remember to include in your cost analysis of doing so all of the cost components of your move — packing materials, boxes, truck rental, gas for the truck, parking fees, cart and hand truck rentals, disposing of the packing materials and pads and the cost of securing assistance from your friends and family members.

Whether you pack yourself or have professionals pack your possessions for you, accurately labeling boxes is key to a smoother unpacking process in your new home.  Label boxes with both the room from which their contents came as well as a few words regarding what their contacts are.  A box labeled “Kitchen – canned food” is much more useful than a box that is simply labeled “Kitchen.”  Accurate labeling will make it easy to find your dishes when the take-out food you order on the first night in your new home arrives.

Establish and label a few “Open First” boxes that contain things such as chargers for your electronics, health and beauty items, toothpaste, body wash, a few bath towels, a couple of changes of clothes, etc.  Fill these with things you will need or want within the first 48 hours after you arrive at your new home and you will save yourself from having to dig through many boxes looking for clean underwear or your electric toothbrush.

Always keep particularly valuable items – passports, currency, birth certificates, irreplaceable family photos – in your control.  If you will be driving to your new home, pack them in your own car and take them with you.  If you will be flying, be sure to take with you what you logically can, and always keep passports, identification, currency, medicine and birth certificates with you.

Budgeting For Your Move: Set up a moving schedule along with a moving budget. Stick to them both as much as possible, but it’s a good idea to have a bit of cash set aside for emergencies such as extra packing materials and any other unforeseen expenses.

Call Your Utility Companies: If you are moving locally, transfer the utilities between your old home and your new one, including cable, Internet, gas, water, electricity. If you’re moving out of the area, you’ll need to have contacted all of your new utility companies in advance of your move.  You’ll probably need to schedule the disconnections and reconnections at least a few weeks in advance to make sure they happen on your preferred dates.

Change Your Address: Fill out a change of address form with your post office so you’ll experience uninterrupted service. You can do this in person or online.

Common Mistakes When Moving: Research shows common moving mistakes such as:

  • Forgetting to notify service providers before the move
  • Failing to complete a change of address form
  • Not completing a property inspection
  • Not following the proper move-out procedures
  • Not obtaining insurance coverage on your new property

Generate quick cash by having a garage sale: Moving also provides another opportunity to make some quick cash by holding a garage sale of your unwanted items. As an alternative, you can donate items to a charity of your choice.  Be sure to keep receipts for these donations, as you may be able to deduct their value from your income taxes.

How Much Will A Move Cost? According to the American Moving and Storage Association, the average American family of four occupying an 1800 square foot house has approximately 7,400 pounds of household goods to move. The average cost of an interstate household move is about $4,300 (a distance of 1,225 miles) and the average cost of an intrastate move is about $2,300 (4 movers at $200 per hour).

Obtain and Retain Those Records: If you have children who will be changing schools when you move, request copies of their school records well before you move or have them transferred directly to their new schools. The same applies to your pets – ask your vet for their immunization and treatment records and maybe even a recommendation for a vet in your new home area.  If you are moving far enough from your current home that maintaining your medical, dental and orthodontic relationships will not be possible, obtain your medical and dental records before you move so that you can provide them to your new doctors, dentists and orthodontists.  If you or someone in your family regularly takes prescription medication, be certain that you have enough with you to see you through the amount of time that will pass before the next doctor’s appointment.  If you don’t already use a mail-order pharmacy, consider switching to one so that your prescription supply can continue uninterrupted by your move.

Moving Is The Perfect Opportunity To Purge Unwanted Items. In the words of organization guru Marie Condo, hold an item in your hand and ask: “does this spark joy? If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it. This is not only the simplest but also the most accurate yardstick by which to judge.” In other words, don’t lug around items during a move just because someone in your family gave them to you, unless they spark joy, of course.

Plan Days Off From Work: If you’re moving across town, you’ll need to take at least one day off work for your move. Two would be even better, as you can get settled in more before having to return to work.  If you’re moving a greater distance, you’ll likely need to arrange to take even more time away from work to do so.

Take Photos To Document Valuables: If you’ll be moving large furnishings or items of value, it’s a good idea to take photos showing their current conditions. You can make a detailed inventory list of these valuables including serial numbers, if applicable, appraisals and/or certificates.  Examples of such items include artwork, heirlooms, ceramics and antique or otherwise valuable furniture.

When Are You Moving? You’ll need to establish an exact date. If you’re relocating during peak season, hiring movers will cost you more, while weather conditions may need to be considered during winter.

Ask the Right Questions When Selecting a Moving Company

Ask family, friends and co-workers for solid, first-hand recommendations. The AMSA suggests obtaining three written in-home estimates before selecting your movers and to utilize movers within the ProMover program to ensure your move goes as smoothly as possible. Reputation is key within the moving industry and an immediate red flag scenario is if a mover asks for a large down payment to reserve their service or hold dates for your move.

According to the experts at Angie’s List, “the moving industry is plagued by rogue operators who will quote a low price and then demand much more before they’ll unload, it’s important to check out any company you’re considering trusting with your possessions. They go on to suggest checking out the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA), along with asking for your potential moving company’s US Department of Transportation registration number so that you can  review their complaint history at fmcsa.dot.gov

Professional movers who take pride in their work will be more than willing to answer any questions you may have such as:

  • How long has the mover been in business?
  • Ask for their registration number and check with the AMSA. Ask them directly how they’ve resolved complaints with past customers.
  • Is this mover part of the certified ProMover program? https://www.moving.org/home/find-a-promover/
  • How many years of experience does their moving crew have? Are they employed full time or part time? (Part time could suggest a lack of business or a high staff turnover)
  • What types of moving equipment will they be using? Ask about sharing their experience with a challenging move they experienced and how they faced the challenge.
  • Ask what services the mover is offering including assembly/disassembly of furniture; packing/unpacking; hoisting or temporary storage.
  • Ask what extras they will charge you for including large items, a carry fee if they can’t park close enough or an elevator fee if your new apartment building’s elevator isn’t functioning that day. Find out if you can reserve an elevator, if possible. Is there a cancellation or change fee? Do you need to pay a deposit? Tipping your professional movers at the end of the day isn’t necessarily expected, but use five to 10% as a guideline if you choose to do so.
  • What insurance options does the mover offer? Consider purchasing a full value protection policy, which protects the replacement value of any items that become lost or damaged.

Checklist for Your Move

  • Establish a moving date
  • Do it yourself or request quotes from movers
  • Research and then hire a mover
  • Set up a moving budget
  • Establish a moving timeline
  • Purge and donate items as you pack
  • Consider holding a garage sale
  • Consider packing as many items as possible yourself
  • Transfer utilities
  • Post office change of address
  • Obtain school, medical and veterinary records as applicable

7.Final Walkthrough Inspection

What is a Final Walkthrough Inspection?

Typically a day or so before you close on your new home, you’ll have an opportunity to conduct a final walkthrough inspection of your property after the seller has moved out and before you move in. This gives you the chance to ensure there aren’t any unexpected issues, to confirm the home is in the same condition as when you viewed it previously, and to verify any agreed-upon repairs have been completed.

If you find anything that’s in disarray such as lots of unwanted garbage you’ll have to deal with or terrible issues like broken water pipes, you’ll need to work with the seller in finding a mutually acceptable solution within the purchase contract. If you can’t come to a reasonable agreement, you can back out of the purchase or delay it until such problems have been resolved.

A final walkthrough inspection is your right as a buyer to help ensure you’re getting the best deal as promised and you aren’t being stuck with any issues that could end up costing you more money immediately or in the long run.

Take the final walkthrough Inspection seriously.  If you are buying an existing home you are buying the home as-is.  Once you close on the purchase of your existing home all cost of maintenance and repairs are your responsibility.  You might want to hire your own professional inspector to assure you there are no major repairs that you will face after closing.

If you are buying an existing home you may want to negotiate for the seller to pay for home warranty.

Final Walkthrough Inspection Indoor Checklist

Besides utilizing our checklist below, QuickenLoans suggests having your real estate agent conduct the final walkthrough inspection with you.

  • Appliances: Make sure the household appliances included in the sale are working correctly. Examine all ovens, stoves, dishwashers, fridge, washer/dryers, smoke detectors, ceiling fans, exhaust fans, garbage disposal etc. Did the seller leave the receipts, manuals and warranties for you?
  • Plumbing: Check all taps, sinks, and flush the toilets while checking for any leaks or issues. Ensure all drains are working and that hot water is available.
  • Heating/Cooling: Examine all the air conditioners, hot water tanks, duct heaters, heating services and thermostats, and light fixtures to ensure they’re in working order.
  • Windows and Doors: Ensure all doors and windows open, close, lock, and seal properly.  If the windows tilt in for cleaning their exterior, check the tilt-in feature to be certain that it works properly.
  • Walls and Floors: Check for any drywall holes or cracks, and water or mold damage.
  • Attached Fixtures: Are the lighting fixtures and window treatments (if they were included in the sale) still in place?
  • Check all rooms for any unwanted furniture or trash while ensuring the home has been recently cleaned.
  • Did the sellers provide you with a list of contractors they’ve used for work on the home?
  • Since you haven’t closed yet, ask if you can shut off the main water valve since the home is currently unoccupied.
  • Leave a light on and lock up your soon to be new home.

Final Walkthrough Inspection Outdoor Checklist

  • Windows and Doors: Make sure all windows and doors have weather-stripping. Examine trim and fittings for any cracks.
  • Landscaping: Check for any landscaping issues or damages.
  • Storage Shed: If there is a storage shed, is it in good working order?
  • Garage: If the home has a garage or garages, open and close every garage door to be certain that it functions properly.
  • Roofs/Gutters: Make sure the roof is in good shape with no missing shingles, holes, loose shingles, etc. Examine gutters to make sure they work correctly and that all the gutters, downspouts, and splash blocks are draining away from the home.
  • Foundation: Examine house foundations for any cracks or erosion issues. Do you see any signs of pests?
  • Look for general debris, disrepair or damages.
  • Check the mailbox.

8.New Construction Orientation

Scheduled prior to closing, a Homeowner Orientation is an introduction to your new home and all of its features. Plan to spend a few hours as you’re guided by your builder or their representative through your home room-by-room to inspect your new home as it nears construction completion.  If you have used a Realtor in your home buying process, it is a good idea to ask them to join you for this process. Realtors have likely seen many more homes than you have and your Realtor may spot things you might miss. You’ll be given the chance to ask questions, see the progress, and submit any concerns that may arise.

The homeowner orientation/pre-delivery walkthrough is designed to:

  • Confirm the personalized selections you made throughout your home
  • Give you a full demonstration of your home and its features
  • Let you inspect the home to ensure it’s built as per your requirements and is in the perfect expected condition
  • Review of all key points, maintenance details, and warranty coverage

Preparing For Your Orientation/Pre-delivery Walkthrough

Your orientation, also known as a pre-settlement inspection, is the chance for you to become well acquainted with your new home. It’s also your opportunity to make sure the home meets the quality standards you’re expecting and that the fixtures and finishes you ordered have been correctly installed.

During your orientation, you should take the time to inspect specific details that may need your attention. Since cosmetic surface damage can occur during construction, it will be noticeable during your orientation, but is generally quite fixable. However, it’s important to note and report to your builder any damage, cosmetic or otherwise, that you observe during the orientation walkthrough.

List everything that you observe that is not as it should be and provide that list to your builder, while keeping a copy for yourself.  It is a good idea for both of you to sign and date the list as evidence of when it was provided.  It is also a good idea to set an expected completion date for the items on the list and to note that on both copies as well.  In the building industry, this sort of list is known as a “punch list.”  Your builder is obligated to address the items on it and is likely to be eager to address and repair them to close the sale of your home.

Be aware that it is not uncommon for more minor items on the punch list (those not affecting habitability) to not be addressed until after you close.  Your builder’s responsibility to deliver a quality home does not end on the day your purchase of it occurs and your builder will work with you even after your closing to be certain that all of your follow-up items are addressed to your satisfaction.

Homeowner Orientation/Pre-delivery Walkthrough Checklist:

  • Driveway and Sidewalk Condition: Are they in good shape? Are there any cracks or pitting?
  • Roof Shingles: Are any missing or damaged?
  • Doors and Drawer Hardware: Check both interior and exterior.  Do they function smoothly? Do the locks work?
  • Exterior Siding: Is it in good condition with no cracks or breaks?
  • Gutters and Downspouts: Are the gutters level? Are the downspouts properly attached?
  • Landscaping and Irrigation: – Is what was supposed to be planted, what is in the ground? Are the plants, trees and lawn in good condition? Test the Irrigation. If there is an automatic timer is it set and working properly?
  • Exterior Lights: Do they work properly? If there is an automatic timer, is it set and working properly?
  • Security System/Cameras: Do they work properly?
  • Exterior paint: Are painted surfaces smooth with no runs, drips or missed spots? Are the colors correct?
  • Mailbox: If it is key-operated, does the key work?  Is the mailbox well set into the ground?
  • Interior Paint: Are painted surfaces smooth with no runs, drips or missed spots?  Are the colors correct?
  • Drywall: Is it in good condition with no gouges, scrapes or other damage?
  • Flooring: Is it the flooring you ordered? Is it in good condition with no scratches or other damage?
  • Railings and banisters: Are they securely affixed with no wobbles or looseness?
  • Windows: Open and close every window.  Do they all operate smoothly?  Do they lock easily?  If they tilt in for cleaning the window exterior, tilt every one in and be certain it functions correctly.  Do the windows all have screens?
  • Doors: Open and close all doors. Do they operate smoothly?  Do the locks work easily?
  • Plumbing: Turn on every faucet. Does each sink have hot and cold water?  Do the sinks drain as quickly as they should?  When you turn off the water, do any of the faucets drip?
  • Toilets: Flush every toilet.  Do they operate properly?  Do they refill as they should and does the water turn off after the tank has refilled?
  • Appliances: Are the finishes smooth and clean with no scratches or other damage?
  • Refrigerator/Freezer: Do they operate as they should?  Fridge to 36 degrees and freezer to 0?
  • Washer/Dryer: Run the washer through a complete cycle – did it fill and drain properly?  Does the dryer get hot as it should? Does the drum turn as it should?
  • Dishwasher: Run through a complete cycle. Does it work properly?  No leaks?
  • Garbage Disposal: Does it function as it should?
  • Oven: Bring a small oven thermometer with you (available at any hardware or kitchen supply store) to check that the temperature to which you set the oven is the temperature at which it operates.
  • Stove: Do all of the burners operate properly?  Does the exhaust fan operate properly?
  • Heating and Air Conditioning: Test the system to be sure that it turns on when it should and produces warm or cold air as required.
  • Heated floors: (if applicable) Turn them on to be sure that the entire floor surface warms as it should.
  • Lights and Light Fixtures: Turn on every light in each room to be certain that they all work, they all have light bulbs and that the fixtures are not damaged in any way.
  • Electrical Outlets: Bring a small electrical device with you.  Plug it into every outlet in the house to check that each outlet is functioning properly.
  • GFI Electrical Outlets: Press the “Test” button to be certain that these outlets turn off as they should, then the “Reset” button to be certain that they again function once reset.
  • Countertops and Cabinets in the Kitchen and Bath: Are they free of chips, nicks or scratches?  Is all the cabinet hardware firmly affixed?  Do the doors open and close easily and do they align when they are closed?
  • Circuit Breakers: Are they labeled in the panel box?  Test them to be sure that the labels are accurate.

This is not a complete list of everything that you should review when you walk through your new home.  It is intended to get you started and to identify the most common areas in which something that needs to go on your punch list might be found.

If your new home is still under construction at the time of your walk-through you may need to attend a safety meeting before doing your orientation, and/or may be required to wear safety gear supplied by the builders. If you have small children, you’re encouraged to leave them with a family member or sitter during the orientation for their safety.

9.How to Navigate the Closing Process

Prepare for Your Closing. What to bring?

Before closing on your home, you will want to be certain that you have fulfilled all of the responsibilities you have as part of the loan closing process. 

Closing Items Checklist:

  • Guaranteed funds for the remainder of your down payment and closing costs
  • The sales contract (which you or your realtor will likely have provided to the closing or escrow agent in advance of the closing)
  • Proof of homeowner’s insurance (which you will likely also have provided to your lender in advance of the closing)

At the time of your closing  you will also need to bring:

  • Government-issued photo identification

Guaranteed Funds: This includes obtaining and providing verified funds for the amount of the home purchase that you are not financing as well as to cover all of your closing costs.  The amount of money that you are providing from your own funds is otherwise known as the down payment.  If you are putting $20,000 down to purchase your new home, you will need to provide those funds to the closing or escrow agent in a guaranteed format.  Guaranteed funds formats include certified checks (a check written on your account that is certified by your bank with a stamp or seal indicating that the funds to cover it are on hold in your account), cashier’s checks (a check issued by your bank using funds that were withdrawn from your account by your bank — cashier’s checks are as good as cash) or wired funds. You are responsible for providing these funds to the closing or escrow agent in advance of the loan closing.  If using a certified or cashier’s check, you can bring it with you to the closing, but you will want to check with the closing or escrow agent to find out to whom the check should be made payable.

