First-time Home-buyers Guide to Everyday Maintenance
Buying your first home is exciting. Finally having the freedom to make it just the way you’ve dreamed – fresh paint, hardwood floors and a brand new patio. It’s all so exciting that you may be tempted to put off some of the “not-so-glamorous” work that comes with home-ownership. Who wants to spend time caulking windows when you can spend that time setting up your new media room? Or maybe, like a lot of first-time home-buyers, you don’t even know what maintenance work needs to be done or where to begin.
As a new homeowner, the phrase “you don’t know what you don’t know,” can be very true. For recent buyers who’ve never owned a home, some important maintenance jobs may not be on your radar. These are things that would typically be done by a landlord or super, but are critical to maintaining a safe and efficient home.
The experienced team at HER Realtors has helped thousands of first-time home-buyers not just find their dream house, but also prepared them for those unknown responsibilities that come with home-ownership.
For any home-buyer, it all starts with a thorough home inspection – something your HER Realtor can help arrange. A good home inspection agency will provide you with a detailed summary of the state and condition of your home, including the HVAC system, roof, plumbing, etc. Much of what they look for is not in plain sight. For example, an inspector may uncover water damage only visible from the attic. Finding and fixing the cause of this damage could save you thousands of dollars in future repairs.
It’s also worth considering a good home warranty program, like HER Homegard. It provides repair and replacement coverage for mechanical failures of major systems or appliances. Even the best home inspector can’t predict the future, so when the dishwasher suddenly stops working or the AC quits cooling, you can rest easy knowing it’s covered under warranty.
It turns out Ben Franklin was right on, when it comes to home maintenance “an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.” If you spend a little time and money maintaining your home throughout the year, you can avoid a lot of expensive and unnecessary repairs.
Here are a few “not-so-obvious” home maintenance tasks that may not be on your radar.
Inside your home:
Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. It’s important for you to know how to test both and how to change out the batteries, when needed. It’s a really simple thing, but doing this every 4-6 months could actually save your life.
Get familiar with your HVAC system, then inspect and change out filters, when needed. Your filter life will vary based on the size of your family, and whether you have pets or allergies. A good rule, check it every month and if it looks dirty, change it.
Clean your dryer vent. A plugged dryer vent will cause your dryer to run inefficiently, and that’s bad. A plugged dryer vent could also cause a house fire, and that’s very bad. There are a number of reasons these vents can get clogged up, including excess lint, nesting critters or stuck exhaust hood flaps. If you begin to notice stronger odors or longer dry times, these are both signs you may have a clogged vent duct. Start by removing the vent from the back of the dryer to clean it. Suck debris from the duct with a shop vac, or ream out the debris with a cleaning kit that includes a brush on a long flexible rod that attaches to a power drill. Kits are available at most hardware and home stores.
Clean refrigerator coils. You’ll find these condenser coils along the bottom, backside of the fridge. When coils are clogged with dust, pet hair or cobwebs they can’t release heat. This means your compressor has to work harder and longer than it was designed to do. This uses more energy and shortens the life of your appliance. Clean up is easy, go over the coils with a coil cleaning brush and then vacuum.
If you have a water softener, make sure you’re checking salt levels and adding more when the level of salt is at or under the water line. Nobody likes hard water – spotty dishes, dull and filmy hair, scaly residue in sinks and showers. As annoying as these effects can be, hard water can also cause serious damage to your pipes and appliances.
Drain sediment from your water heater. Drain a small amount of water from your water heater every year. This simple task prevents sediment from collecting at the base of the tank. Over time, sediment build up can create hot spots in gas-powered heaters that can damage the tank and cause early failure. In an electric heater, the sediment build up can cause the lower heating element to fail. Taking the time to do this once a year can lower your energy bills and extend the life of your appliance.
Test your sump pump to avoid flooding. There are few things worse than returning from a weekend getaway to find your basement flooded, especially when it can be easily prevented. A few times each year, test your sump pump by dumping water into the basin to make sure everything is working properly. If you have an older model, or if you live in an area prone to losing power, consider a battery back-up so you’re always protected.
Outside your home:
Check exterior drainage. Is rainwater draining away from your house? If puddles of water around your home don’t drain within 24 hours, you may have a problem. The most common reason for this is clogged gutters. Each year, take time to clean and remove all debris from your gutters to ensure they are draining properly. Leaves, sticks and even nests can prevent water from draining the way it should.
Clean and inspect your windows and doors, checking for any possible leaks. This includes any window wells you may have along the exterior. You’re not only looking for any possible water leaks into your home, you are also looking for places where heat can escape during the cold, winter months. An cheap tube of caulk and an afternoon can save you thousands of dollars in water damage and heating costs.
Have your chimney cleaned annually, typically before winter sets in. It was all fun and games in Mary Poppin’s “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” but a dirty or damaged fireplace can pose a real safety hazard. For this task, call in the professionals.
Have your HVAC system inspected and serviced once a year – both your furnace and air conditioning unit. And, don’t forget to winterize your AC unit by storing it, or simply covering it with a secure tarp. This will protect and extend the life of your unit.
A great way to stay on top of these and other important home maintenance chores is by preparing a home maintenance calendar. You can create a version of your own, or find ready-made checklists on popular social sites like Pinterest. There are even companies, like HomeZada, that prepare an automated checklist that proactively reminds you when tasks need to be completed.
Your house is likely your largest financial asset, so take care of it. A small investment of time and money in regular maintenance can ward off massive replacement costs, prevent damage from flood or fire, and reduce your energy bills by increasing the efficiency of your home.
Here’s an awesome link to a YouTube video Top 10 Home Maintenance Tips for First Time Home Owners