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5 Things to Do Before and After Closing

You’ve been house shopping for months or even years. You’ve endured a series of offers, property disclosures, inspections and reports. Finally, after so much excitement, stress and anxiety, the house hunt has come to an end.

But the story isn’t over yet. Here are some next steps to consider before you actually move in.

1. Plan renovations well in advance

Rarely does a buyer get a place that’s move-in ready. By the time you’ve signed a contract, you have lots of ideas about how you'll live in the home, how you'll customize it and what work needs to be done.

If the place needs work, don’t wait until you’ve closed to engage a professional. Either at your final walkthrough or during a private appointment, get the proper contractors in the house and start collecting bids for necessary work. If possible, have floor sanding, painting or small fix-it work done before you move in. Real estate agents work with all kinds of tradespeople, so they're often a great resource for referrals. 

2. Set up the utilities

Some people assume the utilities will work once they walk in. While many utility companies have grace periods (the days between when the seller cancels service and the new owner calls), you can’t always assume this will be the case. If you have an out-of-town seller, they may have canceled services the day they knew all contingencies were removed. In this instance, the grace period likely lapsed, and you may be stuck dealing with the electric company, waiting for an appointment or just being without power when you really want to start painting, fixing or cleaning.

The best plan is to call the utility companies and get service set up well before closing. If they haven’t received cancellation notice from the seller, let the seller know to take care of that.

3. Change the locks

Assume that everyone has a set of keys to your new home. The seller's real estate agent likely gave copies to their assistant, a painter, a stager or even another agent at some point during the listing period. That's why the first person you should call after getting the keys is a locksmith.

4. Hire a cleaning crew

There's nothing worse than showing up with the movers, dozens of boxes and your personal belongings only to discover the seller hasn’t had the place cleaned.

Assume the worst and get a professional cleaning crew in there the minute after closing. Even if the seller did clean, they may have done a poor job. You want to start life in your new home with a clean slate. The bones of the place will be sparkling clean, and you won't be scrambling to get cleaners in while the home is in a state of unpacking disarray.

5. Have a handyperson, contractor or designer on call

Moving involves the kind of stuff you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Things like aligning your framed artwork, centering the couch in the living room or getting the large rug set up in the master bedroom can drive you crazy.

While it may seem like a luxury, investing a few hundred dollars in hiring someone to help with these tasks will save time and potentially relieve you of a giant headache.

Thinking ahead is the way to go

As your closing date draws near, you're probably exhausted. But taking a little extra time to plan ahead will save you time, money and stress - and make the move into your new home so much more satisfying.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow. Originally published February 2013.

3 Reasons to Live in a New Home Before Renovating

In today's market, many buyers forego fixer-uppers for move-in ready homes. As a result, significant opportunities abound in prime locations as homes that need work linger on the market.

In competitive markets, savvy consumers gravitate toward these homes that nobody else wants. Why? They can customize the home to their requirements and build equity along the way.

That said, I often recommend that buyers live in a new home for a while before undertaking any major remodeling or pricey home improvements. I'm not talking about lighting or plumbing repairs necessary to make the house habitable. Rather, I'm referring to discretionary remodeling, expansions and other improvement projects.

Here are three good reasons to at least consider holding off on the big home improvement projects until you’ve had some time to settle in.

1. Living in the home can change your mind

You may have grand visions for what you'd like to do to a home, based on its condition and your priorities at the time you buy it. But until you're actually living there, it's difficult to know exactly how you'll use the house, what will work for you and what won't.

Ultimately, it's this day-to-day experience that will inform your home improvement decisions, instead of early notions of how you want your everyday experience to be.

2. After buying a home, you deserve a break

Buying a home is a massive project, an enormous change in your life and a shock to the system - if not your finances. I've seen buyers jump through hoops, spending months on end looking for a home. In some situations, it becomes a part-time job.

A home renovation can be yet another big and stressful project, what with all the decisions to make and contractors to deal with.

My recommendation: Take a break from the stress of buying your new home.

3. You need time to plan

Any renovation, no matter how small, should be designed with care. That means speaking to multiple architects, contractors or designers to get their take on your ideas and options - a time-consuming process.

