The First Home Checklist: Things to Buy Now, Things to Buy Later

published May 23, 2018
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If figuring out your mortgage and closing costs weren’t enough, moving into and furnishing your new home can be pretty stressful. And though you want to make your house your dream home right off the bat, you’re probably short on cash (and energy). Thankfully, you’ll be in your new house for awhile, so you have time to transform your place to match your vision. Still, there are some things you’ll appreciate having on day one. Here, the things you can shop around for, and others you should consider picking up before moving in.

Things to buy now:

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The home-buying process is exhausting enough. Reward yourself for going through the ringer with a good night’s sleep on move-in day. Skip the couch or a sleeping bag on your empty bedroom floor and invest in a high-quality mattress.

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Your sofa is your main staple and the most significant purchase you’ll make, says Dawn D. Totty, an interior designer in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “It’s the largest and most functional piece,” she says. “Chances are you will be living with it in your home for years to come. Design tip: If you have pets or kids, choose durable and dark fabrics. Otherwise, opt for light and luxurious textiles to make an elegant statement.

(Image credit: Elissa Crowe)


Totty calls lighting the “jewelry of the home.” First, replace understated or outdated fixtures, as they’re difficult to overlook. Then, work according to your budget to replace the rest, Totty says. It will make a tremendous impact on the overall look of the home as well as create a lighter, brighter, and overall happier living environment.

(Image credit: Katy Cartland)

Window Treatments

Though we think of curtains as purely decorative, they’re functional, too. If you don’t want the entire neighborhood to track your every move (and do want to add some verve to your new home), seek out quality window treatments as soon as you can. “Sheer drapes can really make a home feel cozy,” says Lisa Melone Cloughen, an interior designer in New York City.

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Kitchen Basics

All you really need to start are the items to make a basic meal. “At first, you need just a sauté pan with lid, a baking sheet, chef’s knives and basic prep tools, including a spatula,” says Tina Ramchandani, an interior designer in New York City. Also get a set of dishes and glasses, and of course, the most basic of plug-in coffee makers.

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Personal Touches

Make your house feel more like a home without breaking the bank by decorating with your personal photographs, says Cloughen, an interior designer in New York City. Hang them in reasonably-priced frames from HomeGoods or similar stores, then supplement later with art and other intentional accessories.

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Bathroom essentials

You’ve got to outfit your bathrooms right away with such must-haves like shower curtains, fluffy towels and floor mats, says Ramchandani. “Later you can add the chic accessories and candles.”

Things to buy later:

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A swanky headboard is definitely an add-on that you can take your time looking for, says Meredith Marlow, an interior designer in Fort Lauderdale. “You can get away with a simple metal bed frame covered with a bed skirt,” she says. “It looks good and saves you a lot of money.” If you have a platform bed, get creative. “Paint a mural or use a fun wallpaper on the wall behind your bed,” Marlow adds. “Having a limited budget forces you to get creative and can result in amazing and unique design.”

(Image credit: Katy Cartland)

Area Rugs

These divide your rooms into specific zones, whether it’s a place to convene, dine or entertain. “Rugs pull the design together and bring warmth and personality to even the most contemporary décor,” Totty says. “But you can take your time seeking out ones you love.”

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Accent Tables

Accent tables (cocktail, coffee, console, end, and the like) provide balance—and are an ideal spot to put down a drink. But they’re not a necessity when you first move into your home. “Consider these a necessary architectural element to ground and complete a well-curated living room design,” Totty says. “They’re also an eclectic item that you should really love.”

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Serving Dishes

Once you’ve gotten your kitchen basics covered (see above) you can start having fun with extras. “That might include a nice set of dishware, serving dishes or fancy cooking appliances,” says Ramchandani. Could that include that fancy Italian cappuccino maker you’ve wanted your whole life? You’re now a homeowner, so why not!