Next to looking for a new job, moving tops the list of most dreaded activities for many people. It’s mentally, physically and financially demanding. Having checklists helps turn this formidable trial into a manageable task, though. If you’re preparing for a move or are in the process of moving, use our comprehensive checklist to be sure you’ve covered all your bases:
1. Set up your utilities
This is one of the most important steps to take, and that’s why we’re putting it first. The last thing you want is to walk into your new home and discover you don’t have the electricity or gas turned on.
Ideally, you’ll start researching the utility providers for your new home about three to four weeks before your move-in date. If you’ve purchased a home, your realtor will often supply this information for you.
If you’re renting, your landlord should tell you what utilities are your responsibility and which are the landlord’s. Contact each provider and let it know your move-in date; many will let you set up an account ahead of time so your service isn’t interrupted.
It’s equally important to make sure you cancel all the utilities at your current residence so you don’t pay for services you’re not using.
2. Take pictures of your new space
Whether you’re buying or renting, it’s useful to take pictures of your new home while it’s relatively empty. You can also take a video walking from room to room. This gives you a record of the home's condition that you can use as a baseline should you change anything in the future.
If you’re renting, your new landlord should do a walk-through with you and note any existing damage. If any issues come up, you should have documented evidence in case you're charged for damages you weren’t responsible for.
Consider making a digital folder of photos, inspection reports, walk-throughs, lease agreements and the original listing so they’ll be in one place.
3. Inspect for damaged or missing items
This step goes hand in hand with photo documentation. Test all appliances and make sure they’re in working order. If not, let your landlord or real estate agent know immediately. Sellers are legally obligated to disclose any known damage to or nonfunctioning appliances to a buyer. It’s possible something wasn’t caught by the inspector, and you may be able to have it fixed at no charge. But the longer you wait, the harder it will be to establish responsibility.
It’s a good idea to research or get recommendations for contractors in your new city if you plan on home projects in the near future or in case of emergencies. Ask your new neighbors, and search online for reviews.
4. Locate shut-off valves
Shut-off valves for gas and water are sometimes located outside and sometimes inside. As a safety precaution, you want to make sure everyone living in the house knows where they are and how to shut them off.
Natural gas shut-off valves are often located outside near the meter, while water shut-off valves are often inside the house within 3 to 5 feet of where the main water main comes in. For leaks that can’t be stopped using a local valve, you’ll need to know how to cut off the water to the whole house. For more, read our guide to find the best water leak detector.
5. Test your smoke detectors
Though laws vary by state, most rental agreements or home inspections require working smoke (and often carbon monoxide) detectors to be installed throughout the home. Even so, you should test them yourself within the first week of moving in.
If they aren’t functioning, take steps to get them in working order and notify your landlord or real estate agent. Chances are this should have been covered in your home inspection or walk-through.
For more, read about how to prevent house fires, according to firefighters.
6. Find your fuse box
Locating your fuse box right away can save you a headache in an emergency. Many times the location of fuse boxes is obvious; other times, it’s not. It’s common to find fuse boxes located on the outside of the house or tucked into the closet of a back bedroom.
Overloaded circuits, short circuits or even connecting or disconnecting large appliances can trip a breaker. Keep a flashlight nearby in case you need to replace a fuse or reset a breaker at night.
7. Change the locks
This won’t apply to you if you're renting, but it should be a top priority if you’ve purchased a home. There’s no way to tell how many people have copies of your house key out there. Previous residents may have kept copies of the keys or given them away to friends or neighbors over the years.
An easy solution is to change all your exterior locks after moving in. This lets you know only you and people you trust have keys to your new home. You can also look into getting a home automation system with smart locks.
8. Connect TV and internet
You may have covered internet and TV connections with the rest of your utilities. If you didn't, now's the time. More and more, a reliable internet connection is essential to the functioning of our homes. Our phones, TVs and security systems frequently rely on a Wi-Fi connection. If you’re getting internet or cable installed, you’ll want to set up an appointment ahead of time to ensure you’re not spending too much time unconnected. Installation appointments can book up fast!
9. Get homeowners insurance or renters insurance
If you’re purchasing a home, you’ll likely be required to obtain homeowners insurance before you close, but there’s no similar requirement for renters to acquire renters insurance unless it’s stipulated in your lease. That said, it’s always a good idea to purchase renters insurance whether or not your landlord requires it.
For a relatively small price (an average of less than $15 a month), you can protect your belongings and cover personal liability. If you currently have renters insurance, notify your provider at least four weeks in advance that you’ll be moving and transferring your policy to a new location.