What are closing costs? What are referred to as closing costs include fees paid by the buyer of a home for title insurance, taxes, stamps, recording fees, homeowners association processing (if the property is subject to an HOA), condominium association processing (if the home is a condominium), wire fees, attorney and notary fees and other similar charges.  Additionally, if you are going to establish impound accounts for your lender to use to pay your property taxes, homeowner’s insurance premiums, condo and homeowners association dues, etc., you’ll need to provide funds at closing to establish those accounts and place them into to ensure that the accounts will contain the amounts needed to pay those fees when they are next due.  In addition, the law permits your lender to keep a “cushion” of two months’ worth of these charges in your accounts at all times so your closing costs will include the funds necessary to establish this cushion.  Somewhat confusingly, these accounts and payments are frequently called “escrows,” which is a term also used to describe a type of real estate closing process, as you’ll see in a few pages.  If you are going to pay your real estate taxes, association fees and homeowner’s insurance premiums directly, then these amounts will not be part of your closing costs.  Closing costs can vary widely by state and even within a state, so pay attention to the Loan Estimate that your lender provided to you during your loan application and approval process.  It will contain the best available estimate of what these costs will be when you close your loan.   

Homeowners Insurance: Your lender will require you to obtain homeowner’s insurance before you are permitted to close your loan.  The policy will go into effect from the day on which you close your loan, and therefore must be obtained by you prior to your loan closing.  Homeowner’s or hazard insurance is insurance that provides you with coverage for damage to your property from what are called in the policy “named perils.”  Named perils include wind, tornado, fire, water damage from inside the home (burst or leaking pipe), falling trees, etc.  Your homeowner’s insurance will also provide you with coverage if someone is injured while on your property.  Additionally, your lender may require that you obtain specific insurance for other types of perils that are not covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy.  These could include fire, flood, hurricane, lava, etc. if your home is in a known area at risk for fires, flooding hurricanes or volcanic flow.  Your lender will require that they be named as a “loss payee” on the policy.  This simply means that in the event of a claim, when your insurance company sends funds to pay for the needed repairs, those funds will be made payable both to you and to your lender.  In this way, the lender knows that the funds will be used to actually perform the repair and that their loan collateral (your house) will be repaired to its pre-claim condition.  

The Closing Process and Documents

Depending upon the state in which your home is located, your closing will take place with either a closing or an escrow agent and will usually take place in their office.  The process is largely the same in both instances, but the timing of events differs.  If your property is located in the western or southwestern United States, you will likely have what is referred to as a “dry” closing and it will take place with an escrow agent.  If your property is elsewhere in the country, you will have a “wet” closing and it will take place with a closing agent, who in many states is also a title agent and/or an attorney.  In both cases, all of the documents required to purchase your home and close on your loan will be provided by the closing or escrow agent and they will guide you through the process of executing all of the required documents and transferring any required funds.  

So what is the difference between a wet and a dry closing?  At a wet closing, all of the necessary activity regarding the closing of your loan and the transfer to you of your new property will occur at one time and on one day.  After signing all of the required documents, you will leave the closing with the keys to your new home.  You’re free to begin moving into it whenever you’d like.  At a dry closing, you will sign all of the required documents to transfer ownership and secure your loan, but you will then leave the escrow agent’s office and you will not receive the keys to your new home for a couple of days.  This is because at a dry closing, the funds required to purchase the home from the seller — the funds you are borrowing from the lender — are not disbursed until the mortgage is recorded in the public records.  Once that occurs, funds are disbursed and keys are exchanged.  Dry closings are so-called because the ink on the documents is “dry” before the funds are disbursed.  In a wet closing, the funds are disbursed and keys exchanged while the ink on the documents is still “wet.”  

During the closing process of your house, you will be provided with a number of documents and asked to sign and initial some of them. 

Among the common documents at a real estate closing are:

  • Special Warranty Deed: This special warranty deed conveys the lot and home to you, subject to permitted exceptions. This will not apply if you already own the lot in question.
  • Professional Builders Limited Warranty: (if buying a newly constructed home) You will be provided with a copy of the limited warranty in your homeowner’s manual for your personal review. It is important to review it before the closing.
  • Title Commitment: Before or at the time of closing, you will be given a standard form for an Affiliated Land Title Association (ALTA) owner’s title insurance commitment, which helps to ensure the salable title of the home to you without any liens or easements on the property. Review the Title Commitment carefully.
  • Promissory Note: The promissory note is the contract between you and the lender that documents the terms under which you borrowed the funds to purchase your home.  These terms include the duration of your loan, the rate of interest you will pay, the monthly due date of your payments, amount of your payments, penalty for late payments and other items specific to your transaction.  
  • Deed of Trust or Mortgage: This document pledges your home to your lender as the security for repayment of the promissory note. Whether you sign a deed of trust or a mortgage is dependent upon the laws of the state in which the property is located.  Differences between them are minor and technical, and both documents perform the same role.  
  • Closing Disclosure: This identifies all the monetary flows that are  associated with your transaction and documents what funds you need to bring to your closing. Your lender will provide you with a copy of this document at least 3 days before your scheduled closing date.  
  • Escrow or Impound Disclosure: If you are going to have your lender manage the payment of your property taxes, homeowner’s insurance bills and condominium or homeowner’s association dues, this document details the monthly property-related expenses you’ll be paying into your impound account to cover them.
  • Transfer Tax Declaration: if applicable as per your state

10.You Now Own a Home, What’s Next?

Congratulations on your new home! Now that you’ve successfully navigated through the world of purchasing a new home, you’ll need to store and retain for easy access all of the information you were provided during the purchase and the closing as well as other documentation important to your life in your new home.

Important Documents to Store Checklist

Some of the data and documents you need to securely store and have quick to access are:

  • 4-Point Inspection
  • Animal Liability Insurance
  • County Property Report
  • Disaster Preparedness Guide
  • Elevation Certificate
  • Flood Insurance Policy
  • Flood Map FEMA
  • HOA/POA
  • Homeowner Insurance
  • Homeowner Insurance Policy
  • Limited Liability Insurance
  • Photographs: Insurance
  • Receipts: Insurance
  • Sinkhole Insurance
  • Site Survey
  • Title Insurance
  • Wind Mitigation Report

let’s see how DomiDocs can help! Partnering with DomiDocs will enable you to securely store your home’s important legal documents, schedule regular home maintenance with reminders, and keep an ongoing list of reliable contractors handy. Check out the Document Bundle features of DomiDocs where it’s easy to catalog all of your important household documents for yourself, insurance agents, prospective buyers and more.

The Importance of Staying Organized with Homeownership

It’s estimated that 1 in 4 Americans have lost or misplaced homeowner documents, and 40% of Americans can’t find a specific document when needed.

Secure online storage is today’s standard when it comes to disaster proofing your household documents. DomiDocs will take you into the digital-first generation with its comprehensive and secure cloud-based document management software system where you’ll have immediate 24/7 access to your vital household documents.

You’ll have peace of mind in knowing your documents are organized, ready to go, and more importantly safe. You can retrieve all of your information at your fingertips no matter your current circumstances or location. Instead, you can be presentless stressed, and focused on your family’s immediate needs, which can include food, shelter, and safety basics. This simple planning step can help speed up the overall recovery process for everyone involved.

Plus, this digital safe deposit box of information will be accessible throughout your property-owning years. You can update documents in real-time with a few simple clicks, and store all of your manuals and warranties for quick access.

Staying Organized Checklist

Whether you choose to remain in your home for a lifetime or sell at some time in the future, your home is your biggest investment so it’s important to maintain it to the best of your ability. Here’s what you need to do as a homeowner:

  • Consistent monitoring of your home for structural or water damage
  • Emergency repairs as necessary
  • Have a disaster preparedness plan in place.
  • Keep on top of household expenses, and utility payments
  • Keep on top of interior and exterior maintenance, including landscaping necessities
  • Know when your property insurance and taxes are due
  • Know when your warranties may expire
  • Regularly inspect the plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems
  • Schedule regular seasonal maintenance for yourself or a service provider

Helpful Tips for Successful Homeownership

Take Advantage Of The Government Renewable Energy Tax Credit Program. You can earn a tax credit of up to 30% (depending on when the service was placed in your home) for purchasing items such as geothermal heat pumps, small wind turbines, solar energy systems or fuel cells for your home. The current renewable energy tax credit program expires on December 31. 2021.  Before purchasing any such items, be sure to check with a tax professional to determine whether you can take advantage of these tax credits.

Seek Professional Tax Advice, At Least Once. Experts suggest having your taxes professionally done for at least the first year of your new homeownership as “homeownership significantly changes most people’s tax situations and the deductions they are eligible to claim.” An accountant will ensure your tax return is completed correctly while maximizing any potential for a refund. If you choose to do your own tax returns after the first year, you’ll then have an example to follow for the future.

Stay Organized. Utilize the notes feature of DomiDocs to keep track of whatever may arise within your homeownership such as a to buy or a to-do list. You can also upload your home improvement receipts as having documented proof of upgrades and renovations will help to increase your home’s value if you decide to sell in the future

How to Take Care of Your Home in the Right Way

As a new homeowner, you’ll no doubt feel pride in taking care of your new home. This includes everything from clearing the daily clutter to undertaking regular maintenance. It’s easy to set a routine within DomiDocs where you’ll be reminded of monthly and annual maintenance tasks, property tax and insurance due dates, expiring warranties and more.

Considering a Renovation? If you intend to take on a major renovation on your home such as adding a deck or a garage, check to see what building permits you’ll require well in advance of starting the project. Upload your receipts and permits into DomiDocs to keep everything readily accessible.

Do It Yourself Or Contract It Out Home Repairs? If you’re faced with an unexpected home repair, it pays to know your limitations as a handyman. Even with the best of intentions and research, it’s easy for a seemingly simple project to go sideways. If that’s the case, swallow your pride and call in a pro to finish the job so it’s done right. How much will that cost? Here’s an estimated cost of what you can expect to pay when outsourcing:

  • Arborist $150/hour
  • Bathroom re-caulking $50/hour
  • Buying a cord of split and seasoned wood $120 – $400
  • Checking and fixing door locks $96 – $210
  • Chimney cleaning $100 to $250
  • Cleaning gutters/downspouts $85 – $300
  • Cleaning of decks and patios $551 – $1,209
  • Cleaning out the dryer vent $95 – $163
  • Closing your pool for winter $150 – $300 (more if the pool needs to be drained for the winter)
  • Concrete sidewalk repair $904 – $3,150
  • De-icing of walkways $52 – $183
  • General gardening/lawn care $50 – $223 per visit
  • Gutter cleaning $85 – $300
  • House cleaning from top to bottom $200 – $300
  • Leaf removal $50 – $233
  • Painters $1,683 – $3,919 depending on what’s being painted
  • Pest control $83 – $214
  • Planting perennials $325 – $5,000+ depending on your requirements
  • Prepping your lawn for summer $136 variable on requirements
  • Prepping your pool for summer $300 – $600
  • Sealing of sidewalk and driveway cracks $904 – $3,150
  • Sealing up the house (weather-stripping/caulking/installing storm windows) $169 – $523
  • Sump pump inspection $117 – $235

Think Like A Future Buyer. While it may seem strange to think of, think like the potential future buyer of your home. Will they notice those drywall imperfections? Will they want to see receipts to show what you really paid for those upgraded kitchen cabinets? If you proceed to care for your home as if you’re going to sell, it shifts the way you’ll think about the entire homeowner process in general. You’ll be more apt to keep on top of things while knowing the upkeep of your home today will provide the best value tomorrow.

Helpful Tips Checklist

  • Conduct regular home maintenance
  • Have your taxes professionally done
  • Renewable energy tax credit program
  • Think like a potential future buyer of your home
  • Upload all home improvement receipts and keep notes in DomiDocs

Home Safety Tips Checklist

How to Keep Your Family Safe

Everyday Safety. Keeping your family safe at home starts with day-to-day rules for everyone to follow within the household. This can include things like never unlocking or opening the front door without knowing who it is first, to never leaving items of value strewn about on the front lawn.

Fire Safety. Hold a regular fire drill so you and your family know how to safely leave the home in case of an emergency. If you have a multi-level house and there are bedrooms on the upper floors, consider purchasing emergency rope ladders to keep in each closet. Establish an emergency family gathering place outside of your home. It could be across the street or at neighbors.

The American Red Cross reports that home fires are 90% of the disasters they respond to. Establishing an out-of-home meeting place and regularly practiced fire escape plan are vital to keeping you and your family safe.

Install a Smart Home Device. A video doorbell or a complete home security system will provide additional peace of mind for both you and your family. Be sure to utilize the stickers provided by the alarm, as these seemingly simple signs will help to deter any potential burglars. Wireless door/window sensors can easily be installed and controlled through your smartphone; if any activity is detected, the app will alert you by text message. Not sure if you locked the garage door? The app can do that for you as well.

Are You Going On Vacation? If you won’t be occupying your home for a period of time, it’s important to establish a plan so it appears you’re still at home. This can include having a neighbor pick up your mail and water your plants, to setting timers for lights in different rooms throughout your house.

Home Safety Maintenance Tips

General:

  • Install a home security system or exterior motion detectors
  • Patio doors can easily be wiggled and jiggled to obtain entrance. Secure yours by inserting a metal rod or piece of wood cut to fit inside the door track of the bottom slide
  • Keeping physical copies of your important household documents in a safe is old school. For better security, upload them to the DomiDocs secure, cloud-based platform
  • Always keep the garage door closed and the exterior doors locked at all times
  • If you’ll be away, create the illusion that you’re still home: stop your mail delivery, have a neighbor put out the garbage, set a time so your lights come on and go off regularly
  • Don’t hide a spare house key under a plant, just don’t. If you really need to do so, leave an extra key with a trusted neighbor or friend nearby
  • Ensure you have a non-expired fire extinguisher in the kitchen, garage, and on each floor of your house
  • Keep a first aid kit on hand
  • Falls are a particularly alarming source of potential injury in a home. A window screen is not a barrier and won’t prevent someone from falling through an open window; never allow your kids to push or place weight on a window screen – don’t place furniture near the windows to allow easier access for a child. Here are some alarming statistics from Stanford Children’s Health:

Fall Statistics: The National SAFE KIDS Campaign:

  • It’s estimated over 2.2 million kids ages 14 and under are treated yearly in the ER for fall-related injuries
  • Falls kill an average of 100 children ages 14 and under annually
  • Over half of fall-related injuries in kids occur with ages 4 and under
  • Approximately 12 kids ages 10 and under die yearly from falling windows
  • An estimated 4,000 children ages 10 and under require ER treatment annually for window fall-related injuries
  • Infants are more likely to fall from baby walkers, furniture, and stairs
  • Toddlers are most likely to fall from playground equipment and windows

Home Safety Checklist

  • Install a smart home device or a security system
  • Check to ensure locks on your patio doors, garage door and windows are in working order
  • Leave a spare key with someone you trust.
  • Ensure your house number is unobstructed.
  • Establish a vacant home plan if you’ll be away.
  • Change the batteries in your radon gas, carbon monoxide, and smoke detectors.
  • Check the expiration dates of your fire extinguishers; at minimum, you should have one in the kitchen, garage, on each floor of your home.
  • Conduct a regular fire drill.
  • Upload your important household documents into the DomiDocs secure, cloud-based platform

11.Warranties

Warranty coverage can be somewhat confusing for new homeowners so it’s important to ask any questions you may have. If you purchased a new home, your limited warranty may include a standard one-year workmanship and material coverage. If you’re purchasing a warranty for an existing home, you’ll need to establish whether the policy will cover pre-existing conditions, and if a home inspection is required by the warranty issuer prior to your purchasing the warranty.

It’s a fact that 99% of new homebuyers would prefer a digital platform to manage their new home. DomiDocs offers everything you’ll need to keep your home running smoothly and in the best possible shape. The Warranty Documents feature will allow you to organize and safely store all of your house related warranties to create a reliable and secure system of record for you as a proud homeowner.

Importance of Your Warranties

If an item within your home needs to be repaired or replaced, and it’s covered by warranty, you’ll need to contact the specific provider so they can come to your home to inspect and evaluate the problem. You may or may not need to pay a service fee depending on your warranty contract, but the vendor will complete the work either way.

It’s important to keep on top of your warranties and know when they’re going to expire. If you’ve had issues with your dishwasher for a period of time, you don’t want to wait only to find out your warranty expired a week before you decided to file a claim.

