1. New Homeowners: How to Ace Your First Year
  • New Homeowners: How to Ace Your First Year

    July 13, 2020

    Seven ways to build confidence and make the most of your first home.

    • First-time homeownership comes with its fair share of pressures and surprises, but thoughtful preparation and organization will save you a lot of headaches and dollars. We’ve pulled together seven essential to-dos that will help you take on that first year with confidence, less stress and more time to enjoy your home.

      1. Set reminders

      There’s a lot to remember to do around your home—including some things that might be entirely new to you. Setting calendar reminders for key replacements, regular maintenance and seasonal tasks frees up your mind to focus on the fun stuff.
       

      • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be tested each month, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, with fresh batteries put in every month and the entire alarm replaced after 10 years.1
      • Replace your HVAC filter regularly—at least every 3 months for 1” Filtrete™ Filters; every 12 months for filters 4” or 5”. The life of your filter depends on several factors, including your home’s specific indoor air contaminants (think: pet dander, fireplace smoke, candle soot, construction dust). You can also subscribe & save to make replacing filters even easier, or download the free Filtrete™ Smart App for notifications on your smartphone.
      • Swap out an open carton of baking soda in your fridge each month as an easy, low-cost way to keep your kitchen smelling fresher.
      • Schedule seasonal tasks ahead of time.
        • Spring: Check and clear gutters and deep clean indoors, keeping an eye out for mold.
        • Summer: Tackle exterior projects and clean your dryer vent, as lint and debris is a leading cause of dryer fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.2
        • Fall: Check downspouts, eaves and do extensive yard cleanup.
        • Winter: Maintain your heating system and ventilation. Mitigate ice dams if you’re in a cold climate.

      2. Crowdsource service providers

      Don’t wait until you have a backed-up drain or dust bunnies everywhere to find professional help. It’s never too early to build a contact list of go-to help to stay on top of repairs and keep major issues at bay. If family isn’t nearby and you’re one of the first in your friend group to buy a home, Nextdoor is a great resource for finding local help and word-of-mouth recommendations for plumbers, electricians, HVAC professionals and general handypersons.

      3. Prioritize outsourcing

      What takes more time for you to do than it’d take a professional? Are there tasks you loathe and would rather spend that time making progress in other areas? We all have our strengths, and there’s great relief in delegating tasks to professionals for things like painting, housecleaning, yard care and snow removal. Odd job and errand platforms like TaskRabbit are another smart option when you need a helping hand to get things done.

      4. Research insurance

      Options abound, and it’s important to make sure you understand what is and is not covered by your homeowners’ insurance. For example, many utility companies offer appliance insurance that might be a good investment if you have aging appliances that you’re not in a position to replace right now. At the very least, set aside a small amount of money each month so when unexpected costs come up—because they certainly will—you’re not at a total loss.

      5. Keep costs down

      Staying on top of everyday uses helps you avoid the invisible costs of homeownership that can quickly add up.
       

      • Conserving water is not only good for the environment, but it helps keep utility costs down. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlines many ways homeowners can conserve water, many as simple as running full loads of laundry.3
      • Shutting off lights in rooms you’re not using seems like a no-brainer, but many of us go from room to room without realizing what’s left on. Make a habit of turning off the light as soon as you leave a room and only turn it on as needed, rather than as a reflexive habit when you enter a room.
      • Smart thermostats and other programmable products are another way to ensure you’re using only what you need. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting thermostats to 68°F during waking hours in the winter and lowering the temperature during sleeping hours or when you’re not home. In summer, set your programmable thermostat to 78°F only when you’re at home. This could save you as much as 10% on annual heating and cooling costs.4 Setting and programming a thermostat will stop your HVAC from running on overdrive. Done properly, it can also save you $180 per year in energy costs.5
      • Regularly changing your HVAC filter is one the best and cheapest DIY home repairs and can help you avoid more costly repairs or maintenance down the road.

      6. Weigh your options

      Prioritizing investments and estimated costs for repairs or replacements is essential—and can quickly become overwhelming. Take the list from your home inspection report and start ranking tasks in order of importance and associated costs, alongside any projects high on your personal list. Creating a plan and a timeline will temper the stress of not being able to do and afford everything at once, and will provide the blueprint for project planning.

      7. Phone a friend

      Talk with your people. Don’t underestimate the power of tapping your community, asking others what advice they have and what they wish they’d known in those first weeks, months and years as a homeowner. If you’re stuck on a decision, they can likely help you figure out the best move, so you don’t unnecessarily fret over the what-ifs.

      Sources:

      https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/smoke_alarms.html#ans5

      https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Data-research-and-tools/US-Fire-Problem/Home-fires-involving-clothes-dryers-and-washing-machines

      https://www3.epa.gov/region1/eco/drinkwater/water_conservation_residents.html

      https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/thermostats

      https://www.energystar.gov/campaign/heating_cooling