10. Install or activate a home security system
Homeowners and renters today have their choice of home security that ranges from DIY models to professionally installed systems. Connect with providers to compare prices and get a sense of what kind of system you want.
If you’re renting an apartment or moving to a smaller home, a DIY system may be perfect, and you can start installing it right away. Because the components are modular and designed to be installed by an average person, you can adjust as needed.
With a professional system, you may want to wait till you are fully moved in before deciding the extent of your security needs. If you’re transferring a system from your current home, read your existing contract carefully — not all companies allow relocation without breaking the terms.
In addition to a home security system, you might consider other ways to deter burglars and prevent break-ins.
11. Consider a home warranty
Not everyone will want or need to purchase a home warranty, but they can give new homeowners peace of mind. These warranties help cover the costs of unexpected home repairs and may even be provided by the seller as part of your closing negotiations.
Not everyone will want or need to purchase a home warranty, but they can give new homeowners peace of mind.”
These service contracts are especially handy if you’ve purchased a home with older appliances and home systems. Learn more about the costs of a home warranty to decide if it’s worth it for you.
12. Change your address
You can submit a change of address form online on the U.S. Postal Service website. Changing your address is a necessary step, but it often doesn't catch all the mail you receive. Start by making a list of all the places you’ll need to change your address — subscriptions, voter registration, billing addresses and with friends and family. You should also notify government agencies like the Social Security Administration and the IRS.
Also, do an inventory of any online store accounts you may have that have saved shipping addresses, such as Amazon. You don’t want to inadvertently send a package to your old address!
13. Get a new license and update your voter registration
Update your license within 30 to 60 days after moving.
You only need to get a new driver’s license if you move out of state — and you will have a grace period. The grace period varies by state, but most require you to get a license within 30 to 60 days of establishing residency.
Let your car insurance provider know you’ve moved and make sure it issues policies in your new location. If not, you’ll need to shop around for car insurance and get a new policy quickly.
You’ll also want to update your voter registration as soon as possible to ensure you can participate in local elections. You’re often able to update your voter registration when you get a new license. You can also find out how to change your voter registration online at USA.gov.
14. Forward medical, school and vet records
If you’re moving out of state, or even to a different part of the state, chances are you’ll need to find a new primary care physician. If you can do this ahead of time through a recommendation from your current provider, it makes things easier. Ask your provider to transfer all your medical records to the new office.
You’ll also want to update your pharmacy, especially if you have regular prescriptions. Many of the drugstore chains can access your account from any location, which makes this switch hassle-free.
If you have school-age children, their new school should request transcripts be sent over. That said, it helps to be proactive, especially if your child has special needs or arrangements that will need to be in place from day one at their new school.
Last but not least, don’t forget about your furry friends! Talk to your vet before you move about transferring records to a new clinic to ensure a smooth transition. Read about pet insurance to decide if it can save you on vet bills.
15. Get your HVAC system tuned up
You want to make sure your HVAC system is running as it should — even if it was checked during a home inspection. You can start with a basic inspection of the furnace filter. A more extensive inspection should be done by a professional.
Many HVAC companies offer free inspections and estimates for repair. Even if it’s the middle of summer, you’ll want to test your heater so you know it’s ready to go for the colder months.
16. Create a lockout plan
Do you know what to do if you're locked out of your new house? If you’ve lived somewhere for a while, you’ve likely given a spare key to a friend or neighbor in case of emergency, but this probably isn't your top priority if you’ve just moved in.
Think about installing a lockbox somewhere on the outside of your house and putting a key in right away. With all you have to juggle moving to a new home, it wouldn’t be a surprise if you misplaced your keys on occasion!
17. Make a home maintenance plan
After you’ve completed the more immediate steps, consider long-term plans for your home. Maybe you had your HVAC system inspected and know it will need replacing in a couple of years. Or, maybe you have a dog and want to put a fence between your yard and the neighbor’s yard. Depending on where you live, you may need to hire pest control or lawn care services.
Add these tasks to your maintenance checklist so you can plan and budget for them.
18. Write a review for your movers
19. Explore your new neighborhood or city
This is the fun part! Find your new go-to spots, like local restaurants, shops and parks. Explore your neighborhood and familiarize yourself with the layout of the city. Greet your neighbors and ask them for recommendations.
Bottom line: Post-move checklist
There’s no getting around it — moving is a chore! But it’s also an exciting time to learn about your new house, neighborhood and city. Help relieve some of the stress by using our checklist and planning early.
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