DomiDocs will generate your digital property profile along with a preloaded calendar to keep track of any upcoming warranty expirations so you can obtain any repairs beforehand. Keeping all of your home items in good working order increases the overall value of your property and provides the best use of your warranty coverage.

Warranty Service Requests

Appliance Warranties: The manufacturers of your household appliances will work with you in the event you need to have repairs done. Contact the appliance manufacturer with your appliance model and serial number, closing date, and report the problem you are having. Be sure that you have your purchase receipts on hand – they should have been provided to you by your builder if your house was new when you bought it.  If it was not, the seller may or may not have provided them to you. Warranty service phone numbers will be listed in the materials provided to you for each appliance. Generally, appliance warranties are valid for one year.

Home Warranties: A home warranty can be a very appealing prospect if you’re concerned about any repair expenses in the future. Generally, they’ll cost up to $500 and can include items of value such as appliances, electrical, plumbing, water heaters and HVAC systems.

Emergencies: Emergencies include situations like a total loss of heat, electricity, or water or plumbing   and gas leaks. To report emergencies, contact your local utility immediately.

Non-Emergencies: Contact your local utility as per their instructions.

Storm Damage or Other Natural Disasters: Contact your homeowner’s insurance agent immediately for assistance.

12.Maintaining Your New Home

When your home was built, it was constructed as a permanent shelter meant to last for generations.  Like all things, however, your home needs regular upkeep and maintenance to maximize its durability and appeal over time.

Home contractors work hard to ensure your new home provides long-lasting value. In turn, as a homeowner, you’ll need to perform regular maintenance throughout your home to maintain its longevity. Maintenance needs can arise from construction materials, appliances and systems reaching the end of their useful life spans, seasonal tasks throughout your home, and just through normal day-to-day wear and tear.

As with anything in life, planning, organization and being proactive will help to keep you ahead of the curve. If you consistently perform regular maintenance in your home, you’re less likely to be faced with a major, unexpected and expensive repair down the road. Keeping your home in the best condition possible helps to protect the investment you’ve made in it for years to come.

The Maintenance feature of DomiDocs will help keep your property up-to-date and can increase your TrueValueIndex (TVI) over time by providing ongoing AI-generated recommendations based on your personalized data. What types of things do you need to maintain in your new home? Everything from top to bottom, in and around your home.

Maintenance Guidelines

As a homeowner, it’s important to:

  • Complete proper appliance care
  • Complete proper utility maintenance
  • Establish an easily accessible list of emergency contact numbers
  • Follow a regular schedule of home maintenance
  • Repair any items as soon as there’s an issue
  • Report warranty items

Septic system: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends inspecting the mechanical workings of your septic system once a year and having the system pumped out every three to five years.

HVAC system: Changing filters is one of the most important things you can do to keep your HVAC system in  good working order. The Department of Energy recommends having your HVAC system serviced by a professional once a year.

Boiler/Hot Water Tank: the U.S. Boiler Company recommends having your hot water tank/boiler serviced annually. What’s the difference? A boiler generates and distributes hot water throughout your home as part of a radiant heating system. A hot water tank produces hot water for direct use in cooking, showers, etc.

Homeowner Toolbox

Basic tools are a requirement when you own a home, as you’ll need them to perform routine maintenance. You’ll need to acquire tools such as:

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Assorted nails
  • Assorted screwdrivers
  • Battery-operated flashlight for emergencies (in case you can’t charge your phone)
  • Caulk/caulking gun
  • Claw hammer
  • Handsaw
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Paint roller/brush
  • Pliers
  • Power drill/bits
  • Putty knife
  • Safety glasses
  • Sandpaper
  • Screws
  • Tape measure
  • Toilet plunger
  • Utility knife
  • Work gloves

The Importance of Keeping a Handyman List

Who You Gonna Call? There’s nothing like having an unexpected emergency within your home. It could be as simple as a broken down appliance or a catastrophic hole in your roof from hurricane-force winds. In that moment of extreme stress and panic, you’ll be happy you took the time to compile a handyman list you can rely on.

What Exactly Does A Handyman Do? While there isn’t a national standard, handymen can perform a variety of household repairs in categories such as painting, minor plumbing or roofing. Instead of hiring three individual contractors to perform each task, you can hire one handyman who will complete it all at once for an hourly rate plus the cost of materials. Pro Tip: if the proposed handyman job requires obtaining a permit, or moving electrical wiring or plumbing, consider seeking the services of a professional contractor instead of trying a DIY.

How Do You Find A Reputable Handyman? Ask your family, friends and coworkers for trusted recommendations. Ask the previous homeowners, if applicable, who their favorite handyman is. You can research a handyman online to check the quality and quantity of reviews given, or you can check them out on Angie’s List. If a handyman asks for money upfront or just shows up at your home and is willing to work, it’s a huge red flag this person may not be reputable.

What You’ll Need From Your Handyman. Ask for a written estimate and a timeline as to when the work will be completed, including specific start/end times for days to be worked. Do they offer a written guarantee for their work? Some handymen will offer a work guarantee of up to one year. Once the work is completed, make sure you inspect the process before making any type of payment.

Handyman Services You Will Need

  • A general handyman can work on the following projects for you:
  • Caulking
  • Drywall patching
  • Deck/porch repairs
  • Gutter maintenance
  • Hanging wall items and window treatments
  • Home exterior issues
  • Installing light fixtures
  • Minor plumbing work
  • Painting/touch-ups

Hiring a Handyman Checklist

  • Ask for recommendations and compile a handyman list.
  • Is the job too big for a handyman?
  • Obtain a written estimate and a timeline for work completion.
  • Do they offer a work guarantee?
  • Inspect their work before payment.

The First 60 Days

Within the first 60 days of loving your new domain, there are a number of important tasks you should complete, both inside and outside of your new home.

Interior:

Conduct a walkthrough of your home noting where the water shut-off valves are located. This includes your fridge, kitchen sink, laundry room, plus all bathroom sinks and toilets. If you have low-flow toilets, water valves are usually a push/pull type. Feel free to label any valve locations if this will help when an emergency arises.

Check to make sure all carbon monoxide, radon gas and smoke detectors are in working order. Why? Let’s look at some of the alarming fire statistics:

  • 15,000 Americans are treated annually for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, and approximately 500 will die, according to Harvard Health Publishing, as part of Harvard Medical School.
  • According to the National Cancer Institute, scientists have estimated from 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths in America are directly related to radon gas exposure.
  • The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says that “most fire deaths are not caused by burns, but by smoke inhalation. Often smoke incapacitates so quickly that people are overcome and can’t make it to an otherwise accessible exit. The synthetic materials commonplace in today’s home produce especially dangerous substances.” The NFPA goes on to state “almost three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (40%) or no smoke alarms that were working (17%).”
  • According to the National Cancer Institute, scientists have estimated from 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths in America are directly related to radon gas exposure.
  • The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says that “most fire deaths are not caused by burns, but by smoke inhalation. Often smoke incapacitates so quickly that people are overcome and can’t make it to an otherwise accessible exit. The synthetic materials commonplace in today’s home produce especially dangerous substances.” The NFPA goes on to state “almost three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (40%) or no smoke alarms that were working (17%).”

If your home has ground fault circuit (GFCI) outlets, standard in many geographic locations susceptible to moisture, you’ll need to check them using the ‘test’ button on the outlet.  You should also ’test’ the breaker on the GFCI electrical sub-panel. Labeling breakers in your electrical box can save a lot of frustration if you lose power to a specific area of your home, as it’ll be simpler to diagnose the location of the problem. Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCI) may also be required depending on local regulations. ARCI are generally installed to provide electricity to bedrooms, where if any arcing occurs, the ARCI will trip immediately to cut power to that specific circuit.

As you’ll never want to find yourself without air conditioning on an unexpectedly hot day, or without heat when a winter storm sets in, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system of your home needs to be regularly maintained so it performs optimally. The air filters will need to be changed monthly depending on your home’s HVAC usage. You’ll also want to make sure your HVAC system has been registered with the manufacturer within 90 days of closing on your new home as some companies provide additional warranty years on parts coverage; this also means you’ll be updated if any manufacturing issues occur with your specific unit.

Drywall within your home is another component that needs to be maintained. If damage or a crack appears, it’s best to make repairs as soon as they occur.

Besides ensuring your HVAC system is registered, take the time to register each appliance within your home (if not registered previously) including your fridge, stove, washer/dryer and dishwasher. Check the air filters and replace or clean them as needed.

Know the location of, and how to shut off your hot water heater. Generally, an upright position of the handle means the water is on; adjusting to a t-position shuts the water off. You’ll also need to know where your main water line is and how to turn it off.

If you have ceramic tile flooring or countertops in your home, consider applying a grout sealer to protect the grout from spills and stains.

Add furniture protectors underneath furniture legs to help protect your floors.

Exterior:

One of the first things you should do to ensure the safety of you and your family is to change the exterior door locks and make some spare keys. Consider leaving a copy with a trusted friend or neighbor in case of emergency.

Stucco repairs are similar to drywall repairs in that they should be taken care of sooner rather than later. If you don’t, a small un-repaired crack could become a much more costly issue as time goes on.

Know the location of your water main shut-off valve. An upright position of the handle ensures water is flowing freely, while turning the handle to a t-position cuts off the flow.

Know the locations of your main electrical panel (usually found with your power meter) and sub-panel in your garage, if applicable. If the sub-panel is GFCI, test using the purple button.

Locate the exterior condensate line, which could be near your HVAC unit or sometimes on the opposite side of your house, to ensure it’s not clogged or otherwise damaged. Regular maintenance using vinegar (above) helps to keep the line clear and mildew free.

Inspect your concrete for cracks, which generally occur due to stress created by the water content before completely hardening, especially in hotter weather. Cracks can also be caused by heaving, from landscaping roots to freeze/thaw cycles, or by settling, expansion, or overloading the concrete. Smaller cracks can be repaired using mortar mixes, latex patching material or epoxy compounds.

Check to make sure your irrigation system is working as desired including the timer and all pop-up heads.

Why Each is Important

Changing the locks to your new home ensures your family’s safety.

Water damage from an appliance or burst pipe can create a huge repair headache. If a toilet is overflowing, you need to know how to shut off the water source as quickly as possible. The same applies to the main water valve in your home.

Locating and regularly testing your GFCI outlets and breaker panels ensures your electrical system is in working order.

Regular HVAC maintenance ensures the temperature of your home will remain comfortable year-round. Registering your unit could provide extra years of warranty parts coverage. Changing system filters regularly will help to reduce your home’s energy consumption anywhere from 5 to 15%, according to the Department of Energy.

If your home has an irrigation system, regular maintenance of it will help keep your lawn and landscaping looking great. It’s better to find out that one pop-up head is damaged and easy to replace, than to discover an entire section that hasn’t been working in weeks. If your home is in a part of the country that experiences freezing weather in winter, you’ll want to have your irrigation system professionally shut down in the fall so that you have no risk of underground pipes freezing over the winter.  Professionals will turn off the water supply to your system and blow compressed air throughout it to be certain that there is no water left in the pipes over the winter.

Registering your appliances (if not already registered) will ensure warranty coverage is maintained and that you’ll be notified in the case of a recall or other considerations.

Ongoing concrete maintenance is necessary to avoid a larger expense in the future, but if you have concrete that requires substantial repair, consider calling in a professional for an estimate.

First 60 Days Checklist

  • Appliance registration
  • HVAC registration
  • Apply a grout sealer to any ceramic tiles
  • Attach furniture protectors on chairs, sofas, etc.
  • Change the exterior locks; make spare keys
  • Check for cracks in your concrete
  • Check your irrigation system including pop-up heads and the timer.
  • Drywall repair of any nicks, scratches or gouges
  • Fire extinguishers – obtain and/or test
  • First aid kit
  • HVAC maintenance: Change filters as recommended and schedule an annual inspection with an HVAC contractor
  • Learn the locations of your water and natural gas shut-off valves, both exterior and interior
  • Stucco care – repair/seal any cracks
  • Test your smoke, radon gas and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they’re working properly.
  • Test your GFCI outlets to be sure that the outlets turn off when you press the “Test” button and restart when you press the “Reset” button.  Test your electrical panel to be certain that when you turn a circuit breaker off, the electrical power supply is disconnected to the lights, appliances and outlets associated with that breaker.
  • Test all of the circuit breakers in your panel to determine what lights, appliances and/or outlets each controls.  Accurately label your electrical panel so that you will know in the future which circuit breaker controls what and will be easily able to identify which breaker to turn off should you need to do so.

The First 90 Days

Knowledge is Power. Within the first 90 days, you should read through your home warranty manual. While this may seem like a mundane task, it’s important to know what coverage applies to your home.

Save money while reducing your carbon footprint. To reduce your home’s energy consumption, it’s a great idea to:

  • Check out the insulation in your unfinished attic if you have one. The Department of Energy offers information on insulation including types of insulation commercially available, R-values (thermal resistance where higher numbers are best), and where to add extra insulation to your home.
  • Check the temperature of your hot water tank and adjust it to 120°F.
  • Wrap an insulating blanket over your hot water tank if it’s older and/or over any exposed water pipes. The U.S. Boiler Company recommends having your boiler serviced by a professional contractor annually to help extend its overall service life.
  • For energy efficiency, swap out incandescent light bulbs for Light-Emitting Diode (LED) lights, especially in high-use areas such as the kitchen or living area. If a low use light bulb tends to get left on frequently because someone forgets to shut it off, consider replacing that one as well.  Contact your electric company to see if they have programs through which they provide discounted or free replacement bulbs if you switch from incandescent to LED lighting.

Be Prepared.

  • Establish an emergency contact list of trusted contractors and service providers.  Maintain it electronically so that you can easily access it when you most need it.
  • Establish a checklist of scheduled household maintenance to be performed and stick to it.  Maintain it electronically so that you can easily add reminders to it to be sure that you don’t miss or forget to perform a recommended maintenance action.
  • Get ready for the seasons to come: purchase a lawnmower and general gardening tools, or shovels and a snowblower in anticipation of winter. If gardening and shoveling are not for you, look into hiring a contractor to perform these tasks for you.  Ask neighbors who they use and if they recommend them. Check local resources for reputable lawn service, landscaping and snow clearance companies.

Connect with your new community. Take some time for yourself and your family and explore your new neighborhood – visit the local parks, join a yoga studio, attend an art class, volunteer with a community organization, or get involved with a sports team or recreation league. Building community connections helps everyone in your family make that transition from buying a house to having a home.

Why Each is Important

If something goes wrong with your home, you need to have your home warranty manual to know what coverage may apply to you.

By taking on some relatively simple energy-saving tasks now, you’ll be able to reduce your consumption and increase savings on your home.

If an emergency situation arises or there’s something that’s definitely beyond your repair capabilities, or, like plumbing or electrical work which requires the skills of a licensed contractor, one of the best feelings is to know you’ve got a list of reliable and trustworthy people to help you out. Ask your friends and family for recommendations of contractors and service providers.

It’s also an accomplishment if you can keep track of any home maintenance that is upcoming. The easiest way to do so is by utilizing the Maintenance feature of DomiDocs so you’ll be notified of what you need to do and when, which keeps your property up-to-date and increases your TrueValueIndex (TVI) over time.

First 90 Days Checklist

  • Create an emergency contact list of trusted service providers and contractors within the customizable DomiDocs Service Provider Directory.
  • Get ready for the upcoming seasons: think lawnmower, leaf blower, snowblower or all of them.
  • Reduce energy consumption by checking your hot water tank and home insulation.
  • Read through your home warranty manual.

The First 120 Days

Family Safety. While changing your locks within the first 30 days of owning your new home is the first thing you should do, there are additional steps you can take to provide security for you and your family.  Now is a good time to consider installing a home security system and/or a video doorbell with remote app access via your smartphone.

Keep On Top Of Your General Expenses. It’s exciting to be a new homeowner, but Karen Hoskins of NeighborWorks America cautions new homeowners to “be careful and wait several months before taking on any additional debt, until you become comfortable with that new mortgage payment. It’s important to get used to new expenses before adding any additional  ones.” Pace yourself and try not to get too caught up in furnishing your new home completely in the first few months, nor to make major changes without really taking the time to think about what you want, and what’s best for you and your family.

Planning is Key. In the event of an unforeseen natural disaster, you need to have a plan. Anything from a strong thunderstorm to a blizzard, tornado, hurricane house fire or wildfire can have a huge impact on your home and your family.  With thoughtful planning, you can make sure that your family is prepared to meet the challenge that any disaster can bring.  Planning includes everything from how to exit your home in an emergency, making certain everyone in your family knows the location of your gas, electric and water shutoffs to having a physical place outside your home to meet after escaping it and creating a phone tree for your family to use in order to both alert everyone to the emergency and confirm that each family member is safe.  You can find more information about planning for emergencies in the Disaster Preparedness section of this Guide.

