Congratulations on moving into your newly built home and I hope you enjoy many happy years living there. Everything is sparkling clean from the floors, to the walls, to the ceilings, and the brand-new appliances. However, enjoying life there brings wear-and-tear and that requires maintenance to keep everything in the most attractive shape and to prevent small problems from becoming big headaches. One of the most basic steps to keeping your home looking and functioning great is keeping it clean. Dust and dirt not only look bad, these damage surfaces and finishes. To keep everything sparkling, frequently clean countertops, floors, sinks, tubs, toilets, tiles, cabinets, and other parts of your home.
In time, you want to build a robust maintenance routine based on the following.
1. Follow your builder’s recommendations. The first walkthrough of your newly completed home should be with the construction manager. Be sure to pay close attention and take notes. Not only might this be your only face-to-face opportunity to point out anything you aren’t satisfied with, but also he/she will show you where to find hidden but important controls like the electrical box and main water shutoff. The construction manager will also explain how everything works and what recommended maintenance is needed. Some of this maintenance, such as for the exterior siding, is probably not in the appliance and systems owner’s manuals.
2. Read your owner’s manuals. Grab a highlighter and approach this with the same gusto as you would binge-watch Netflix. It won’t be as entertaining, but it will pay big financial rewards for years to come. Fill out and send in any warranty documents. Keep the owner’s manuals and copies of the warranties in a secure place so you can find them later. Equipment such as garage doors might need minor adjustments after your new home settles for several months. Periodic oiling may be needed and equipment like furnaces and water systems need filters changed on a regular schedule. Besides highlighting essential information in the manuals, this is the right time to begin creating a seasonal and annual checklist of tasks to be done. Your checklist can reference back to pages in the manuals for detailed instructions.
3. Train kids and pets (and your spouse if needed). Beyond keeping a clean house, one of the most effective ways of keeping your home looking new is by encouraging habits that avoid scratches, stains, chips, and burns on cosmetic surfaces. How you do this is up to you, but it might mean no food on the living room white carpet and always putting the dog out the first thing in the morning.
4. Anticipate family size. The more people and pets living in the house, the more wear-and-tear. If you have a larger than typical family, you may need to plan for more frequent cleaning and maintenance.
5. Settling in the yard. Keep an eye on changes in your yard and landscaping. Especially over the first seven years until the bulldozed and dug up earth has permanently resettled. The most important change to watch for is water drainage that can shift towards the house to cause serious damage to the foundation and more. Water should always drain away from your home. Small trees and hedges that come with your new house will grow over the years. By the second year, you may need to start trimming these back and controlling the direction vegetation is growing. Vegetation should never come in contact with your house.
6. Walls, windows, and doors settle also. Depending on humidity, temperatures, and settling, construction materials expand and contract in different amounts and at different rates. You should notice most of this within the first two years. Look for things such as a slight separation between the trim and drywall as well as drywall cracks and nails popping out. Some builders will come through once during the first year to correct these issues and most can be corrected with minor cosmetic maintenance.
7. Perform repairs and maintenance correctly. Almost certainly, you will eventually sell your house. To maintain the value and get the best price, you not only need to do repairs and maintenance regularly, but you also need to do it correctly. Know your limitations for DIY and hire professionals when needed. Purchase the right tools for the job and don’t hesitate to watch YouTube videos that you trust. In time, you’ll become comfortable taking on more and more of these chores.
8. Build and keep a home repair and maintenance folder. This is where you keep your checklist, schedule, and receipts. It should include your owner’s manuals and warranty documents. Over time, you want to create a list of trusted maintenance and repair professionals as well as an accurate history of all work done on your home.
9. Know your FTC mortgage rights. The Federal Trade Commission provides an information page with resources for homeowners. The FTC notes, for example, that homes purchased with mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration or U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are legally required to have a third-party warranty to help guarantee the quality of workmanship on the property.
What does your experience add to this list? Please comment below.
Also, our weekly Ask Brian column welcomes questions from readers of all experience levels with residential real estate. Please email your questions, inquiries, or article ideas to [email protected].