The Home Maintenance Checklist for New Buyers


Are you confused by all the maintenance required for your new home? Here’s an easy-to-follow home maintenance checklist to help you prioritize your maintenance tasks and keep your new home running efficiently.

Part of buying a home is learning how to maintain that home. A well-maintained home is safer and more efficient than a home with lax maintenance. And most home maintenance tasks are fairly easy to do yourself and don’t require a whole lot of time or money.

In fact, you can save yourself money in the long term by properly maintaining your home! Your systems (electrical, HVAC, and plumbing) will run more efficiently, which will reduce your utility bills. And you’ll be able to catch potential issues before they become full-blown problems.

To help you maintain your new home, I have a home maintenance checklist specifically for new buyers! We’ll go over the items you should check immediately after closing escrow. And those you should check within the first week and the first month of living in the home.

Before You Even Move Your Furniture

There are a few urgent home maintenance checklist items to address before you even move your furniture into your new home.

Make a list of the recommended repairs/replacements from your home inspection

Your home inspection may be overwhelming since it lists every little issue the inspector observed, but it’s extremely useful! Go through your home inspection and list all the items your inspector recommended repairing/replacing.

Some of the items listed will be minor issues that you’ve decided to live with (safety rails on a staircase, for example). For everything else, assign a priority. Top priority items should be addressed within the first week. 2nd tier priority items within the month, 3rd tier priorities within the year, and the remaining issues can be addressed as they become more serious or as the funding becomes available for them.

Find the main water valve

The main water valve is used to stop all running water from flowing to your home. You might need to turn off the water while a plumber is making a repair or in case of an emergency. Imagine a burst pipe in the middle of the night. What is the first thing you do? You dash to the main water valve and turn off the water supply to the house.

Main water valves can be located almost anywhere: inside or outside, basement or ground floor, anywhere. And it could look like a lever or like a knob. The easiest way to find your main water valve is to consult your home inspection. Your home inspection will note the location of the valve and may even have pictures. If your main water valve requires a tool to turn off, make sure you own that tool and can find it easily in an emergency.

Find the main gas valve

This is the equivalent of the main water valve, but it’s for the flow of natural gas to your home for your heating and maybe your stove. If you ever have reason to suspect a gas leak (like noticing a possible gassy odor), turn off your gas valve and contact the gas provider immediately.

Find the circuit breaker box

The circuit breaker box manages the flow of electricity through the home. It’s usually a gray metal box cut into the wall (often a wall that’s usually semi-hidden by a usually open door). You’ll see lots of horizontal black switches inside the box. The switches should be labeled to indicate which area(s) of the house that specific circuit covers.

You can turn off switches to one area of the house at a time. So if you’re changing a light fixture in the living room, you can flip the living room switch(es), which will cut power to the living room while leaving power flowing to the rest of the home.

If you ever have the power suddenly go out (especially if it happens in just one area of the house), check your breaker box. You may have plugged in too many powerful appliances and “blown a fuse” or “flipped a breaker”. You’ll be able to see if one of your circuit breaker switches is flipped in the opposite direction of the rest. If that happens, simply flip the switch back to restore electricity to that area.

Change the keys/locks

Naturally, changing the keys/locks is one of the first tasks you’ll take on as a new homeowner. You basically have two options:

  1. You can “rekey”. This means you hire a locksmith to adjust the tumblers in the existing locks so a different key (your new key!) will open them. This is the quickest, easiest option. Just expect to pay somewhere around the $50-$150 range for the locksmith’s time and for copies of your new keys.
  2. You can change the locks completely. If you’re planning to change the locks themselves anyway because you don’t like the look of the existing locks, now’s as good a time as any to change those locks. You can purchase lock kits at any home improvement store. Install them yourself or hire help. It’s not always easy to install yourself, especially if the new fixtures don’t match the existing fixtures’ sizes. But if you want to be a DIY homeowner, changing your own locks is a nice First Project.

Don’t forget to leave a spare key accessible. While I don’t want to recommend leaving a key available on the property, leaving a spare key with a trusted friend or relative is a good idea.

Check the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Test all the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your new home to make sure they’re still functioning properly since the inspection (it’s possible, albeit unlikely, that the batteries have died between the inspection and the move without anyone knowing).

Once you’ve confirmed that they’re all functional, you can leave them alone until 1) you hear a beeping every few minutes, which indicates that a dying battery needs to be replaced, and 2) you test them again.

General wisdom says to check them twice a year. Many buyers use the Daylight Saving Time Change as a reminder to test their detectors.

Check the HVAC filters

Your Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system will have a filter to help keep the interior air clean. Replacing the filter as needed will keep your air cleaner and will improve the efficiency of your HVAC system.

Your filter is most likely located in the return air duct. You should have a duct/vent near your furnace that is larger than the other ducts/vents throughout the house. This is the return air duct. It should just take a screwdriver to remove the vent panel and access the filter. But if you have trouble locating your filter, check your home inspection for the location.

The filter has probably, but not necessarily, been replaced recently. If it looks dirty, go ahead and replace it. You can buy filters at any home repair store. Filters are categorized by size (so make sure you note the size of your filter) and by how long they will last. 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month are the most common. Then just schedule a reminder to change your filter when that time expires.