Reassess Your Homeowners Insurance Policy.  If you financed the purchase of your new home, you had to have it to obtain your mortgage.  But is the homeowners insurance policy you obtained the best fit for your needs?   You are free to change your homeowner’s insurance coverage at any time, so it’s always a good idea to review your coverage on a regular basis and compare the cost and coverage that you have with what else is available from both your insurer and other companies.

Set Up A Contingency Fund. As a new homeowner, you may find it somewhat financially challenging but it’s extremely important to establish an emergency fund for any unexpected household expenses that may arise, and chances are, there will be something. It may be a good idea to have your homeowner’s insurance and taxes included with your mortgage payments.  When you do this, you pay with each mortgage payment 1/12 of the cost of your annual taxes and insurance bills. Your mortgage servicer will perform an escrow analysis each year.   If the escrow comes up with a shortfall, you’ll receive a bill for the difference and will be given the choice of either increasing your monthly payment or the next year and making up the shortfall 1/12 at a time or paying it to your lender in a lump sum.  If you’re not taking advantage of escrow, you’ll have to budget on your own for both your homeowner’s insurance and annual property taxes, which could be a huge lump sum when the time comes to pay your property taxes or your homeowner’s insurance bill.

Why Each is Important

Your new home is your sanctuary. If you’re able to add some extra security precautions to keep you and your family safe, it’ll help provide peace of mind for years to come. Consider installing a video doorbell or a complete home security system.

By making a regular financial contribution to your household emergency fund, you’ll be confident in knowing you’ll be able to tackle whatever unforeseen incident that comes your way. According to the HomeServe Biannual State of the Home survey, “one-third of homeowners have less than $500 or nothing set aside for an emergency home repair,” while 50% of homeowners within this category have an annual income of $50,000 or less. The survey also identifies a blocked/overflowing toilet and HVAC issues are the most frequently required household repairs.

By reassessing your household insurance needs, you’ll ensure your home has the coverage it needs. Shop around for insurance quotes before your annual policy renewal date.

In case of an emergency scenario, you need to have a plan in place that can be easily followed even under times of pressure. You’ll be less stressed if you’re organized and know what to do during a disaster, rather than panicking and passing that emotion along to the rest of your family. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides free access to maps of flood zones, a Disaster Supplies Checklist and Are You Ready? An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness.

First 120 Days Checklist

  • Consider purchasing a home security monitoring system.
  • Develop a disaster preparedness plan.
  • Establish and regularly contribute to a household emergency fund.
  • Reassess your household insurance needs.

Quick Home Maintenance

Items That Need to be Regularly Maintained

While it may seem daunting, you’ll need to maintain everything in and around your home from top to bottom. Creating a seasonal home maintenance checklist will help you understand what you’ll need to maintain monthly, quarterly or on a yearly basis. Year after year you’ll get used to what needs to be done and when, but it never hurts to revisit the checklist from time to time as a reminder or in case you may have missed something along the way.

Ultimately maintaining your home means you’re protecting your investment. The Maintenance feature of DomiDocs will help keep your property up-to-date and can increase your TrueValueIndex (TVI) over time.

List of Home Maintenance Contacts and Info

Taking the time to establish an emergency contact list of trusted contractors and service providers is an important task in your new homeownership. Having a list of reputable professionals on hand is worth its weight in gold when it comes to conducting maintenance and repairs throughout your home.

DomiDocs makes it easy to keep track of these valuable assets within your customized Service Provider Directory where you can easily create personalized notes, edit information, and even rate the work provided by your vendor for future reference.

Items that Require Regular Maintenance Checklist

The needs of your home will generally change from season to season including landscaping in the spring and fall, pool and air conditioning systems in the summer, followed by winter storm prep during the cold months. The following items will require consistent service and maintenance:

  • Air Conditioning (including servicing and/or changing out air filters)
  • Alarm Systems
  • Appliances (including cleaning fridge coils and dryer vents)
  • Attic Space
  • Bathroom and Kitchen Exhaust Fans
  • Bathroom Regrout
  • Cabinets
  • Ceiling Fans (change to a clockwise rotation in winter; counter-clockwise in summer)
  • Countertops
  • Doors and Locks (including the doorbell)
  • Driveway
  • Drywall
  • Electrical Systems
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Fireplace
  • Flooring
  • Foundation
  • Garage
  • Garbage Disposal
  • Gas Shut-Offs
  • Gutters, Drains and Downspouts
  • Heating System
  • Heat Pump
  • Home Security Systems
  • Landscaping
  • Mirrors
  • Paint and Stain
  • Plumbing
  • Roofing
  • Septic System
  • Sump Pump
  • Siding and Exterior Surfaces
  • Smoke Detectors
  • Ventilation
  • Water Heater
  • Wells
  • Windows, Screens, and Patio Doors
  • Wood Trim

13.How to Plan Maintenance by Season

Every season there will be different tasks to perform around your home but it’s all in the name of protecting your investment. Being proactive in checking things on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis will pay off in the long run as you’ll know you’re home is in the best shape it can be.

Establishing a maintenance list to be followed regularly helps to keep everything in and around your home in working order, so you and your family can sit back and enjoy.

Seasonal Maintenance Checklist

Spring:

  • Adjust and clean your cabinets/hardware
  • Aerate your lawn
  • Change smoke, radon gas, and carbon monoxide detector batteries
  • Change the filters in your range hood, cook-top and microwave
  • Check and clean your exterior dryer vent
  • Check the operation of your sump pump
  • Check to see if any soil has settled in specific areas, backfill as necessary
  • Check your garage door openers and general operation; lubricate if necessary
  • Check your roof for any signs of missing or damaged shingles/tiles
  • Checking exterior and interior caulking, while re-caulking as necessary
  • Clean and inspect your gutters and downspouts
  • Drain any accumulated sediment from the bottom of your home water tank as per the manufacturer
  • Hose down the exterior of your home to remove any dirt/buildup. Check for any signs of mildew and treat if necessary.
  • Inspect your home’s exterior for paint issues and refinish
  • Monitor your home’s flooring on a regularly basis
  • Organize your garage
  • Pour water into the basement floor drain in order to keep sewer odors from entering your home
  • Professionally service your air conditioner; change the thermostat battery
  • Replace your furnace filter (as per manufacturer recommendations)
  • Take a look at your concrete, pavers, asphalt, steps, and driveways to see if repairs are needed
  • Test GFCI breakers
  • Test out your BBQ so it’s ready for summer
  • Test your irrigation/sprinkler system while checking for leaks
  • Wash windows, screens, lubricate tracks, and clean out any drainage holes

Summer:

  • Check the foundation around your home for swales or needed repairs
  • Check the siding, paint and caulking around the exterior of your home
  • Check your home for signs of possible termite damage
  • Clean and inspect your fireplace
  • Ensure all of your windows are in good working order; clean the weep holes, tracks, and sills
  • Ensure your exteriors doors and weather stripping are in good working order
  • Inspect washer hoses and connections for possible leakage
  • Monitor your home’s flooring on a regular basis
  • Replace your furnace filter (as per manufacturer recommendations)

Fall:

  •  Rake up the leaves and then aerate your lawn; if you’ve got a small number of leaves, it’s okay to mow over them, as they’ll help fertilize your lawn
  • Change smoke, radon gas, and carbon monoxide detector batteries
  • Check caulking both interior and exterior
  • Check locks on exterior doors; lubricate rollers and tracks if necessary; tighten screws where necessary. Pro Tip: a quarter works in a pinch if you can’t find a screwdriver
  • Check sliding glass doors and your garage door to ensure they’re in proper working order
  • Check to ensure door weather stripping is in good condition, repair as necessary
  • Check to see if your fireplace is in good working order
  • Clean and inspect your gutters and downspouts
  • Clean the humidifier as per the manufacturer
  • Clean your gutters and downspouts; remove snow/ice after each snowfall
  • Close up your pool
  • Don’t overload electrical circuits when decorating for the holidays
  • Drain your sprinkler system
  • Ensure basement drains are free of debris
  • Ensure your garage door is in good working order
  • Ensure your heating system is in good working order
  • Inspect drywall for cracks, repair as necessary
  • Monitor your home’s flooring on a regular basis
  • Open windows periodically to encourage fresh air circulation
  • Plant perennial flowers such as tulips or daffodils.
  • Remove and clean all of your faucet aerators
  • Remove and store screens from your lower windows if you receive heavy snowfall that could reach and damage them
  • Remove, drain, and store outdoor hoses from exterior faucets
  • Replace your furnace filter (as per manufacturer recommendations)
  • Review your emergency escape plan/route with your family
  • Stock up on firewood
  • Take a look at your plumbing lines/underneath sinks for leaks
  • Test GFCI breakers
  • Winterize your irrigation system, including the back-flow preventer if you have one

Winter:

  • Check out the caulking and grout around all countertops in the kitchen/bathrooms
  • Check your water heater for possible leaks
  • Continually rid your house of icicles and any ice dams along the gutters in order to prevent water damage; icicles also present a fall-ice injury risk
  • Monitor your home’s flooring on a regular basis
  • Replace your furnace filter (as per manufacturer recommendations)
  • Test all of the GFCI circuits within your home

15.Comprehensive Maintenance Guide

The Importance of Maintenance

Benjamin Franklin once said, “don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” and the same holds true even now. Performing regular maintenance will help to ensure your home is running efficiently, including everything from the physical appearance to the mechanical workings of your home.

According to the experts, an unmaintained home could lose up to 10% of the appraised value, or an equivalent of $15,000 to $20,000 for an average American home, while performing consistent home maintenance can increase the value of your home by approximately one% every year.

To protect your new home investment, you’ll need to perform regularly scheduled maintenance. While it may seem somewhat overwhelming to deal with so many aspects of being a new homeowner, DomiDocs can help you stay organized and ahead of the curve. Our Calendar feature will keep track of your tasks, reminders, and events relating to your maintenance, warranties, and insurance policies in an easily accessible format so you’ll never miss a deadline or opportunity.

Make a plan to establish an emergency fund for household repairs, as research shows that many Americans have less than $500 saved to cover such expenses.

Appliances

The Importance of Appliance Maintenance and Repair

Simply put, a semi-functioning appliance with issues is a safety hazard in your home. It’s important to conduct preventative maintenance to ensure an appliance doesn’t get to that point, but if it does, you’ll need to decide whether to repair or replace it.

Repair or Replace? Items to consider when making the repair vs. replace decision include the:

  • Likelihood the appliance will continue to break down – maybe it’s time to upgrade to new technology/features
  • Warranty – is coverage still in effect? If so, you may qualify for a free or reduced-rate repair. 

Pro Tip: The Warranty Documents feature of DomiDocs allows you to upload and safely store all of your appliance warranties so you’ll know where they are when you need them.

  • Price – can you afford a new appliance right now? Angie’s List states: “appliance repair professionals say when the price of the repair totals more than half the cost to purchase a new appliance, you’re better off replacing the appliance.”

Before you call a contractor, check the following:

  • Is the appliance plugged in?
  • If it’s plugged into a GFCI circuit, have you tried resetting the outlet?
  • The circuit breaker for the appliance should be in the ‘on’ setting

Save Money And Energy. Although the initial cost may be more, you can save money in the long run by replacing your appliances with Energy Star efficient models. Some specific models may even be eligible for utility company rebates, or federal/state tax credits. Some new refrigerators come with Wi-Fi LCD touch screen monitors that work with your smartphone; you can keep an inventory of food or make a grocery list.

 

 The average lifespan of appliances, according to Consumer Reports  Years
 Air conditioner room)  10
 Air conditioner (central)  15
 Boiler (electric)  13
 Boilers (gas)  21
 Dishwasher  9
 Dryer  13
 Freezer  11
 Furnaces (electric; gas; oil)  15 – 20
 Stove (gas; electric)  13 – 15
 Refrigerator  13
 Washer  10
 Water heaters (gas; electric; tankless)  10 – 20

 

How to Keep your Major Appliances in Good Condition

Besides reading your appliance operational manuals, here are some preventative maintenance tips you can follow:

Dishwasher:

  • Add a small amount of vinegar and regularly run your dishwasher while it’s empty to remove any soap buildup
  • Clean the filter
  • To save energy, only run when it’s full and by using the shortest washing cycle for the content needs
  • Ensure the spinning arms are free-moving and there is no debris caught anywhere 
  • Check the hoses for any sign of leakage and at the same time vacuum underneath the unit

Pro Tip: Before calling for service on your dishwasher, check to ensure:

  • It’s turned on
  • The door is closed and locked
  • The water shutoff valve under the sink is turned on
  • The garbage disposal switch is also on

Dryer:

  • Ensure the lint trap is emptied before each use to reduce the risk of fire
  • Inspect the outside vent and remove lint build up each year
  • Switch to reusable dryer balls, especially to those made of wool, as they’ll speed up the overall drying process by up to 25%; and no more chemicals that are bad for the environment

Stove/Oven:

  • The best way to deal with spills is to clean then up when they occur instead of using the self-cleaning function
  • Use drip pans to catch spills before they get out of hand
  • If you’ve got a glass cooktop, don’t use an abrasive cleanser, as it will badly scratch the surface; follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for cleaning

Refrigerator/Freezer:

  • Vacuum underneath the unit annually, and vacuum the condenser coils quarterly to remove accumulated dust, which can cause the fridge to consume more energy, as it’s not working efficiently
  • Check temperatures to ensure they’re set to the manufacturer’s recommendation
  • Regularly clean the shelves and bins
  • Empty and clean the drip pan to prevent odors or nasty mold from forming
  • Clean the door seal regularly and replace it if it’s beginning to look shabby and isn’t sealing properly
  • Never plug a fridge or freezer into a GFCI outlet as it could trip and may not be discovered until the food has begun to spoil

Washer:

  • Try not to overload your washer as it could wear out earlier than expected; it also won’t produce the cleanest of clothes if items aren’t able to circulate to become clean
  • Adjust the water level to the load of clothes you’re washing
  • Always empty pockets so a foreign object doesn’t get stuck in the washer
  • Inspect hoses monthly, vacuum underneath yearly, and replace the washer fill hose every five years

Boiler/Hot Water Tank:

  • The U.S. Boiler Company recommends having your hot water tank/boiler serviced annually, which involves draining the tank completely, followed by an overall inspection
  • A lack of hot water could mean your pilot light went out; you’ll need to re-light the pilot manually on a full tank (never on an empty tank as it can cause failure of the tank lining over time) using a flame source, or by using the electric spark generator feature on newer heaters. If in doubt, call a professional.

Appliance Maintenance Checklist

With each use:

  • Empty the dryer lint trap
  • Clean up all spills immediately

Monthly: 

  • Check washer hoses
  • Clean out the dishwasher filter (or more frequently, if needed)
  • Add vinegar and run the empty dishwasher through a cycle to clean it
  • Clean your oven
  • Empty out your fridge, clean shelves, drawers, and trays

Quarterly:

  • Vacuum the fridge condenser coils
  • Check the door seal on the fridge
  • Check the temperature of your fridge/freezer
  • Empty and clean the drip pan in order to prevent odors or nasty mold from forming
  • Inspect your dishwasher for possible signs of leakage

Yearly:

  • Check and clean the outside dryer vent/hose
  • Vacuum underneath your dishwasher, fridge, and washer

Five years:

  • Replace the washer fill hose

Bathrooms

How to Care for Your Bathroom

Next to your kitchen, your bathroom will be the most used area of your home. It’s important to ensure it’s functioning and in good working order at all times. While it will seem the daily tasks to do in the bathroom alone are enough to keep you more than busy, it’s all about keeping nasties away from you and your family. 

Bathrooms can easily harbor germs and mold, so if you can get everyone in your family to agree to use the exhaust fan when showering, hanging up their towels afterward, and to always closing the toilet lid before flushing, you’re on the right path. According to Accredited Home Care, mold and dust from an unclean bathroom can affect your breathing especially if you already experience breathing problems such as asthma or bronchitis. Bacteria, microorganisms, and viruses can live on bathroom surfaces for more than a week, so it’s vitally important to wipe down surfaces daily.

At some point during your homeownership, you may consider doing a bathroom remodel. According to some real estate professionals, you could recoup almost 80% of your overall cost when it’s time to sell your home, so a bathroom remodel is a great idea indeed. After taking measurements of your existing bathroom to evaluate the space, you can start collecting ideas as to what features you want to change. Establish goals, a contingency plan for usage, plus a clear budget for your bathroom remodel. Experts suggest many homeowners spend anywhere from $3,500 on a small-sized bathroom renovation to upwards of $25, 000 for a master bathroom. Consider adding a second bathroom if your home only has one currently, as it’s very appealing to prospective buyers when it comes time to sell down the road. Other fun and appealing bathroom features could include adding under-floor heating, a soaking tub, or his-and-her double sinks. Quicker bathroom fixes could include updating the toilet, lighting, mirror, flooring, and/or wall coverings or paint colors.

