Congratulations! You just moved into your new place and can't wait to get settled. There are boxes to unpack, new neighbors to get to know and a new neighborhood to explore.
But wait! Before you leave your new home to say hi to the Joneses or even rest your moving-weary head on the pillow that very first night, there are a few things you must know and do:
1. That no one else has the key
You know that key that opened your front door? Think about how many other people might have the same key. Former residents? Old boyfriends or girlfriends? Babysitters? Trusted neighbors?
"Always change the locks as soon as you move in because you never know who had a key before you," said Morgan McBride, a DIY and home decor blogger at Charleston Crafted.
While you're at it, make sure all of the locks on the windows, screen doors, garage doors, and even the tool shed work. If they don't, make it a top priority to have them replaced or repaired. Remember, this is your safety we're talking about.
2. That the detectors are detecting
I'm sorry to damper your move-in day, but did you know that carbon monoxide poisoning can kill you in your sleep? The Centers for Disease Control reports that each year, more than 500 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.
"Safety first as always, so don't forget to install and test carbon monoxide and smoke detectors," says Mina Starsiak of HGTV's "Good Bones," who just moved into her dream home. "Also, put a fire extinguisher under the sink in case of emergencies."
The National Fire Protection Association reports that three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (38%) or no correctly-working smoke alarms (21%).
3. Where the important valves and switches are
Imagine this—it's scary I know—a pipe breaks, you have water pouring all over your floor, and you need to make it stop. You need to turn off the water valve, but you don't know where it is. Look for it as soon as you move in so you, and everyone in the home, is prepared in case of an emergency.
And smell that? It's gas that's leaking and you need to turn off your furnace ASAP, but again you have no idea where the main furnace switch is. Find out the moment you move in. This is especially important if you smell gasoline and do not want to risk an explosion.
Once Starsiak moved into her dream home, the first thing she did was check the thermostat and program the settings. "This ensures energy savings from the beginning," she says. "I had a smart thermostat installed, the Trane Comfortlink, so I was immediately able to schedule my system and set temperature control, so that was once less thing to worry about."
"Know where your circuit breaker is too," said Heidi Sonnenberg, a broker with Spaces Real Estate, in Chicago.
4. That the outlets are safe
The last thing you need is to find out that an outlet will overheat and catch on fire while you're dreaming of decorating your new digs. "Learn what every switch in the apartment does to make sure you don't accidentally leave lights on that you don't intend to," said Erin Fausel of American Freight Furniture & Mattress. "Plus, if you have a garbage disposal, you'll want to know its switches so you don't run it dry."
5. That the filters are new
As long as you change the filters within the first couple of days you're okay, but it should definitely be on the top of your list. Filters have contaminants, such as dust, dirt, pollen, mold, fibers, lint, hair, and animal fur coming into your home. With the winter coming up you'll definitely want new ones installed by a HVAC professional.
6. That the toilet seat is yours
Okay this one isn't life-threatening, but you'll feel better if you put your tush on a clean seat and not have to worry about who sat on the throne before you.
7. Who the professionals in your area are
Everything in your place is new to you, but it may not all be new. Something is bound to go wrong—thanks, Murphy's Law—so who ya gonna call when it does? Ask your real estate professional for a list of reliable professionals in case of an emergency, including plumbers, carpenters, electricians, contractors, handymen, and exterminators. Of course, once you get to professionals in the area, you'll pick and choose who you want, but this is a start and will come in handy at 3 a.m. when the furnace suddenly turns off.