You glide your hand along its stone-topped counters, breathe in the smell of new lumber, carpet, and paint, and realize this house is suddenly yours— a place no one has ever slept in, laughed in, or enjoyed before you! You’re not just a new homeowner — you’re a new homeowner.
In the chaos and excitement of closing escrow, arranging the moving van, and getting kids enrolled in new schools, it’s easy to think of the new home orientation (a final walk-through with the builder of your home) as trivial required reading in the big scheme of things. But that is where you’d be wrong.
Your home is a handmade item — one that requires attention, study and planning to keep it in pristine condition and firing on all burners. Your newly constructed space will breathe, change, and even expand in small ways over time, acclimating to its new occupants. That means its many systems and surfaces will need regular care to avoid break-down faster than they should. Here are some tips to think about from the moment you unpack that first box.
It’s not a bad idea to video your walk-through orientation (with the contraction personnel’s permission, of course) for future use so you won’t forget the small details your builder offers you. He or she will explain where everything is located, how everything works, and what recommended maintenance is needed. This person will also offer you an opportunity to confirm that the house is complete enough for occupancy while pointing out a few remedial finishing tasks both of you may notice during the orientation (called the punch list) — things like a piece of trim that needs more paint. It’s not a bad idea to make up a list of questions of your own since this is the last 1:1 time you will have with your building superintendent. In other words, seize this opportunity as if you were attending a parenting class for the first time.
This important final tour of your new home is the most important class you’ll ever take on the care and feeding of your new dwelling — demonstrating to you where to locate your circuit breakers, water shutoff valve, how to access your furnace’s air filter, and what you'll need to know in case there’s a power outage or plumbing problem. You’ll also get the scoop on the care of the surfaces inside your home — what to use and not to use on countertops and flooring and how NOT to walk on your roof if you ever have to go up there.
Each of the appliances, fixtures, and systems in your home have instructions or a manufacturer’s owner’s manual , and many carry limited warranties. Study the paperwork supplied by the manufacturers as if you’ll someday be tested on them. We’ll admit they make good bathroom reading, but not reading them may leave you flat-footed when a toilet clogs, or you see smoke filling the room the moment you build your first fire in your fireplace. Those same manuals will teach you everything you need to know about maintenance in addition to how to use them. Now is the time to calendar maintenance tasks well in advance instead of going on autopilot — changing HVAC filters (usually once a month unless otherwise specified), checking batteries on fire and carbon dioxide detectors (before they all start beeping at once), and regularly running water through bathtubs you rarely use. Your water heater should be drained yearly to remove sediment buildup from the bottom of the tank (which prevents a shortened life cycle for the unit).
The last thing you may think about when moving into a new home is the yard. Construction disturbs surrounding soil. Even though the builder must grade the dirt so water flows away from your home’s foundation, you’ll still need to keep an eye on it, since dirt continues to settle for up to seven years, according to experts. Be proactive, and make sure you don’t have water streaming toward your house rather than away from it.
Construction superintendents may not mention it much, but how you use your home goes a long way in predicting its future health. If you leave your AC off quite a bit during hotter months, it may affect paint surfaces and even cause your wood flooring to warp from high humidity. Another topic they rarely talk about is the importance of instructing family members on what does and does not belong in a toilet or can be washed down a drain. If your builder is called in during the new home warranty period to address problems and discovers heavy paper or other damaging products that have routinely been thrown down the commode, your warranty may be voided, as will other warranties where rules are not being followed. Your new home warranty typically covers the workmanship and materials that were a part of the construction, including windows, the HVAC, electrical and plumbing and some structural items. You’ll be at least partially covered for some of them-- but if they discover a clear case of neglect, it’s your ball game and your pocketbook.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides an information web page with resources for homeowners, including the rules for homes purchased with mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration or U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (FHA or VA loans), where the lender is legally required to have a third-party warranty to help guarantee the quality of workmanship on the property. Even with warranty protection, however, your home is usually at its peak working order as soon as construction is complete. It’s your job to keep it that way as long as possible.
Here in Colorado Springs, new build homes are popping up all over. Handcrafted Home Mortgage has worked with quite a few, and think these tips could really help out all the new homeowners out there. We hope you found this helpful!