Important Bathroom Items to Maintain

Bathroom fixtures: Regularly inspect for signs of damage or leaking; follow manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning while noting brass and nickel scratch easily so it’s best to avoid any type of abrasive cleansers. Descale the showerhead monthly by tying a plastic bag filled with vinegar over the shower head and letting it soak overnight. If your faucet is leaky, change out the washer. 

Pro Tip: Reduce your carbon footprint by installing a touchless smart faucet that’s designed to save upwards of 15,000 gallons of water annually. Or consider using a self-powered energy and water meter for your shower, which could save an additional 2,245 gallons of water per year. Here’s how to change the washer in a faucet:

  1. Shut off the water valve underneath the sink.
  2. Using a wrench, remove the hexagon-shaped cap at the top of the assembly.
  3. Take out the inside piece, flip it over, and you’ll see a washer held in place by a screw. Remove the screw, then the washer and replace both, if necessary.

Caulking: To prevent leakage, inspect the caulking around your tub, shower, and toilet every six months for discoloration or damage; re-caulk your fixtures every five years.

Countertops: Depending on the countertop material, use a household cleaner on a daily basis to maintain the surface and ensure cleanliness for you and your family. Always follow manufacturer instructions for care.

Doorknobs: Use a disinfectant type cleanser daily to help stop the potential spread of germs throughout your house.

Exhaust fan: Always utilize your bathroom’s exhaust fan when showering to help remove moisture.

Grout: Use a grout sealer to ensure there won’t be water leakage and to guard against spills, but be sure to test before use as some sealers can cause discoloration.

Medicine cabinet: Empty and clean out every month; ensure contact lenses and toothbrushes are always stored inside the medicine cabinet and never near a toilet to avoid airborne bacteria when it’s flushed. The same applies to towels – don’t hang them near the toilet area, used or unused. If you have old medicine in your cabinet, be sure to safely return your unused or unwanted medication to your local pharmacy.

Mirrors: Wipe clean at least once per week to ensure cleanliness and to lessen the possibility of de-silvering along the edges due to frequent water contact.

Rust stains: if a rust stain forms, such as from the bottom of a can, you’ll need to use a rust remover specifically designed to remove stains.

Soap scum: it’s a common issue for homeowners and is mainly caused by water that’s high in mineral content; a mild vinegar solution generally works well.

Showers: Use a squeegee to help keep the glass shower door clean; consider drying the shower after each use and/or cleaning from top to bottom at least once per week.

Tiling: Floor tiles can be kept clean daily by using a dry mop; wet mop the floor once per week.

Toilets: If there’s an unused bathroom, flush the toilet and sink at least once a month to maintain use. Scrub the toilet daily; consider using a toilet bowl cleaner continuous action puck, which can last up to three months depending upon usage and reduce the need to scrub daily – but check manufacturer instructions before doing so. Always keep a plunger nearby in case of an emergency. Never stand on your toilet seat even if only for a second as it could easily crack because it’s not designed for standing upon. If your toilet is running, take a look at the flapper valve – if it’s worn, that’s a common cause of a running toilet as the valve can’t completely seal; this could also be the result of the flush handle chain being too tight, which could prevent the flapper valve from sealing. Pro Tip: Consult the toilet warranty manual before using any puck/cleaner/tablets containing chlorine as they could cause parts to fail (such as the tank flapper) and/or the use of such could void any warranty. 

Tubs and surrounds: Always use a non-abrasive cleanser so as not to scratch and damage the surface. If you’re using any type of anti-skid mat, be sure to remove it after each use otherwise water damage/stains could occur in the tub.

Walls: Do spot-cleaning as necessary and wash the walls every week, but don’t scrub as that could cause unnecessary staining or discoloration. Consider a glossy paint which absorbs less moisture and dirt overall

Bathroom Maintenance Checklist

Daily:

  • Always use your exhaust fan when showering or bathing
  • Clean countertops and doorknobs
  • Dry mop the bathroom floor
  • Scrub the toilets
  • Sink, shower and fixtures
  • Spot clean your walls
  • Squeegee your glass door after showering to help prevent water spots; dry your shower

Weekly:

  • Clean your mirrors
  • Clean your shower top to bottom at least once per week
  • Deal with soap scum
  • Wash the walls
  • Wet mop your bathroom floor

Monthly:

  • Clean out the medicine cabinet
  • Deal with rust stains
  • Descale the showerhead
  • Flush toilets and sinks in unused bathrooms
  • Inspect bathroom fixtures
  • Replace toilet bowl cleaner pucks

Six Months:

  • Inspect the caulking around your shower, toilet and tub

Five Years:

  • Re-caulk your bathroom fixtures

Electrical

How to Care for Your Home’s Electrical

The U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC) reports there are an estimated 31,000 fires and 200 deaths resulting from home electrical system malfunctions annually. The National Fire Protection Association concurs as they found 69% of electrical fires were caused by damaged or faulty wiring/electrical equipment. 

Monitor the Situation. While it may seem mundane, it’s extremely important to inspect all electrical cords before use, and to never use cords or equipment that are clearly damaged. You’ll need to regularly maintain the electrical system throughout your home to help identify any potential fire hazards before an accident can occur, all with the safety of you and your family in mind. 

Do This Every 10 Years. The USCPSC also suggests having a licensed electrician perform an electrical inspection of your home at least every 10 years, which includes checking the wiring, main electrical panel, the electric meter, wall switches, and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets.

Do You Have Permission? Before undertaking any significant electrical repairs or upgrades within your home, you’ll need to obtain any necessary permits – which may or may not be included as part of your electrician’s invoice – so you’ll need to confirm. Reach out to family, friends and neighbors for a recommendation for a reputable electrician. According to research, replacing just the electrical panel can cost anywhere from $1,200 to $2,000. Rewiring a whole house can run from $8,000 to $15,000 for a 1,500- to 3,000 square-foot home.” 

Important Electrical Items to Maintain

Circuit Breakers: Circuit breakers are either in an on, off, or tripped position. If a circuit breaker trips, you’ll need to turn it off before turning it back on or it won’t restore service. Why does this happen? It could be you’ve got too many appliances plugged into that specific circuit, a voltage issue, or even an appliance with an issue. If you’ve got a circuit that trips over and over, consider calling in a professional electrician to diagnose the problem. Your furnace may have a fuse (near the power switch) that trips during a power surge; it’s a great idea to have extra matching fuses in case of an emergency.

Electrical Outlets: ensure they’re securely held in place and that you’re not overloading a socket with more plugs than you should. Use an electric surge protector for items like your desktop computer, video game console, and television. Consider using a smart power strip, which can control the flow of power to multiple items such as a television, a sound system, and a DVD player, all by simply using the on-off status of just one device. It’s important to note that damage caused by a lightning strike, which then causes a power surge, is not generally covered by homeowner’s insurance. Options for smart power strips/bars come with motion detectors that will automatically turn off if there’s no human movement detected within 20 feet for 30 minutes; you can also ensure that something vital as your internet router never gets turned off.

General Household Electrical Safety Tips Include:

  • Ensuring all electrical devices are kept away from water to prevent shock.
  • Do not use an extension cord with any type of appliance.
  • Unplugging any appliances that aren’t in use.
  • Maintain your exhaust fans to prevent buildup by cleaning the filters/blades.
  • Reading the safety tips and manuals for your appliances.
  • Organize and label the cables under your desk; you can use pieces of colored tape or bread bag tags. Regularly wipe down with a dry cloth to prevent dust buildup.

GFCI Outlets: If your home has ground fault circuit (GFCI) outlets, standard in many geographic locations susceptible to moisture, you’ll need to check them using the purple ‘test’ button on the outlet.  You should also ’test’ the breaker on the GFCI electrical sub-panel. Labeling breakers in your electrical box can save a lot of frustration if you lose power to a specific area of your home, as it’ll be simpler to diagnose the location of the problem.

Lightbulbs: Periodically check to ensure you’re using the correct lightbulb wattage for your fixtures, lamps, and appliances. If you’re not sure, Constellation NewEnergy recommends a 60-watt bulb or less if there’s not wattage noted, or 25-watt bulbs for ceiling fixtures that aren’t marked. Consider using wireless LED light bulbs, which can be controlled through your smartphone; you’ll be able to schedule lighting, or to turn them on/off at will.

Common Household Electrical Issues Include:

  • An outlet that sparks can sometimes be normal as it’s similar to a static electricity buildup; if an outlet heats up, an electrical fire could ensue so it’s best to check with a professional
  • Flickering lights is a sign there’s a poor connection which requires an electrician to source it out and repair
  • Recessed lights that continually turn on and off again are designed to do so when they start overheating; this can be a result of mismatched light bulbs for the wattage, so do a quick check. The same applies to light bulbs that frequently burn out – chances are the wattage being used is incorrect
  • If using too many appliances consistently overloads and trips a breaker, you’ll need to avoid running too many appliances at the same time on that circuit. The best solution is to move some to a different circuit; an electrician can also install an entirely new circuit.

Electrical Maintenance Checklist

  • Clean your exhaust fans
  • Consult an electrician if a breaker repeatedly trips
  • Don’t mix electricity and water: ensure all electrical devices are kept away from water
  • Electrical outlets
  • Get an electrical inspection done a minimum of every 10 years
  • Label the breakers in your electrical panel
  • Light Bulb wattage (initially, and then again when a bulb need to be changed)
  • Monitor extension cord usage
  • Organize your desk cables; wipe down with a dry cloth
  • Read your appliance manuals including the safety tips
  • Test your GFCI outlets using the purple ‘test’ button
  • Unplug appliances that aren’t in use

Heating and Cooling

How to Care for Your Heating and Cooling

You’ll be depending on your home’s heating and cooling system to keep you comfortable year-round, so it’s important to perform regular checks and maintenance on your fireplace, heat pump, air conditioner and/or furnace. It’s just as important to read the instruction manuals for all your heating and cooling devices, so you’ll know what to do if something doesn’t seem to be working quite right.

When it’s time to hire a pro for your HVAC needs, many states require a licensed HVAC expert to have accrued two to five years of HVAC experience. Some offer searchable databases of license holders so you’re able to ensure your potential choice is qualified. It’s a good idea to ask where or not a potential contractor services your brand of HVAC unit, and if they offer any type of guarantee on the repairs once they’re completed.

 

Important Heating and Cooling Items to Maintain

Change Those Filters: Check the manufacturer’s recommendation and be sure to change your system’s filters at least as frequently as the manufacturer specifies.  Keeping your filters clean will result in reducing your heating costs, as well as to extend the lifespan of the furnace and/or central air conditioning system.  

Circulation: Consider installing ceiling fans to keep the air circulating in your home, but remember to switch the direction of the fan blades to spin clockwise in winter and counter-clockwise to cool your rooms during summer. Be sure to dust them off every spring and fall.

Clear the Condensate Line: Every air conditioner has a condensate line that removes water created when the evaporator exchanges the refrigerant from liquid to gas. Your condensate line will be situated on the exterior of your house, either beside your HVAC unit or sometimes on the opposite side of your house. Ensure the exterior condensate line isn’t clogged and is exhibiting proper drainage; remove any debris from on or around your condenser unit. Do regular maintenance on the condensate line by adding 1 cup of vinegar into the line each month to keep the line clear and mildew free. 

Close Those Windows: Your air conditioning operates as a closed system, meaning the air within your home is continually cooled and recycled. Cooling isn’t possible if hotter outside air is interrupting the circulation, so always check to ensure all windows within your house are closed and locked when the air conditioning is running. 

Did a Circuit Breaker Trip? If your heater, fan, or air conditioner are not operational at all, it’s likely a circuit breaker has tripped and you’ll need to reset it. If you experience a burning smell when your heat is first turned on, there could be a dust accumulation on the coils that you’ll need to gently brush off.

Fireplace Health: Check your gas or electric fireplace to make sure it’s in working order; if you ever smell gas, evacuate your home and call your gas company immediately. Call a professional to inspect and clean your wood-burning fireplace to prevent the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and/or chimney fires from creosote build-up.

Ghosting. Ghosting is a phenomenon caused by burning candles in your home for extended periods. In essence, the soot from the candle is emitted into the air, carried throughout your home by the air conditioner, and released through the vents. This soot then sticks to things like fabrics, countertops, ceilings, and carpets. HVAC experts recommend purchasing low fragrance candles made of hard wax, and to extinguish them after an hour of continuous burning.

Maintain Optimal Temperature Settings: Install a programmable thermostat to maintain a comfortable temperature within your home. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers recommends setting your thermostat to 70° for heating and 78° for cooling. Keeping steady temperatures without a huge fluctuation year-round is a great way to save money overall. Periodically check the thermostat settings as other household members could be making their own adjustments, which may need to be brought back to the recommended baseline. You can also help regulate the temperature within your home by keeping your window treatments closed on hot sunny days and open when the sun is shining brightly. 

Regular Inspections Will Maintain Your System Over Time: The EPA’s Energy Star program recommends having a professional inspect your HVAC system twice a year in the spring and fall, using daylight savings time as a reminder.

Schedule That Delivery: If you’ve got an oil-burning furnace, make sure you schedule a fuel delivery well before the cold season sets in.

Before You Call a Professional about an air conditioning problem, check to ensure the:

  • Circuit breaker is ON
  • Filter isn’t clogged or dirty
  • Thermostat battery is working
  • Thermostat is turned to A/C
  • Thermostat setting is set below the thermostat thermometer

Heating and Cooling Maintenance Checklist

Regularly:

  • Inspect the exterior condensate line
  • Check the programmable thermostat settings
  • Install ceiling fans throughout your home
  • Test your gas or electric fireplace by turning it on periodically, even if it’s off-season
  • Have your wood-burning fireplace inspected
  • Schedule an oil delivery for your furnace well in advance of winter

Monthly:

  • Change the filters in your air conditioning units
  • Change your furnace filters as per the manufacturer’s recommendation

Spring and Fall:

  • Changed the direction of your ceiling fan blades (clockwise for winter; counter-clockwise for summer)
  • Dust off your ceiling fan and blades

Yearly:

  • Schedule a furnace inspection by a professional

Home Exterior

How to Care for your Home Exterior

The exterior of your home is the first impression to anyone who enters or passes by. What does your house say to others? Are you a proud homeowner who regularly takes care of your home, or are you a little slack when it comes to exterior maintenance? Either way, there are important things to be maintained on a regular basis to help hold the value of your home and to increase the value in the future. 

Important Home Exterior Items to Maintain

Bricks: While bricks used for walls or decorative purposes are generally low maintenance, it’s a good idea to check for plant damage, issues with the caulking around doors/windows, and/or to check the mortar joints every few years for possible deterioration. If your brick is becoming dirty or otherwise discolored by efflorescence (a naturally occurring white, somewhat powdery substance), there are many commercial cleaning products available to help clean your bricks.

Caulking: Caulking around window and door frames should be inspected monthly to prevent water or moisture damage. The same applies to areas around your chimney/vents; any outlets or vents located on your house exterior; as well as between the siding and your foundation. Don’t mix caulking types, as they won’t bond properly.

Doors: It’s important to regularly inspect your exterior doors to keep them functioning smoothly. Exterior entrance doors should have weather stripping that seals completely. Clean off any hinges, ensure locks are in working order, clean out the sliding glass door track, and do any touch-up painting along the door trims, if necessary.

Dryer Vents: A dryer vent full of lint poses a fire hazard so it’s important to regularly check the external vent and to clean out the exhaust duct annually; your dryer vent may be located on your roof, so hiring a professional may be the best choice in this scenario.

Landscaping: Besides looking great for your enjoyment, landscaping can add value to your home by creating curb appeal, but you have to be willing to maintain it on a regular basis. If you’re not sure landscaping will be your thing, consider starting with a small area to plant and take care of. You can break it down into affordable projects you can undertake when it’s convenient. Trees can offer cooling shade for your home during the summer months; if you want to plant a tree(s), you’ll need to know what species grow best in your geographic location, as well as the overall height and size they’ll achieve over the years. You’ll also need to know the location of your utility lines before planting. If your property has sloped areas, hiring a professional landscaper is key to avoid future drainage or engineering issues. If you’re not sure about planting trees or have an issue with existing trees such as dead or low-hanging branches, consider the services of a certified arborist.

Lawn and Yard Work: It’s all up to you to maintain your lawn’s appearance. You can do it yourself by purchasing a good lawnmower with a safety handle. Remember to always clear your lawn of debris before mowing and to change direction every time you mow to help create straight grass. Sharpen your lawnmower blade once per year and always mow grass when it’s dry, preferably in the morning after the dew has dried which gives newly cut grass the time to gather nutrients for the remainder of the day. Besides a lawnmower to maintain a standard suggested height of three inches, you’ll need to consider purchasing or renting other tools such as aerators, edgers, grubbing hoes, leaf blowers, fertilizer spreaders (done annually in the fall), pruners, rakes, rototiller, shovels, and/or weed eaters. You can also consider hiring a reputable lawn care service to take care of your property. Here’s some food for thought: according to a study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, “there are approximately 6,400 lawn mower injuries reported annually, most of which require surgery and hospitalization.” Pro Tip: Rototilling your yard parallel to any drainage swales can help reduce them.

