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Buyer Guides

Your starter pack for homeownership

Give yourself and your home a boost with these homeownership tips.

If you thought home buying had quite the learning curve to it, just wait for homeownership. There are so many reasons to enjoy homeownership, but it comes with responsibilities, too. Between what you’re most excited to do with your new home and what you have to do, it all can feel a little overwhelming. Here, we break early homeownership down into a few easy tasks to get you going.

Your new homeownership to-do list:

  1. 1. Create a home maintenance schedule.

    Homeownership comes with a lot of things to keep track of—like filters, fridge coils, the lawn, screens, caulk, weatherstripping, and more. Just about every part of your home is going to need some sort of routine home maintenance, but every house is a little different. Find out what needs to be done to keep your appliances, flooring, decking, lawn, roofing, and more in good condition, and then put it all on a calendar. It may seem like a lot at first, but when you have it all scheduled, it’s just one task at a time.

  2. 2. Learn about your home’s systems (and needed maintenance).

    Some routine maintenance is best left to the pros. Your heating and air conditioning, for example, should have annual maintenance by an HVAC specialist to work efficiently and have a maximum lifespan. You may have learned a bit about these systems during your home inspection, but now it’s time to schedule an initial visit to learn about the proper care of these important systems. Then schedule annual visits going forward.

  3. 3. Introduce yourself to the neighbors.

    It’s easy to build up meeting the neighbors to be such a big deal that you put it off too long. Rather than make it a big production, just look for opportunities when you’re both outside to say hello and introduce yourself. A good neighborly relationship will be built on these small, momentary exchanges, so it’s a good way to start, too.

  4. 4. Visit neighborhood businesses.

    Whether it’s the coffee shop or the local massage place, your nearby businesses are a part of what makes finding a neighborhood you love so important. Make a point to visit these places early on. They’ll be places where you meet neighbors, and spending time there will help you feel connected to the neighborhood.

  5. 5. Get familiar with your HOA or CCRs (if you have them).

    Many planned neighborhoods have homeowners associations (known as HOAs) and/or covenants, conditions and restrictions (CCRs). While homeownership may mean the property is yours, if you live in an HOA, a CCR may dictate how you maintain it, such as how long your lawn can be, where you can park, what color you can paint your house, and even what breed of dog you can have. Find out if you have a CCR and read it in detail. Violating one can result in fines—or even lawsuits.

  6. 6. Find your local municipal office.

    Whether you live in a city, township, or village, your municipal office will be someplace you’ll want to get familiar with. They’ll help you with everything from figuring out your trash day to answering questions about your property assessments. It’s a good idea to find out when their official meetings are, too. If you want to have a say in local laws and policies that affect your property, those meetings are your opportunity to get involved.

  7. 7. Learn about any easements you may have.

    Some properties come with easements. Basically, an easement is a patch of land or space that is available to anyone for use, even though it belongs to you. Often, this might be the area between the outer edge of your sidewalk and the street curb. It’s an important part of homeownership to know these exist, because you’re responsible for their upkeep, but you can’t put up any barriers to prevent others from using them.

  8. 8. Track all your home improvement expenses.

    It seems far in the future now, but a time will come when you’re putting your home up for sale and you’re trying to figure out how much it’s worth. Part of that equation will be all the work you put into it—especially if you bought a fixer-upper house. Whether it’s something big and visible, like adding a new sunroom, or more utilitarian, like installing basement drainage, you’ll want to keep track of every significant project. Start keeping your receipts and invoices together now.

  9. 9. Keep your records together.

    While you’re record-keeping, create files for your other home-related paperwork as well. Permits, warranties, instruction manuals, tax records—whatever homeownership papers you accumulate should all be filed away. At tax time, when you sell, or when your dryer’s on the fritz, you’ll be glad you put everything you need in an easy-to-find spot.

    Ready to get into the details of homeownership? Read our guide on home maintenance next.