The closing went smoothly, you’ve been handed the keys and the place is yours. You did it! You head over to your new place, pop a bottle of champagne (remember to bring your own bottle opener and cups) to celebrate. After a glass of bubbly in an empty space, you realize that you might own the place, but before you can spend lazy Sundays lounging in a well-appointed living room, there’s a lot to be done. Below are a few steps that you should do sooner, rather than later.
Forward your mail. It’s obvious but easy to forget in the stress of buying a home.
Change the locks. You never know who might have a key: a former spouse of the previous owner, the previous owner’s cleaner or best friend down the street. Or, the previous owner may have hidden a key in some flowerpot out front and completely forgot. You want to make sure your place is secure, so change the locks.
Call the Exterminator. The time to take care of any small critters that may be hiding in the vents and plumbing is before you move in with all your belongings. This is an especially important step if your condo is in an old building.
Call the movers. If you’re planning on moving a few days after closing, you should call well before you actually close – you can always cancel if the closing falls through. Even if you’re not planning on moving for several weeks after closing, call the movers ASAP. Especially during peak times (weekends in the summer, for example) movers can get booked up for up to a month in advance.
Think aesthetics. You’re going to stay awhile. This means that you can paint the walls whatever color you want, buy more permanent furniture, and possibly invest in that area rug you’ve been dreaming of. You want to build an environment that you enjoy and that you’ll find comfortable long-term. This doesn’t happen via magic – browse Houzz and Pinterest, start developing ideas for your style and even consider consulting with an interior designer.
Talk with contractors. If you want to paint the place, or redo the floors, or overhaul the kitchen, it’s easier if you’ve not yet moved in. So get estimates, choose someone for the job and put it on the calendar. Try to schedule your contractors soon enough that they’ll do the work before you move – or at least before you’ve fully unpacked.
Introduce yourself to your neighbors. People are curious. Even though it may feel awkward, knock on your neighbors’ doors, say hello and explain that you’re moving in. It’s always best to be the friendly neighbor, rather than the mysterious neighbor; first impressions count.
Contact your Association. You’ll want to know about building goings-on. The Association should have a way for you to be updated regularly, whether it’s through a listserve, a website or flyers. The Association should also program your name into the front buzzer system, change the name on your mailbox and any other minor personalized updates within the building.
Change the contact information with the local taxing authority. Likely you’ll have an escrow account, so your mortgage company will be paying your taxes directly. But often you’ll need a tax bill in your name to send to your mortgage company to initiate the escrow payments, so you’ll still want to have the tax bill sent to you – and not to the previous owner, particularly if the previous owner is having the bills sent to a remote address. (It happens more than you might think.)
While you’ve passed a major milestone in actually buying the place, you’re still in the process: your next step is turning the place you bought into the place you live.