Light Fixtures: Ensure all exterior light fixtures are working, especially any lights used to highlight your house number in case of an emergency. Check the caulking around each fixture and turn off any lights that aren’t necessary.

Garage Door: Besides being a place to store your vehicles, your garage door is an important safety feature of your home. Always ensure it’s closed at all times and that it flows freely along the track without any obstructions or grinding noises. Tighten up any loose hinge screws, touch up the paint, and lubricate moving parts with a 30-weight vehicle oil (or similar) every six months, including the hinges, pulleys, rollers, springs, and tracks. Electricity to garage doors run on GFCI outlets, so if yours doesn’t seem to have any power/won’t open, the breaker may have been tripped. You can always open your garage door manually by pulling on the red cord.

Gutters: During the spring and fall, ensure your gutters are free of debris so the downspouts will be operating properly. On the gutter corners, check for any caulking that may have become cracked to otherwise damaged. This is also the perfect time to inspect your roof for possible damage including loose, damaged or missing shingles/tiles, as well as for debris, clogged roof vents, and/or leaks. If you have something attached to your roof such as a TV antenna or satellite dish, check the supports and the caulking surrounding each. If you’ve experienced a harsh winter, clear ice and snow build-up regularly. Pro Tip: Always lean an extension ladder against your house and not the gutters themselves to prevent dents or damage.

Paint: Repainting your home’s exterior will also be a large task to consider undertaking. While you’d probably be able to save money by doing the job yourself if you’ve got a one-story home with minimal paint peeling, you’ll still need to do all of the prep work including scraping and sanding, plus you’ll need equipment such as scaffolding and extension ladders. Even more so, do you want to take the risk of working on that type of equipment? If you were injured by falling off the scaffolding, how would this affect your family’s income and ability to pay next month’s mortgage if you’re not working? Obtaining estimates from professional house painters will give you insight as to your home’s overall condition, as well as to types of paint and color choices. 

 

Common Painting Issues Possible Cause Solution
Bleeding wood knots Alkali compounds exist on the foundation Sand, apply an alkali stain killer, repaint
Blisters Moisture or solvents are present under the paint surface Scrape away the blister, fill the area, sand, prime, and repaint
Efflorescence The surface may not have been cleaned property initially; moisture or solvents are present underneath the paint Scrape, apply an alkali neutralizer, repaint
Exterior paint peeling The surface was not cleaned properly initially Scrape, sand, prime, and repaint
Interior/exterior or caulking shrinks or cracks Paint may have been applied too thick Re-caulk any open gaps
Mildew Resin from the wood could be seeping out; fungus could be growing due to little sunlight/moisture Wash with a diluted bleach solution
Wrinkling, running, or drips Solvent underneath the paint caused poor adhesion Sand, smooth, and repaint

 

Roof: How old is your existing roof? While an asphalt shingle roof has a lifespan of about 20 to 25 years, if you don’t know when your roof was replaced, it could be time to have your roof inspected. Besides looking for possible leaks, are there any missing shingles? Rows that are out of alignment indicate they’re loose, while sagging in certain areas means the wood underneath is beginning to rot. Roofing is a huge job to undertake and requires the same thought process as repainting your home – do you have the time, equipment, and want to take the risk of doing it yourself? Asking friends or neighbors for referrals, and getting estimates from reputable contractors, may be your best overall choice. Pro Tip: Minimize walking on your roof as the movement and weight can loosen materials resulting in the potential for leaks; never walk on your roof if the shingles are wet/slippery.

Screens: Every year, remove the screens (if applicable) from your doors and windows and give them a thorough cleaning to get rid of any dust or debris. Clean the sills and frames, and replace any screen mesh if damaged. 

Pro Tip: Some homeowners choose to remove window screens and store them during winter to allow more light indoors; if you decide to do so, clearly label each screen as it’s removed so they’re easy to replace in spring. Store them upright and in a safe area where their delicate frames won’t become bent or damaged.

Siding: Besides being aesthetically pleasing, your vinyl or composite siding helps protect your home from damage, water or otherwise. It’s normal for caulking of your siding to dry and shrink over time, so pay close attention to connections and corners, while re-caulking as necessary. It’s important not to subject your siding to any unnecessary contact with water such as directly from a sprinkle or a downspout that’s improperly placed. There should always be a minimum six-inch border from the ground to where your siding begins to avoid water absorption. Keep plants and landscaping approximately two feet away from your siding to avoid any staining or damage from unwanted roots. Vinyl siding melts easily so always ensure a BBQ grill is no closer than three feet. Check to ensure the corner trim is firming attached. If you need to do some spot cleaning, use a clean cloth with a soapy solution; using abrasive chemicals, wire brushes, or steel wool will cause immediate damage that can only be repaired by replacement.

 

Common Exterior House Issues Possible Cause Solution
Cracks in the masonry Normal settlement Seal with a flexible masonry caulk
Dents in the fascia of soffits May have been accidentally hit with a ladder or object Replace the panel
Dirty or streaked siding Weather; fungus or mildew Regularly clean the area; apply a mildew cleaner
Efflorescence is present on masonry From the use of sale Scrub with a stiff brush and water
Gaps in the wood trim Normal shrinkage over time Fill and re-caulk
Peeling or cracking of paint Normal wear and tear due to aging Clean, sand, prime, paint
Sap is present along wood trim The trim is naturally drying out Clean, sand, prime, repaint
Sections of siding have blown off Strong wind Check your homeowner’s policy to see if you’re covered

 

Storm Panels: If your home has hurricane/storm panels, slide the panels across and wash them with soap and water twice a year. If you’ve got accordion-type shutters, you may need to lubricate the track.

Stucco: Stucco surfaces tend to accumulate dust/dirt and may even develop small cracks over time. Just as with vinyl siding, check to make sure there’s no unnecessary water contact, along with keeping landscaping and BBQs at a safe distance. You can spot clean your stucco with a laundry soap/water solution. If you find any cracks, repair them. If you find any mildew spots, use a 50/50 water and bleach solution to clean the area. If the entire house needs to be cleaning, pressure/power washing is a great option but to avoid any issues, it’s best to hire a professional to take on such a huge task.

Windows: Windows require maintenance right down from regularly cleaning the glass with a vinegar solution to cleaning out the weep holes with a small brush or even a toothpick. Your window hardware should operate freely. Check to be sure any screws are tight, and that the weather stripping and seals are all in good condition. A broken or cracked pane of glass needs to be replaced immediately; if your home has glazed windows, your best bet is to contact a pro to repair it. If your home has windows that are between 15 and 30 years old, you may want to consider replacing them with new energy-efficient options that are easy to clean/maintain (such as double-hung windows and tilt-out sashes), plus replacing your windows will add resale value to your home. The U.S. Department of Energy states that 10 to 25% of your home’s heating bill is a result of heat loss due to having inefficient windows in your home. Experts estimate installing new energy efficient windows in your home can easily cost upwards of $10,000. 

 

Common Window Issues Possible Cause Solution
Condensation Too much humidity within your home Reduce humidifier use; open windows to exhaust any excess humidity
Cracked glass Occurs with normal settlement and/or accidental scenarios Replace the glass
Vinyl window sticks or is hard to open A broken window balance; dirt or paint along the jamb Replace the balancer; clean up the jamb and lubricate with a silicone spray
Vinyl window won’t stay open Window balancers are weak Replace the balancer, or adjust the tension rod
Vinyl window sash comes out when the window is opened fully The tension rod clips on the side jambs could be in the open position Change to the closed position before opening the window
Vinyl window won’t lock Dirt or debris in the window track, or it’s not aligned properly Check the alignment, clean out the track

 

Home Exterior Maintenance Checklist

Monthly:

  • Check exterior light fixtures/caulking
  • Caulking – check around doors/windows, chimneys, vents and/or pipes

Twice Yearly:

  • Brick – inspect your brickwork for possible damage
  • Doors – check weather stripping, clean hinges and sliding glass door tracks, check locks
  • Garage door – tighten screws, lubricate, paint touch-ups
  • Gutters and downspouts – clean, check for damage
  • Roof – check for damage and debris, inspect supports and caulking
  • Storm shutters – clean and lubricate the track
  • Windows – clean the glass; check the seals/weather stripping

Annually:

  • Inspect your external dryer vent/clean out the exhaust duct
  • Inspect and/or repair small cracks in your stucco
  • Remove and wash window/door screens
  • Siding – check for damage, water deflection, and corner trim

Every few years:

  • Check the mortar joints along any brick walls
  • Hire a professional roofer to do an inspection

 

Home Interior

How to Care for Your Home Interior

Besides caring for each room, the general interior of your home also requires some attention including everything from the attic to your water shut-off valves. While it may seem like a lot of work overall, taking care of your home helps you to maintain its investment value now and in the future.

Important Home Interior Items to Maintain

Attics and Crawl Spaces: Many homeowners don’t really think about their attic but it’s important to annually inspect it for water damage, ensuring vents are not clogged by debris, and that the louvered openings are unobstructed. After particularly high winds, check to ensure the roof vents are securely attached. It never hurts to have a professional inspect your attic for signs of pests, molds, or mildews (fungus). Ensure your attic contains enough insulation to keep any water pipes from freezing. If your home has a crawl space, be sure to open the vents during summer and close them again before winter. Pro Tip: Consider purchasing a hand-held thermal leak detector to identify possible leaks within your home. Simply scan the area or appliance with the detector: red areas identify heat, while blue areas are colder. 

Carbon Monoxide, Radon Gas, And Smoke Detectors: Use the test function monthly to ensure all detectors throughout your home are working properly. Change the batteries at least once per year; many homeowners change twice per year at Daylight Savings Time. Pro Tip: If the battery in your smoke detector starts to beep, that means it’s time to change the battery.

Carpet/Flooring: For hardwood, vinyl, and ceramic tiles, dry mop or sweep flooring daily, followed by a light wet mop once per week with a manufacturer recommended cleaner, if applicable. Vacuum the carpet at least once per week and schedule a professional cleaning annually to eliminate air pollutants, dust mite infestations, and/or mold issues. Spot clean as necessary. Rotating your furniture to change a traffic pattern in any given room will help to eliminate common crushing carpet issues, especially in heavy traffic areas. Never place potted plants directly on hardwood surfaces, and use area rugs to protect hardwood in frequently used areas. High-heeled shoes and your pets’ toenails can easily damage hardwood floors. Never drag furniture across your flooring; always use a two-wheeled dolly, which can also prevent injury. Consider asking everyone to remove their shoes before coming into your home, or think about purchasing a robot-style vacuum cleaner to help do the work for you. Pro Tip: Hardwood floors can easily be damaged by water, sunlight, high-heeled shoes, and/or scratching that occurs from simply moving a chair away from a table, so be sure to attach furniture protectors to help preserve your hardwood flooring.

Tips for treating carpet spills:

  • Coffee, tea, beer or wine – Blot the spill then neutralize with a white vinegar/water solution; apply a detergent/water solution (1/4 teaspoon of detergent in 1 quart of water), then rinse using a spray bottle of tap water while blotting to remove moisture. Apply paper towels and weigh them down to soak up moisture
  • Ketchup, blood, cheese, chocolate, colas, cough syrup, soft drinks, soy sauce, toothpaste – These spills must be removed with cold water as hot will set the stain on the carpet permanently. Use a detergent/water solution, then rinse with a spray bottle of tap water while blotting to remove moisture. Apply paper towels to absorb excess moisture
  • Dirt or mud – After it’s dried completely, scrape off what you can and vacuum it up. Use the same detergent/water solution above to clean up any dirt
  • Pets – If your pet has an accident on your flooring, blot up what you can with paper towels, followed by applying a solution of ¼-teaspoon dishwashing liquid dissolved in a cup of warm water; rinse and blot. Then apply a one cup vinegar/two cups water solution by blotting and drying. Finally, apply a layer of paper towels and weigh down with a heavy, flat object to soak up any remaining moisture. Change out the paper towels until the area is dry.

Ceilings and Walls: Spot clean walls as necessary with non-abrasive cleaners, and plan to wash all walls throughout the home twice yearly in the spring and fall. If you notice a hole or a crack in the drywall, you can fill it in yourself by using a drywall spackle and a putty knife. Repainting requires knowing the type of paint that’s already in use (oil- or water-based) as the two clearly don’t mix, along with closely matching the existing color as possible. Nail pops, displayed as a bulge or a missing circle of drywall, occur with the natural contraction and expansion of wood; nails can be tapped back down and touch-up paint/spackle can be applied.

Central Vacuum System:  Clean the filter and vacuum canister every three to four months to ensure they remain as dust-free as possible.

Condensation: If your windows regularly exhibit condensation caused by high home humidity in relation or lower outside temperatures, condensation will form. If you’ve got a humidifier, check the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure you’re using features to the fullest, which also means operating it when the furnace is in use, and not when the air conditioner is running. 

Exhaust Fans: Unplug the unit, then remove and clean the filter; if it’s not removable, try using a damp cloth

Doors, Knobs and Locks: Check to make sure all are in working order; lubricate patio doors with a silicone-based spray if needed. Avoid slamming doors, which can cause damage to the jamb and the door itself, or can even create cracking in the surrounding drywall. Sticking doors are common, mainly due to humidity changes, but always check to see if the door still sticks in different temperatures. You can tighten the screws, apply a light coat of wax, or sand if necessary as a last resort. If a door swings open by itself, you’ll need to adjust the hinge pins.

Electrical Shut-off Valves: Your electrical panel consists of individual circuit breakers, along with a master circuit breaker, which will shut off the electricity to your entire home. Ensure the cover is always on the panel and that it’s always closed to avoid dust from accumulating. 

Fixture Finishes: Fixture materials can vary so it’s important to follow your manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning. 

Furniture: Weekly dusting is a must, especially during times of high winds that carry pollutants into your home.

Repainting: There are generally five categories of paint sheens:

  1. Primer – this is an undercoat that assures paint will adhere properly; it’s especially useful when painting porous surfaces like concrete or wood to prevent peeling later on.
  2. Eggshell – this easy to clean paint has a slight sheen; 
  3. Glossy – while the reflective surface is quite impressive, flaws are also quite noticeable
  4. Matte – used in high-traffic areas of your home like a hallway, matte paint is great for hiding smaller imperfections, but it’s generally non-washable and not suggested for use in bathrooms
  5. Satin – the most popular sheen with an almost velvet-like appearance, satin can withstand cleaning and is a good finish for doors, walls, woodwork, kitchens, and bathrooms.

Pro Tip: Always keep a small amount of any leftover paint so you can touch up areas when necessary.

Water Shut-off Valves: You and your family need to know how to shut off various water sources found throughout your house. Regularly check to ensure each valve handle is free from debris and can be turned with relative ease.

Home Interior Maintenance Checklist

Weekly:

  • Dust all of your furniture

Monthly:

  • Carbon monoxide, radon gas, and smoke detectors – test monthly
  • Carpet/flooring 
  • Ceilings and walls 
  • Fixture finishes 

Quarterly:

  • Attach/check furniture protectors
  • Central vacuum system – clean the filter and canister
  • Check and clean exhaust fans
  • Make sure your electrical panel door is closed and free of dust

Every Six Months:

  • Check doors/knobs/locks to keep them in good working order
  • Ensure your water shut-off valves are debris-free and easily turned
  • Inspect your attic
  • Replace batteries in carbon monoxide, radon gas, and smoke detectors 
  • Crawl space vents: close (in the fall) and open (in the spring)

Every Three to Seven years:

  • Scuff your existing hardwood floors, followed by a recoating of the finish layer

Kitchen

How to Care for Your Kitchen

With today’s busy families, the center of your home could easily be the kitchen as compared to your living room. Ensuring everything from cleanliness to keeping appliances in good working order will help to ensure your household runs as smoothly as possible.

Dreaming Of A Kitchen Remodel? At some point within your homeownership, you may want to consider doing a kitchen remodel. You’ll need to take measurements of the existing space, brainstorm what features you want to change, collect ideas, and write up a list of the overall goals for your kitchen remodel. It’s also a matter of establishing a clear budget to follow. Know that any renovation will take time but a kitchen remodel could be upwards of five months. This means your family will not be able to use certain items of convenience as the process takes place, so having a contingency plan in place is key. 