Within the First Week

You probably have an exceptionally busy week with moving or even (gulp..) renovations. Sorry to add to your to-do list, but here are some smart items to address within your first week of ownership.

Lower the temperature on your water heater

Water over 120 Fahrenheit (55 Celsius) is scalding and potentially hazardous. Rather than risk an accidental burn, reduce the heat on your water heater. As an added benefit, you’ll also reduce your future utility bills!

Make sure your air vents are clean

Cleaning air vents is another thing that should happen before the sale but is often forgotten. Check those vents. If they’re dirty, remove them with a screwdriver and clean them. You should also check the ducts behind those vents. Are they full of spiderwebs? Take a broom and remove what you can. You may want to consider having your ventilation system professionally cleaned to improve the air quality in your home and the efficiency of your HVAC system.

Check for any leaks

Your home inspector checked any crawl spaces and faucets for leaks. But just in case something has started leaking between the inspection and your move, double-check any crawl space and all your faucets. Look at the pipes under sinks while running the water to make sure your home is leak-free. Leaks are one of those things you just don’t want to risk!

Replace any Halogen bulbs with LEDs

To save money on all future electric bills, change any existing Halogen bulbs in the house to energy-efficient LEDs. The upfront cost is insignificant. Especially compared to your future electric bill savings.

Clean your fridge coils

Most people ignore their refrigerator coils. If the fridge stayed with the house, clean those coils! Dirty coils can actually make your refrigerator less efficient and increase your electric bill! It only takes a few minutes to pull out the fridge and vacuum any dust off those coils.

Check your dryer vent

Dryer vents are another often-forgotten space in homes. You can remove the vent cover on the outside of the house and use an extendable lint brush to clean the duct. This will help the dryer work more efficiently and reduce the risk of dryer-related fires.

Check any fire extinguishers

If you have any fire extinguishers in the house, give them a quick check to make sure 1) you can access them easily, and 2) the extinguishers’ pressure level is adequate.

Within the First Month

As you get settled into your new home, there are a few less-pressing, but still important, home maintenance checklist items to review.

Check the attic insulation

To save money on heating and cooling, you need any attic space to be properly insulated. Take a look around the attic to make sure there are sheets of insulation between the wall beams. 6 inches of insulation is fairly standard for efficient heating and cooling of your home.

Add pipe insulation in the garage and basement

If your water pipes travel through an often-chilly garage or unfinished basement, it’s wise to insulate those pipes. It will keep the water hot as it moves from the water heater to the faucets, so you don’t need to overwork the water heater.

Air seal doorways and windows

A drafty house is a quick way to waste money! If you’re using the air conditioner or heater to control the temperature indoors, the last thing you want is your perfect-temperature air escaping to the great outdoors. Check the air seals around your windows and doors and replace them as needed. Weatherstripping around the door and caulking around the window frames will work wonders for your utility bills!

Check the roof and gutters

Roof maintenance is extremely important because a leaky roof can cause extensive, expensive damage. Your home inspection will have a section about the condition of your roof. Roof repair/replacement should be toward the top of your priority list. To protect your roof, you need to keep your gutters free of leaves and other debris. Debris can clog the gutters so rain falling on the roof can’t be properly drained away from the roof. And sitting water on your roof is never a good thing!

Seal wood exterior features

Any wood exposed to the elements (fences, decks, shutters, etc.) must be sealed to protect it from rain, snow, and even direct sunlight. Wood features should typically be resealed every 2-3 years. If you notice that the wood seems faded or that it absorbs water (instead of forcing the water to “bead” on an impenetrable surface), it’s time to re-seal. Depending on the look of your elements, you may want to sand and restain to restore the color as well.

Clean the sink disposal

Sink disposals catch all sorts of things doing down your drain, and smelly disposals are a common homeowner problem. But this one’s really easy to fix! Simply freeze vinegar in an ice cube mold to make vinegar ice cubes, then pour them into your running disposal. Run some water afterward, and just like that, you have a clean, odor-free disposal.

Clean the range hood filter

Very few homeowners ever think to clean the range hood filter. If you kept the existing range hood from the previous owner, it probably needs a good cleaning and degreasing. Remove the filter and let it sit in a mixture of auto degreaser and hot water for a few minutes. Then rinse the filter and put it back in the range.

Check on your water softener

If you have a water softener, you’ll need to add salt regularly to keep it working. Check the salt level and add more as needed.

Check the fireplace

Wood-burning fireplaces are often not included in the general home inspection because they require a specialized chimney inspector. To be on the safe side, you should have a professional assess your fireplace before you use it. And of course you’ll want to clean the chimney periodically.

Schedule your ongoing home maintenance checks

One last new home maintenance checklist task for you: schedule your ongoing home maintenance checks. It’s so easy to forget about air filters, gutters, refrigerator coils, and range hood filters! To keep your home clean and efficient, schedule reminders for the easy-to-overlook items. It’s as simple as setting an alert on your phone for 3, 6, or 12 months from now as needed.

I really hope you found this home maintenance checklist helpful!

If you have any questions about the maintenance of your new home or need a recommendation for a service professional (electrician, plumber, contractor, etc.), please feel free to contact me. I have lots of experience with new homeowners and a network of professionals at your service whenever you need them!

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