New house checklist: Things you need that you never imagined

June 2, 2018 - 5 min read

In this article:

You’re a homeowner now and need a new house checklist for big or important items:

  1. Take care of needed deep cleaning and/or repairs before moving in. Or they will never get done
  2. Change your address, utilities, and locks
  3. Locate your circuit breakers, in-house and main shut-off valves before an emergency occurs

Get a list of repair people handy and the contact for your home warranty.

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Prepare your new home before you move in

Most people want to improve their new home in some ways. Maybe there were items that needed fixing in your home inspection report. Or you might want to knock down a wall to create a more open living space. Perhaps you just can’t live with the last owner’s taste in interior decoration.

Related: Home inspection (what does home inspector do and why should I hire one?)

Whatever you plan to do, it’s going to be much easier if you do it while the home’s still empty. Indeed, it’s so much easier you possibly won’t be able to face the disruption of undertaking the work once you’re settled in. And that applies whether you’re hiring a contractor or doing the work yourself.

You’ll get the biggest benefit with major projects, which frequently cause choking dust and often require power and water to be disconnected. But even the simple painting of a room is so much more straightforward if you’re not having to constantly move around and protect bulky furniture and fragile valuables.

Smart cleaning

Co-ordinate with your seller over getting in a cleaning crew. Some will hire one themselves on the grounds it’s their dirt that needs removing. But others will expect you to pay — or to do it yourself.

There’s no point in anyone doing any cleaning if you’re about to make a huge mess with a home improvement project. So schedule that cleaning blitz for after the work’s completed but before you move in.

Get the admin right

One of the joys of the Internet is the amount of administration you can do online. You no longer have to write to everyone to let them know your new address.

Now, nearly all that work can be done in an hour or two on a connected device. During that time:

  1. Set up accounts for utilities, cable TV/internet service and anything else you’ll need at the new home. Schedule connections, if necessary, and don’t forget to close accounts with your existing suppliers
  2. Inform your bank(s), credit card companies, investment firms, lenders, insurers, employer, the IRS and anyone else who should know about your new address
  3. Email your friends with your revised contact details.
  4. Don’t post your new address on social media where anyone can see it. Facebook already knows more than enough about you. No need to make things too easy for it — or for criminals lurking in cyberspace
  5. Get the USPS to redirect stray mail sent to your old home to your new address

Forwarding mail: how to get your mail at your new place

You’ll want to let everyone know your actual moving date and provide appropriate notice to companies.


If you know where every single key ever made for your home is, you’re exceptional (and not at all a control freak). Don’t assume your seller is as organized.

Chances are, there are one or two keys to your new home still with neighbors or friends of the current owner. If you’re not comfortable knowing that, book a locksmith to change all locks on external doors on the day you take possession. Or do it yourself.

Be prepared for disasters

Stuff happens. And all too often it happens when you least need it to. So ask the current homeowners to leave a list of local tradespeople they can recommend: at the least, a plumber and electrician.

Related: Moving tips (how to move for less)

As you arrive on the day you take possession of the home, be sure you know the location of your:

  • Circuit breakers
  • Mains water shut-off valve — both inside the home and outside in the yard or road
  • Mains gas shut-off valve
  • Shut-off valves for any oil or gas storage tanks that remain

In addition, put a fire extinguisher and emergency fire blanket somewhere handy for the kitchen.

Pack smart

Will you know where that fire extinguisher is? It’s one of the things smart packers know to put in one of a small number of special boxes that either come with you in your car or are first off the moving truck. Getting those boxes ready should be an important element in your new house checklist.

Priority unpacking checklist

Your special boxes should contain at least:

  • That fire extinguisher and fire blanket
  • A first-aid kit. Moving days are a peak time for minor cuts and scrapes. Follow the American Red Cross’s advice for your kit’s contents
  • A basic toolkit: at the very least, a hammer and nails/picture hooks, various different screwdrivers, pliers, wire strippers, measuring tape and so on. Don’t forget multiple box cutters for opening packing cartons
  • Toiletries for 48 hours — It might take you that long to find and unpack your main stash of toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant and so on. Include toothbrushes in this box
  • Clean clothes for several days
  • The equipment and consumables you’ll need to make coffee and tea. Regardless of your personal tastes, include milk/cream/creamer and sugar so you can satisfy everyone helping
  • The basic equipment and consumables you’ll need for random cleaning tasks
  • Chargers for your electronic devices, plus remote controls
  • If you don’t have a smartphone, a tablet or laptop that will let you order takeout
  • A radio or a Bluetooth speaker for your smartphone — for music while you work
  • Plenty of big, strong garbage bags — for used packing materials and general trash
  • Toilet paper!
  • Most importantly, a corkscrew, glasses and a bottle of wine — or beers (straight into the refrigerator) or whatever you’ll need to chill after your stressful day

Other packing tips

Let’s assume you already know to label every box with the room it should be placed in and an idea of its contents. For example: “Kitchen: cooking pans” and “Master bathroom: toiletries.”

In spite of the simplicity of this tip, expect some boxes to end up in the wrong rooms. So don’t rely on being able to find what you want when you want it. Here are some extra tips:

  • Be prepared to be shocked by the sheer quantity of the possessions you’ve accumulated. You’ll likely have dozens of boxes and many have 100+. It can take weeks or months to unpack fully
  • If there’s an area where non-urgent boxes can be stored out the way, mark those boxes to be placed in those areas. For example, “Garage: Rarely used kitchen gadgets” or “Attic: Winter clothes” (providing you’re moving in the summer)
  • Assuming you can afford it, buy packing materials designed for the job: boxes, bubble wrap, paper, tape and so on
  • Use wardrobe boxes — These tall boxes contain a rail so you can lift a bunch of hanging clothes from your closet and re-hang them in the box. It’s so easy and saves loads of folding —and later on ironing
  • If you use garbage bags to move clothes or other soft possessions, be sure to use a different color from the ones you use for trash. You’d be amazed how often the wrong bags end up in garbage trucks

To those who move often, some of this advice may seem like common sense. But most of us move too infrequently to become experts.

The top item on your new house checklist

The most common mistake people make when moving home is to underestimate the sheer scale of the logistical challenge that they face. As a rule of thumb, estimate how difficult the process is going to be and how long it’s going to take — and then double what you have in mind. Doubling it again won’t do any harm.

Related: Buying a home (how to choose the right closing date)

So the top item on your new house checklist should be: Start now. Begin packing boxes with things you never/rarely use as soon as you know you’ll be moving. If you stretch the process over several weeks, the last few days before you transport your goods will be much easier.

It will be easier yet if you sit down and make a plan. Think through what has to happen and by when. Otherwise, you risk pulling an all-nighter in the hours before you move out.

That’s likely to see you panicking and throwing stuff in boxes and garbage bags, virtually at random. Do that, and unpacking and finding anything at the other end will be a nightmare.

Time to make a move? Let us find the right mortgage for you

Peter Warden
Authored By: Peter Warden
The Mortgage Reports Editor
Peter Warden has been writing for a decade about mortgages, personal finance, credit cards, and insurance. His work has appeared across a wide range of media. He lives in a small town with his partner of 25 years.