Inexpensive Ways To Update Your Kitchen.  Easy ways to update your kitchen without doing a full-on remodel include:

  • Change out your flooring 
  • Change out your sink or faucets; reduce your carbon footprint by installing a touchless smart faucet that’s designed to save upwards of 15,000 gallons of water annually.
  • Going with some new lighting
  • Refacing or refinishing the existing cabinet doors/fronts
  • Replacing the drawer/cabinet knobs

Important Kitchen Items to Maintain

Cabinets: Kitchen cabinets are subject to a lot of wear and tear in a home. Regularly clean the exterior doors and fixtures, plus inspect the hardware to ensure hinges and drawers glide freely. Empty your cabinets completely and do a thorough interior clean at least once per year; check any food products for expiration dates when doing so. Check the grout or caulking around the sink and/or backsplash. For the exterior of your cabinets, use a damp or lint-free cloth for cleaning; avoid using abrasive products that can scar, or wax that can build up, discolor and/or attract even more dust overall.

Countertops: Countertops can be constructed with anything from concrete to laminated plastic, so it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning. General tips to help maintain your countertops include: 

  • Always use coasters for drinks and hot pads before placing hot dishes or pots on your countertop
  • Avoid any acid-containing products or even vinegar as they can easily stain countertops
  • Wiping up any spills immediately
  • Watching out for ink that can easily transfer from a grocery bag or label
  • Never using your countertop as a cutting board

Caulking: You should also check the caulking/grout lines for discoloration or damage, and repair if necessary. If you notice grout stains, the following is a general stain removal guide:

 

Blood Bleach or hydrogen peroxide
Coffee, tea, juice, food, lipstick A general cleaner with hot water, followed by bleach or hydrogen peroxide
Dyes and inks Bleach
Grease and Fats A mixture of water and soda; or a commercial spot lift cleaner
Mercurochrome antiseptic Ammonia

 

Dishwasher: A great dishwasher performs tough work so that you don’t have to. But if the interior drains become clogged with food particles or it springs a leak, it won’t perform well for you and your family. Once a month, run a manufacturer-recommended dishwasher cleaner through an empty cycle. Every three months, inspect and clean the pump, strainer, and spray arms to avoid those nasty clogs and odors that can result from such.

Garbage Disposal: The same goes for a hardworking garbage disposal system. Always running cold water before turning on and putting food into the disposal will help to ensure it maintains it’s good working order. Don’t overload the disposal as it could easily jam, and allow the disposal to run at least 15 seconds before turning it off. If a jam occurs, you could perform a do-it-yourself diagnosis after turning off the electricity to the unit, but if you’re not successful within a short period of time and the red reset button doesn’t restart the unit, it’s best to call a plumber. Pro tip: run a cup or so of ice cubes, or frozen lemon peels, through your garbage disposal monthly to help keep blades sharp and build-up free.

Kitchen Fire Safety: Ensure flammable items such as dish towels or aprons are kept away from stoves; don’t wear loose, flowy clothing when cooking. If a grease fire starts in a pan, cover it with a lid and shut off the heat; do not douse with water as the fire may spread. Baking soda can also be used to quell a fire.

Oven/Stove/Cooktop: Your oven, cooktop, and/or range will probably experience daily use, so it’s important to maintain them on continuously. You’ll need to clean up surface spills immediately, while attending to other aspects such as cleaning the range hood and oven interior monthly or as needed. If your oven doesn’t have a self-cleaning feature, you can clean a cold oven interior by first spraying an oven cleaner directly onto a cloth and then cleaning the surface; never spray directly into the oven itself because this will cause unnecessary odor the next time you use the oven after cleaning if you spray onto the bake elements and/or discoloration on the chrome racks.

Sinks: Your sink should be kept free of debris and possible stain-causing items such as coffee grounds or a teabag. Don’t clean a stainless steel sink with any type of steel wool, as it will damage the surface. If you’re using a rubber dish mat, always remove it from the sink to avoid discoloration from trapped water underneath. Pro Tip: maintain your sink, add washing soda (not baking soda) to your drain to help keep the drain soap and grease-free.

Small Appliances: For small appliances such as microwaves, coffeemakers, and toasters, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning.

Kitchen Maintenance Checklist

Daily:

  • Clean the cabinet hardware

Monthly:

  • Clean the cabinet exteriors
  • Check the countertops for caulk/grout damage
  • Run a manufacturer-recommended cleaner through your empty dishwasher 
  • Clean your oven

Quarterly:

  • Clean and inspect the dishwasher strainer, pump, and spray arms
  • Reinforce garbage disposal operational tips with your family

Twice a Year:

  • Check the grout/caulking around the backsplash and/or sink.

Yearly:

  • Completely empty and clean cabinets from top to bottom; discard any expired food products. 

Landscaping

How to Care for Your Landscaping

You don’t necessarily need a green thumb to keep your landscaping in tiptop shape; it’s more about the pride and desire to take care of your home. You can have a low maintenance-style yard of native plants and wildflower, or a tropical haven, the choice is entirely up to you. If you choose the latter, you’ll need to be willing to invest your time and money to maintain the greenery, or hire a gardener to do so for you. Landscaping isn’t limited to plants and trees, it also includes things like your driveway, concrete pavers, and patios, to your lawn and garden sprinkler system.

Important Landscaping Items to Maintain

Driveways and Patios: Some driveways are accented by the use of contrasting concrete pavers along the edges, which can easily be replaced if they become damaged so it’s always a good idea to purchase more pavers than needed initially for replacement purposes. You’ll need to remove any weeds as they appear, and to fill in the joint sand every year. Besides removing any accumulated debris, an asphalt driveway requires a twice-yearly cleaning with a stiff broom, followed by a good hosing off with water. Caring for your walkways can involve sweeping with a stiff broom, cleaning off with a hose, and monitoring for any cracks in the concrete, which can be filled in with a concrete crack sealer. Salt is commonly used on walkways to prevent freezing but know that it actually deteriorates both concrete and asphalt, along with the possibility of leaving stains. Hose off your patio once a month; if you’ve got a wooden deck, inspect it to see if it requires staining and/or re-sealing to prolong its life by preventing water damage. 

Pro Tip: It’s important to note that your newly poured asphalt driveway requires from six to 12 months to harden completely; during this time it will still be somewhat pliable and soft, so try not to park in the exact same spot every day, nor to use any type of jack/car ramp unless you place plywood underneath them first as excessive weight can cause damage. 

Pro Tip: An inexpensive safety feature to consider is installing solar-powered LED lights along your walkway which automatically turn on and off; they’re especially welcome during winter when walkways can appear clean but still be icy.

Irrigation System: Your underground irrigation system consists of water supply lines, pop-up sprinkler heads, valves, and a backflow preventer, which keeps irrigation water from mixing with your drinking water. Once a week, do a walk around at different times of the day to ensure all sprinkler heads are functioning and there aren’t any leaks along the lines. Twice yearly you’ll need to flush your irrigation system. Fall is the time to shut off the water and drain the pipes, while spring means turning the master valve back on to restart your irrigation system. Pro Tip: Always be aware of any irrigation restrictions placed by your local water authority.

Landscaping: In general, professional engineers should have designed the landscaping around your home to drain water away from your house and structures. Within the landscaping world, berms are the high spots and swales are the lower areas. If your home has been newly constructed, it could take a year or more for your soil to settle, so don’t take on any major landscaping projects before that time. Don’t place landscaping too close to your home as overwatering could create a swale, and any excess water could cause serious damage to the foundation; leaving a space of at least six inches from where your home sits and soil begins is a great rule of thumb to follow. Pro Tip: For native plants to thrive, you’ll need a rich organic soil base of about 3 inches in depth, which is optimal for holding moisture, while preventing soil compaction and weeds from growing.

Outdoor Plumbing:  In the fall, you’ll need to disconnect, drain, wrap up, and store any hoses. If you accidentally leave a hose out over winter, any water inside may freeze, expand, and cause damage or breaks in the hose. Turn off the interior water valve leading to your outdoor faucets; you can also purchase an insulation kit to wrap up your faucets if you choose. FYI: the term hose bib refers to any exterior faucets (spigots) on your home.

Termites/Pests: In the spring, do a walk around of your home to inspect for the possibility of termite damage, which can include peeling paint, the presence of mud tubes as they burrow along, and/or buckling wood. Common contributing causes of termite infestation are moisture and structural cracks.

Landscaping Maintenance Checklist

Weekly:

  • Pull weeds from your driveway pavers
  • Monitor your sprinkler lines for damaged heads or leaks

Monthly:

  • Wash your patio

Spring:

  • Clean your asphalt driveway with a broom, followed by hosing down
  • Flush your irrigation system; shut off the water in the fall, turn it back on during spring
  • Check your deck to see if restaining or re-sealing is required

Summer:

  • Check for an irrigation restrictions placed by your local water authority

Fall:

  • Clean your asphalt driveway with a broom, followed by hosing down
  • Flush your irrigation system; shut off the water in the fall, turn back on during spring

Yearly:

  • Fill in the joint sand between your driveway pavers
  • Check for termite damage every spring
  • Nourish your lawn with an application of 18-5-9 fertilizer (nitrogen-phosphate-potash or NPK), using a ratio of about four pounds to 1,000 square feet.
  • Trim any shrubs, plants, or trees away from your home.

Plumbing

How to Care for Your Plumbing

The plumbing throughout your home plays a major role in keeping your family function from day to day, so it’s important to take care of any issues that may crop up including a faucet that’s been dripping for weeks. Some tasks will be fairly easy to tackle, especially with today’s wealth of instructional videos available, but if you’re in doubt at all, it’s always better to call in a professional plumber to ensure the problem is taken care of properly. 

Important Plumbing Items to Maintain

Are you going on vacation for an extended period? Before leaving, drain the water supply lines by shutting off the mainline and opening faucets to relieve any pressure. You can also shut off your hot water heater by shutting off the cold-water valve at the top and/or the gas control valve located at the bottom. If you’ll be away during winter, ensure your heat is set to maintain a constant temperature of 65°F so pipes don’t freeze. 

Burst Pipe: A burst pipe at best can cause floor/carpet damage, but could require a complete home overhaul. According to Peter Kim, Assistant Vice President of Philadelphia Insurance Companies, “our aver loss related to frozen pipes is $27,000, but our most expensive claim was 1.7 million,” stated Kim. “People tend to get complacent about winter storms, but they can be extremely damaging. There’s very little awareness of the significance of the loss potential.”

Clogs: If you’re experiencing a drain clog, options for cleaning include using a plunger to loosen the clog, taking off and inspecting the drain train, and/or using a plumber’s snake. If the clog doesn’t clear, you may need to call in a plumber. Pro tip: To keep your drains free from clogs, run the hot water for a few minutes, turn off, and add three tablespoons of washing soda (sodium carbonate or Na2CO3; not baking soda). Let sit for 15 minutes before running the hot water again. If you do this weekly or monthly, you’ll help keep your drains clog-free. Never pour cooking grease into your toilet or drain; instead, pour it into a glass jar and then dispose of it into your garbage. Pro Tip: regularly remind your household family members to never, ever flush items like cotton swabs, diapers, gauze, paper towels, sanitary pads, tampons, and/or wipes of any kind.

Do you know how to read your water meter? If you have an older home, you could have an odometer-style meter, while newer homes will likely have digital meters. The number shown on your water meter indicates your water usage based on 100-cubic-feet units. Track your monthly consumption and compare it to your utility bill’s estimation. If it’s high, contact them and insist on a physical reading for the upcoming month. Causes of utility bill estimations instead of actual readings can include an obstructed or hard to get to meter, or a somewhat aggressive pet that workers will avoid.

Faucets: Your faucets are made up of several components including washers and aerators, which adds air to the water when it comes out of the faucet. Monthly you’ll need to remove the aerator, remove debris, wash out the screen and the washer, then reassemble and reattach. To tackle that leaky faucet, you’ll need to shut off the water, remove and replace the washer or cartridge according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Reduce your carbon footprint by installing touchless smart faucets designed to save upwards of 15,000 gallons of water annually.

Hot tub: Do a monthly check for leaks around the tub’s base. Never add any bubble-type soap or bath oils to your hot tub. When draining as per the manufacturer’s instructions, always turn off the pump and never run the pump unless there’s at least two inches of water over the jets, otherwise the pump can become damaged.

Identifying leaks: Every month you’ll need to check for possible leaks under each of the sinks with your home; run the water and ensure connections are firm. Use this same time to check your hot water heater for leaks. Ensuring the temperature of your hot water heaters is set to 120°F as recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy can result in 4  to 22% savings annually. Once per year, you’ll need to manually drain your hot water heater to remove any sediment that’s been building up; you’ll also need to clean or replace the heating element as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Regularly monitor appliances/systems for any possible water leaks including:

  • Dishwasher
  • Hot water tank
  • HVAC unit
  • Refrigerator
  • Toilets
  • Washer

Low water pressure issues? Low water pressure within your home could be a result of too much water being used at the same time, such as with running the dishwasher and washing machine simultaneously. If there doesn’t seem to be a correlation, it could be attributed to general household plumbing or the main water line. In this case, a professional opinion would be a great idea.

Outdoor Pool: Your swimming pool will no doubt be a great source of fun for you and your family throughout the years, but it will require adhering to a regular maintenance schedule. The pool’s pump will run for a minimum of eight hours a day and even more if you want to keep your pool heated in winter. When the filter pump hits half the normal pressure expected (ask your pool service technician to identify the normal pressure), you’ll need to clean the filter. Brushing your pool every day will help to keep out any debris; you’ll also need to regularly clean the handrails and ladder. The lint tray needs to be emptied once a month, and you’ll need to vacuum the pool every week. The water balance will need to be tested weekly and monthly to keep everything in order; having a balanced pool means maintaining five pool water components (alkalinity; calcium hardness; pH (acidity); stabilizer; total dissolved solids). During summer, you’ll need to super chlorinate your pool twice a month to maintain cleanliness; adding more than a normal level of chlorine, also known as shocking, burns through any existing algae, oils, etc. After doing super chlorination, you’ll need to wait 24 hours before anyone can swim in the pool, and it’s best to chlorinate at night, followed by brushing and vacuuming your pool in the morning.

Septic: If you have a septic system in place, you’ll need to have a professional empty your system at least every three years, and no more than five. Don’t plant any type of landscaping or let any water accumulate near your septic field. Signs of a septic problem include:

  • Green grass that stays green in a patch over the drainage field, even when it’s dry
  • Pooling water on top of the drainage field
  • Slowly flushing toilets
  • Smelly, black water back up in your home’s toilets or drains

Pro Tip: dissolve an individual package of baker’s yeast in hot water, then pour into one of your sink drains, which helps to encourage the growth of good bacterial culture to break down solids within the tank.

Sewer Lines: Chances are your homeowner’s insurance policy doesn’t cover sewer pipe replacement, but if this is something you’re really concerned about given the age of your home, you may be able to shape around and find an insurer that’s willing to cover you. Before you buy a home, it’s always encouraged to have the sewer line inspected by a professional who can examine the line with a camera so you’ll be aware of any potential needed repairs including issues from tree roots, or deteriorating areas within the line. 

Water Shut-Off Valves: Knowing where individual and the main water shut-off valves are located in your home are keys to successful homeownership; you never want to be in a position with a burst water pipe only to discover you’re not exactly sure where the main water valve is. If you haven’t done so already, take the time to locate and then label the shut-off valves throughout your home including the:

  • Dishwasher
  • Fire sprinklers
  • Hot water heater
  • Icemaker
  • Irrigation system
  • Refrigerators
  • Showers and tubs
  • Sinks
  • Toilets
  • Washer

Pro Tip: Keeping a wrench in close approximation to your vital shut-off valves ensures you’ll be able to turn them off easily in an emergency.

Common Plumbing Issues Possible Cause Solution
Garbage disposal is clogged There’s an obstruction Use a disposal wrench to check the bottom of the unit
Garbage disposal won’t operate The reset button has been tripped Hit the reset button at the bottom of the unit
Hose sprayer in the kitchen is dripping It’s dirty, or possibly defective Clean and/or replace
Hot water recovery takes a long time The heating element of the hot water tank may be burned out Check the circuit breaker; replace the heating element
No hot water from the hot water heater The temperature may be set too low; the circuit breaker may have tripped Check and adjust the temperature setting; reset the breaker
Slow draining bathtub or sink There’s an obstruction such as a hair clog Remove the blockage
Toilet is running The water level in the tank may be too high; the flapper valve may not be sealing entirely Adjust the fill valve; replace the flapper valve
Toilet sounds overly loud when flushing The floater valve in the tank isn’t working properly Replace the floater valve
Toilet sounds like it’s dripping  A damaged or worn flapper valve Replace the flapper valve
Toilet is overflowing or backing up There’s an obstruction Turn off the toilet intake valve and use a plunger to dislodge the object/clog
Water flow seems reduced The faucet aerator is clogged Unscrew, rinse the screen, and replace
Water splatters out from the faucet There’s air in the water line Open all faucets and let them run for five minutes to clear out the air
Water is leaking underneath the sink Plumbing fittings are loose Hand tighten the fittings
Water dripping from the shutoff valve There’s a loose packing nut Open the valve, then retighten the nut gently

 

Plumbing Maintenance Checklist

Daily:

  • Brush your pool to remove debris

Weekly:

  • Proactively use washing soda to prevent clogs from forming in drains
  • Test your pool’s water balance
  • Vacuum your pool

Monthly:

  • Check for possible leaks under all sinks in your home
  • Check for possible hot tub leaks around the base of the unit; drain periodically as per the manufacturer
  • Check the pool pressure and change the filter if necessary
  • Check your water heater for possible leaks; ensure the temperature is set to 120°F. Do not store combustibles near the tank as they’re a fire hazard; even though it’s tempting, don’t use the top of the tank as a storage shelf
  • Clean out your faucet aerators
  • Clean the ladder and handrails of your pool
  • Empty the pool pump’s lint tray
  • Monitor appliances/systems for signs of leaks: dishwasher; HVAC unit; fridge; toilets; washer
  • Test your pool’s water balance

Twice Monthly:

  • Super chlorinate your pool

Yearly:

  • Shut off the circuit breaker to the tank and manually drain the hot water heater to remove accumulated sediment. Clean or replace the heating element as per the manufacturer.