An hour with a well-qualified contractor can uncover opportunities where you least expected them. For instance, even though it may be an added cost now, moving the laundry machines from the garage to the top floor during a larger renovation may save you time and money down the road.

Conversely, hiring architects and contractors while under the constraints of an escrow period is likely to cause problems for you later.

Some buyers want to jump into renovations because they don’t want to live in a construction zone or pay rent and a mortgage at the same time. While this may make some economic sense upfront, it can still cause costly problems later.

Often, buyers who said they don't want a home that requires any work end up buying a home that needs at least some. It's the natural evolution of the buying process. Rarely does someone end up buying the home they started off thinking they wanted.

While you should be open to doing work on a home, don't feel stressed about getting it all done at once. Live as-is for six months to a year. Take the home for a test drive and see how it runs. You may be surprised at how your perspective and priorities change once you settle in.

Find out which home renovations DIYers most regretted tackling themselves.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.
Originally published August 2016.

What to Unpack First in Your New Home

So you’re finally in your new home, surrounded by piles of boxes, tired and glad that your relocation is about to end.

To fully complete your moving adventure, however, you need to unpack your belongings and make your new place feel like home. But where do you even begin?

First things first

No matter how much you want to get it over with, there are three important things to do before you can actually start unpacking.

  1. Clean and prepare your new home. It's easier to wipe down shelves, clean windows and mop floors before your belongings are in place. Make sure your home-to-be is spotless when your items arrive. If you can't get to your new place early enough to do a thorough cleaning, consider hiring professional cleaners to do the job for you.
  2. Inspect and organize your belongings. Check all the delivered boxes and household items against your inventory sheet to make sure nothing is damaged or missing. Then have each of your possessions taken to the room where it belongs. If everything was properly marked and labeled, sorting your items will be a piece of cake.
  3. Set major furniture and appliances. Position your large furniture pieces and bulky household appliances first. Then you can put any smaller items you unpack later directly in their rightful places. Plan your interior design well in advance so you don't end up moving heavy pieces around several times.

Tackle the necessities

What matters most when unpacking your items after a move is ensuring that your essentials are immediately accessible. So prioritize your belongings, and unpack only the necessities first.

Bedding

You may not be able to unpack the entire bedroom right away, but you’ll definitely need at least the bed the day you move in. Reassemble the bed frame (if necessary), lay down the sheets, unpack the pillows and spread the blankets so you can get a good night's rest - you’re going to need it!

Provided that you have a change of clothes and some comfortable indoor shoes (as well as curtains on the windows to ensure your privacy), the rest of your bedroom items can wait until you find the time and the energy to deal with them.

Bathroom items

Without a doubt, your personal care items, toiletries and medicines should top the list of the most important items to unpack after your move. Put out toilet paper and soap, find your toothbrush and toothpaste, hang the towels and the shower curtains, and unpack any other bathroom essentials you’ll need to wash away the weariness and stress of moving.

Kitchen necessities

Kitchens tend to take a very long time to unpack and organize properly due to the large number of items that need to be sorted and carefully arranged.

As soon as you’ve hooked up the large appliances, such as the fridge and the stove, move on to your smaller kitchenware. Plates, silverware and glasses should be the first to find their places in cupboards and kitchen cabinets, closely followed by cooking utensils, pots and pans, and pantry items.

Kids’ and pets’ items

If you have young children, unpack some of their favorite toys, books, games and blankets during the first few hours in your new home. Keeping your young ones happy and occupied will let you concentrate on your work and finish it faster.

Of course, you should also take care of your pets' needs immediately upon arrival. It’s a good idea to pack adequate pet food and some of your animal friends' favorite toys in your open-first box.

Finishing up

When you’ve unpacked the three most essential rooms in your home (bedroom, bathroom and kitchen), everything else can wait a bit. There are no deadlines to meet, so you can set your own pace when unpacking and decorating your new place - just unpack in order of priority without procrastinating.

If you stay organized, set reasonable goals, clean after every unpacking phase, and dispose of the packing materials in a safe and eco-friendly manner, your new surroundings will soon stop looking like a warehouse full of boxes and start feeling like home.

Related:

Originally published February 5, 2016.

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