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You just closed on your first house. Congratulations! You are now a home owner! After all the excitement of finding your perfect home, navigating the paperwork for the Realtor, the lender and the title company and the exhaustion from packing and moving, now what? Owning a home is a big responsibility and a big investment. You want to protect your investment and get the most out of your new home.

Here are some things you should now about home ownership and maintenance. The very first thing you should do after the closing is change the locks. You will get keys at the closing to get you in the home, but how many other people might have keys to your new home? Especially if the home you are buying was a bank owned property or foreclosure, there could be lots of people out there with access to your house. Former owners, landscape people, cleaning people, contractors, realtors or just about anybody else could have keys to your property. For the price of some new locks and a few hours’ time (or better yet, call a locksmith to do it for you), you can have the peace of mind of knowing the only person with keys to your house is You.

The next thing you should do is locate your main electrical box and the water main shut off. If you have had a home inspection, the inspector showed you where these things are located and how to shut them off, but if you didn’t have an inspection or need a refresher, locate them now. You should change the furnace filter because it may be past due and then you can start out with a fresh clean one. Don’t forget to check it monthly and replace it again when it is dirty. Make sure you know how to shut off the water, electric and gas to the house. In case you have an emergency, you will know what to do and where to find them immediately. Trying to find the main water shut off while your washing machine is flooding the basement is not a good time.

Walk around your home and make sure you have smoke detectors on each floor and a carbon monoxide detector. Next, make sure they are working. Each one should have a test button which you can push to make sure they will alarm. Now would be a good time to put fresh batteries in them because you have no way of knowing the last time they were changed. Get in the habit of changing the batteries every time we change the clocks for daylight savings time. That way you know your detectors will always be operating properly. Also, buy at least one fire extinguisher and know how to operate it. If you leave in a 2 story house, you should also invest in an emergency collapsible fire ladder and store it upstairs by a window so everyone knows

where it is in case of a fire. Family fire drills are also a good idea so there is a plan that the family can practice.

Before you unpack you will want to give the house a good cleaning. It is much easier to clean when it is empty. You can scrub or vacuum the floors without having to move furniture, wipe out cabinets without having to empty them out first, wipe down the appliances and scrub the bathrooms. Sweep out the basement and garage while they are empty too. You can then unpack in a nice clean house. You might want to spray for bugs and set out a few mouse traps if the house has been empty for a while.

Lastly, if you don’t already have basic tools, you will need to get some now. You will need a hammer, a set of screwdrivers, a wrench and some pliers. You can add to the basics as you go but there will undoubtedly be repairs needed to your home and you need to be prepared. It will be necessary to have yard tools as well. A lawnmower, rake, and shovel at minimum. No more landlord to do the yard work for you! Home ownership is exciting and rewarding but it is very important to protect and maintain your investment so you can enjoy it for years to come!

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