Every Three to Five Years:

  • Have a professional pump out your septic system

16.Preventing Water Damage

The Importance of Preventing Water Damage

Industry experts estimate nearly 14,000 Americans experience a water damage emergency daily, while 98% of basements across the country will suffer from water damage in their lifetime.

What Happens When There’s Water Damage? Water damage generally means you’ll also experience furniture and appliance damage, structural issues, and/or mold and health issues if the water isn’t cleared out and cleaned up from your home as soon as possible. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions) and irritants. Allergic reactions include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. Molds can also cause asthma attacks.” They go on to state, “mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic people and non-allergic people.

What Causes Water Damage In Your Home? It could be something as obvious as a flood or a hole in your roof, or by something subtler such as moisture dripping onto your home’s foundation, faulty appliances or even a leaky pipe. The average cost of water damage caused by an internally leaking water heater is $3,642, while a foot and a half of water in your home could cost you upwards of $26,000 in damages.

Do I Need To Call A Pro If I Have Water Damage? If you do experience water damage, seeking out the help of a professional water damage restoration company that can service your home in a timely and professional manner is ideal. Ask family and friends for recommendations, and consult an online rating service such as Angie’s List.

What Water Damage Coverage Is Included In Your Homeowner Policy? If you’re not sure, this is the perfect time to check. The longer you wait to perform a repair that’s water damage related, the more it’s going to cost you. Any time you experience water damage, one of your first calls should be to your insurance company to determine whether you have coverage to repair the specific issue you’re facing.

How to Prevent Water Damage

According to the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), there are three water damage categories consisting of:

Category One – clean water from a sanitary source

Category Two – greywater which potentially contains bacteria from a dishwasher or washer

Category Three – black water comprised of highly toxic sewage

Other areas of your home to inspect for and to protect against possible water damage include:

Drywall: A mere half-inch of water along the edge of a drywall sheet can easily spread as high as six inches in no time. While you can try to mitigate your loss by using fans and dehumidifiers, a professional contractor skilled in water damage recovery can use a commercial-grade dehumidifier that’s four times as effective before any harmful mold can take hold.

Flat roof: If your home has a flat roof, check to ensure there’s no build-up of debris, and that water freely runs off and doesn’t start pooling in certain areas

Gutters: Check to make sure they’re not restricted with debris, aren’t leaking and drain away from your home. You can find out if a drain pipe is clogged, try flushing with a hose. If it’s a stubborn clog, using a plumber’s snake usually does the trick. If you don’t have gutters on your home, consider installing them so water is directed away from your home to prevent slab or foundation damage, which would cost more to repair than installing rain gutters.

Irrigation: Frequently inspecting any garden hoses and outdoor faucets (also known as hose bibs) to ensure they’re not leaking will help prevent water damage to your foundation; change the washers as necessary.

Plumbing: Replace any leaky appliance hoses; consider installing a sump pump and/or water leak alarms if you’re located in a high flood risk area. If you already have a sump pump, check to make sure it’s in working order each spring; your sump pump has a life span ranging from seven to 10 years.

How to Monitor for Water Damage

Do A Walkabout. Inspecting your home on a regular basis is key to preventing water damage. On a regular walkthrough of your house, you may notice an area of condensation or a water stain starting to form on a specific ceiling area. Before it gets any worse, you’ll be able to conduct any necessary repairs to ensure the damage doesn’t progress any further.

Is Your Water Bill Higher Than Normal? If you experience a spike in your water bill, this could easily be a sign of excess water consumption or a potential damage problem.

Do You Live In A Flood Prone Area? Smart water leak detectors can be installed and in the prescience of water will immediately send an alert to your phone. Some systems will even monitor ambient temperature and humidity, as well as being able to instantaneously shut the water off to your home.

What is Condensation? Simply put, condensation is water or frost that forms on a surface such as a door, skylight, or window, or in your basement. Condensation could be caused by higher than normal indoor humidity, contrasting colder outdoor temperatures, or where the indoor temperature of surfaces are less than the dew point (the temperature at which the air’s moisture visibly turns into liquid) of the air surrounding them. Relative humidity refers to how much moisture is in the air in comparison to how much moisture the air can hold at any given temperature; warmer air holds more moisture than does cooler air.

How to Reduce Condensation in Your Home:

  • If you’re already using a humidifier, adjust the output
  • Ensure there’s proper ventilation in your home, especially near areas where humidity regularly occurs
  • Use the bathroom fan every time any family member has a bath or shower to remove excess moisture
  • During the day, open curtains and blinds (if it’s not extremely hot outside)
  • Know that items such as aquariums, plants, and fresh paint within your home cause contribute to overall moisture levels

17.Keeping Structural Integrity Intact

How to Keep Your Home’s Structure Safe

One of the best ways to preserve your home’s structural integrity is by establishing a baseline by having a professional foundation expert assess the overall stability of your foundation. A good structural contractor will be able to offer suggestions and solutions to problems your home may be experiencing such as:

  • Bowing walls: Meaning there’s pressure from the ground pushing inward on the foundation itself
  • Cracks in the walls: Could be foundation-related or a safety issue
  • Settling: It’s normal to experience small cracks when a house settles on the foundation but numerous or large cracks means you’ll need to seek out professional advice
  • Crawl space issues: If your house sits upon a slab, it could expand, sink or contract in time – all of which require professional assessment

Regularly monitoring the condition of your roof, basement and the soil stabilization around your home’s exterior will help to keep on top of any areas of concern.

Important Things to Do 

If you notice a small crack in a basement wall or your foundation, this could be from settling, which is a normal process from the weight of the house. If you’re concerned these cracks could grow into something bigger and/or in number, tape a dated piece of masking tape at the bottom and the top of each crack. You can check back in a month to see if the crack has grown larger or stayed the same. If it’s significantly larger, it’s time to get a professional evaluation.

It’s possible to improve your home’s structural integrity by conducting repairs to your concrete floor and foundation walls, as well as by waterproofing the exterior of your home and considering repointing the existing mortar in your chimney, which could be susceptible to leakage over time.

Structural Maintenance Checklist

  • Conduct any structural repairs as they come up.
  • Regularly monitor your home including the basement, surrounding soil and roof.
  • If in doubt, call in a professional to assess the situation.

18.Emergency Repairs

How to Handle Emergency Repairs

Hopefully you’ve already compiled a list of reputable service providers and contractors from the previous owners of your home, friends and relatives, or through your builder. Securely storing your Service Provider contact list online with DomiDocs ensures you’ll have quick and easy access to what you need, when you need it. You’ll be able to add personal notes so you’ll never forget a thing.

Use your already established emergency fund to finance whatever repairs need to be done. Statistics from the HomeServe Biannual State of the Home survey shows 33% of homeowners have under $500 saved for unforeseen home repairs, so be sure to contribute regularly to your fund. The survey also noted that young homeowners mistakenly believe that most sewer pipe and broken water lines would be covered by their homeowners’ insurance, utility company or by their municipality/city, which is frequently not the case.  In most cases, if the issue with a sewer or water line occurs between the street and the house, the repair is the responsibility of the homeowner, not the utility or municipality. 

Heating: If your heating system is not working, it could be either a minor or a major issue.  If your system is fueled by natural gas, refer to the manual to see how to check to see if the pilot light has gone out and if so, how to safely relight it.  If your system is electric, check to see if a circuit breaker has tripped and if so, reset it.  If it trips again, contact a licensed electrician or heating system repair contractor.  If your system is fueled by heating oil, check to be certain that there is oil in the tank.  Then refer to the manual for other troubleshooting ideas and if necessary, contact a licensed heating system contractor.  If your system is fueled in another way, refer to the owner’s manual for troubleshooting ideas and if those listed do not get your system working again, contact a repair contractor who has experience in working with systems like the one you have.  

Pest Control: If you have an ant problem or rodent issues that are confirmed by droppings, you can set traps around the area to try and stop the issue, but in many cases, it’s well worth consulting a professional as pest populations can quickly get out of hand and the damage they can do is significant.

Plumbing: If you experience a broken or burst pipe, you’ll need to shut off the water main. If there’s a clogged or overflowing toilet, immediately turn off the valve behind the toilet. If you cannot easily clear the clog with a plunger, a chemical product may help or you may need to call a plumber.

Roofing: If you’re experiencing water damage or a ceiling leak, see if you can easily track down the source. Cover the leak with plastic and/or use buckets if necessary to try and minimize the damage. Once you have isolated the problem and done what you can to minimize the damage, your best option is to contact a professional.  If the leak is being caused either by damage to your home’s exterior from a storm, falling tree, etc. or by a leak from a pipe in your wall or ceiling, you’ll also want to contact your homeowner’s insurance company, as the repair may be covered by your policy.  

Utilities: If your emergency involves a utility provider, leave your home and call them immediately for instructions on what you’ll need to do to keep you and your family safe. Your main shut-off valve for your gas company will be located at the meter. If the electricity or the Internet goes out, it’s generally quick to establish if it’s affected your entire neighborhood or just your own home.

Windows: If a window in your home gets broken, ensure you wear gloves before picking up any bits of glass or debris. You can temporarily seal up the window with cardboard or something like a plastic garbage bag while waiting for a glass repair professional.

Call your insurance provider to see what your homeowner’s policy or warranty will cover. 

While it may seem impossible, do your best not to stress, as even the most urgent of urgent emergencies to you, may still take hours, days or even weeks to be repaired.

Emergency Repair Contacts List

Your emergency contact list for repairs and service providers can include everything from awnings to windows, and whatever can occur in between. Consider compiling info for the following professional categories:

  • Air conditioning
  • Appraiser
  • Audio/Visual/Computers
  • Awnings
  • Brick and Stone
  • Builder
  • Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning
  • Cleaning and Maid Service
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Electrician
  • Glass and Mirrors
  • Gutters
  • Handyman
  • Heating Fuel
  • Home inspection
  • Insulation
  • Insurance Services
  • Irrigation
  • Lawn and Garden Care
  • Moving
  • Painting
  • Paving
  • Pest Control
  • Photography
  • Plumbing
  • Real Estate Services
  • Roofing
  • Screening
  • Septic Tanks and Wells
  • Swimming Pool
  • Tree Services
  • Waste Material Removal
  • Windows

19.Disaster Preparedness

How to Prepare for Disasters

Planning and preparation are key to dealing with any type of disaster. Being prepared can help reduce any anxiety that may occur during an unforeseen event as you’ll have the advantage of knowing what to do and where to go to help keep your family safe. FEMA states everyone should be self-sufficient for at least three days, which means you’ll need to have food, water, shelter, sanitation, and first aid readily available.

The American Red Cross (https://www.redcross.org) responds to an emergency event every 8 minutes across the country, including an average 60,000+ disaster responses annually, all in the name of meeting immediate needs of the citizens and communities during times of disaster.

The National Weather Service (http://weather.gov), as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), offers crucial information in regards to any impending hazardous weather conditions including excessive heat warnings and heat advisories, as well as for natural disasters.

Different Types of Disasters

Disasters can happen to anyone at any time. It’s important to know what hazards could potentially pose a risk to you and your family, and to have a plan in place to help ensure safety, and to mitigate any potential losses.

According to FEMA, these types of disasters could threaten your property or life:

  • Acts of terrorism
  • Earthquakes
  • Extreme heat
  • Fires 
  • Floods
  • Hurricanes
  • Landslides and debris flow (mudslide)
  • Technological hazards including hazardous material incidents, nuclear power plants, and household chemical emergencies
  • Thunderstorms and lightning
  • Tornadoes
  • Tsunamis
  • Volcanoes
  • Wildfires
  • Winter storms and extreme cold

How to Put Together a Disaster Prep Plan

Putting together a disaster prep plan for you and your family in case of an emergency is an easy task to accomplish when you follow FEMA’s Citizen Preparedness guide. They’ll walk you through everything from becoming informed to emergency planning and checklists, to assembling a disaster supplies kit, as well as practicing your escape route and maintaining your disaster prep plan.

FEMA’s Citizen Preparedness guide:

Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness

Appendix A: Water Conservation Tips

Appendix B: Disaster Supplies Checklists

Appendix C: Family Communications Plan

General tips: if an impending disaster is heading your way include:

  • Monitor reports on the local news
  • Fuel your vehicles
  • Take photographs of your property and home
  • Check your emergency supplies including bottled water, plus battery-operated flashlights and a radio

20.Frequently Asked Questions

Common Homeowner Questions

How Much Do I Require For A Down Payment? Depending on your lender, down payments for first-time homebuyers can range from as low as 3 to 5%, while noting the average down payment across the board is 11%.

How Do I Apply To Get A Mortgage? Using Rocket Mortgage® (developed by Quicken Loans) is an easy way to qualify for your new mortgage. Just fill out some simple questions regarding yourself and your finances, and they’ll give you real numbers and interest rates in return, then you can ask questions and apply to get approved. Your application with Rocket Mortgage® is always free.

What Credit Score Range Is Required To Buy A Home? A traditional Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, typically for those who haven’t bought a home in 3 years or for first-time buyers, requires a credit score of around 580. Depending on your down payment, an FHA loan may approve you for a mortgage with a credit score in the 500 to 579 range.

How Long Does It Actually Take To Buy A Home? From the moment you start searching online to the closing escrow, the average home buying process takes approximately 10 to 12 weeks, with some home sales taking as long as six months, so exercising patience is key.

What’s Included When I Purchase A Home? American laws vary from state to state so don’t assume you’ll be getting those appliances. You’ll need to ask about specific items including window treatments, lighting fixtures, and appliances, just to avoid any nasty surprises.

Do I Need To Purchase Title Insurance? Buying title insurance from a reputable company ensures you’ll have peace of mind in knowing you’ll be covered from any form of financial loss due to covered claims, even if a future sale falls through due to a covered defect within your property’s title, or there’s a claim of land access, liens, fraud, or forgery.

How Much Insurance Coverage Is Needed For My Home? The value of both your personal property and your home’s physical structure will determine how much insurance you’ll need. 

What Are The Most Common Homeowner Insurance Claims? Wind and hail, and water damage/freezing, Fire and lightning, followed by bodily injury/property damage.

I Want To Build My Own Home, How Do I Find A Reputable Builder? Choosing a great national builder will help ensure your building experience will meet, and in many cases exceed, your home building dreams. Research the builders available in the location you desire. Reach out to the community, friends and family to share their experience with their builder. Consider not only price, but the quality of their work, how well they stick to the schedule and the level of support they provide.

How Do I Keep Track Of What Maintenance I Need To Perform On My Home And When? By using the DomiDocs platform, you’ll be notified when there’s a scheduled maintenance recommendation. The win here? By keeping your home in the best condition possible, you’ll be reducing your insurance risks and costs.

How Can I Organize My Homeowner Documents, There’s So Much Paper! Storing your official documents and paperwork in the DomiDocs cloud ensures all of your documents will be safely kept in one place while being accessible whenever you need them. The SAFE documents feature is completely sharable so you can quickly send information to whomever you choose.

How Do I File An Insurance Claim? The first thing to do is to contact your insurance agent. They will walk you through the process, but one of the first things they will ask for is documentation of what was damaged/stolen. DomiDocs has developed a specific feature called document bundles on its platform to store homeowner documents, such as your homeowner’s insurance policy, floorplan, improvements made, contents of the home, valuables, receipts, photos and more. Everything you will need to file an insurance claim is securely stored online, thoroughly documented and packaged together to send to your Agent.

Why Should I Use DomiDocs? It’s all about empowering you as a homeowner to feel secure and confident via the DomiDocs user-friendly online platform. You’ll have the ability to oversee all of your important household documents digitally, while utilizing tools needed to effectively manage your property via modern digital enablement technology. 

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