On the road that leads to homeownership, there are a lot of steps. However, just as the old proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. In this series of articles, we will walk you through several of the crucial steps that many homeowners before you have taken. Along the way, we will give you some tips and advice on how to navigate this journey so that, someday, you will step over the threshold of your very own home.
Step 2: Your First Month in a New Rental
So you got the lease signed and moving day is behind you. You now have mountains of cardboard boxes stacked in every room and are trying to figure out where to start. It’s time to get settled into your new home but you just don’t know what to do next. How do you begin to make this place feel like home? Read on, dear reader. Read on.
Before You Unpack
We covered this at the end of our first article for the Renters’ Journey, but it is worth repeating here. If you haven’t done a final walkthrough of your rental unit, now is the time to do it. Ask the property manager or landlord for a Landlord-Tenant Checklist if you did not receive one with your lease paperwork. Then take that list from room to room and make detailed notes about the condition of every single appliance, fixture, and room. If there are any damages, document them with pictures and report them immediately. Keep a copy of this checklist and any pictures and damage reports that you file during this time. This is a crucial step to take, as the repairs for any undocumented damages will come out of your security deposit.
A Clean Slate
Deep cleaning should have been performed on your rental should before you moved in. However, if knowing the standard to which it was done brings you peace of mind, then you might consider doing a deep clean of your own. Though you may be planning on being the one who cleans your home on a regular basis, you might think about hiring professionals for this initial cleaning. Between making the move itself and facing a lot of unpacking, it might be a nice way to give yourself a bit of a respite.
Get Rid of Those Boxes
While it might be tempting to just rummage through various boxes to find what you need, that is going to get annoying very quickly. Unpacking can be an overwhelming process, but try not to let it get you down. Try to think of it as a slow transition of the spaces into a place that is truly your own. Start with a suitcase you packed with a week’s worth of clothes. Put your bathroom in order so that you can comfortably bathe or shower. Put your bed together and get sheets on it. Set up some furniture and your television. Stock your refrigerator and pantry. Fill your cabinets and drawers with your kitchen utensils, pots, and pans. It’s going to take a bit of time before you can rid yourself of that last bit of cardboard, but you will feel more at home as you unpack one box after another.
Swap Out the Locks
Before you get too settled into your new place, you really should consider changing all of the exterior door locks. You may have written proof from the property manager or landlord that this was done before the unit was turned over to you, but it should still be something that you at least think about. You have no idea who could have keys to the locks unless you installed them yourself. When you do switch them out, make sure to have spare keys made. Give these to people that you trust, such as close friends and family members, in case you need them to check on pets or plants while you are away or just in case of potential emergencies.
Test the Utilities
Hopefully, as a part of your moving-in walkthrough, you managed to find any potential issues and have them addressed. However, issues will inevitably crop up in any place where you live for very long. After having used them for a while, check under sinks, behind toilets, and around faucets to make sure that there are no small leaks or dripping pipes. Regularly test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and keep fresh batteries for these devices on hand.
Explore and Visit Nearby Stores
Go for a drive, a walk, or a bike ride around your new neighborhood and take in the sights. Get to know the area that you are now calling home. Familiarize yourself with how the local grocery store is laid out. Meet the small business owners in the area. A little bit of exploration will help you know how to find the places you will likely need in the future. This will also cut down on the chances of you getting lost.
Complex or Neighborhood Logistics
Make sure to learn when trash and recycling are collected, or if you are responsible for disposing of it yourself. You can ask one of your neighbors, the property manager or the landlord, or contact your city’s sanitation department to find out for certain which days this happens. If you are renting a house, you might also inquire about whether or not there is a Home Owner’s Association and what regulations they might have in place.
Update That Mailing Address
One of the things that often gets overlooked is the changing of your address with all of the various apps and services you may use without ever giving it a second thought. You need to file a change of address form with your local post office and likewise hit up the county DMV for a new driver’s license. And if your move has taken you across state lines, you will likely need to establish legal domicile. Since you are already in the mode, you should also update your address with the IRS and check your voter registration for the county you moved into.
Speaking of new states or counties, if you have moved far enough to change either of these, you should consider registering any pets you might have soon after you move in. Check your specific state’s website to see what the requirements are regarding pet ownership and registration. It could also be a good opportunity to get your pets’ shots updated and to think about having them microchipped. If your pets already have a microchip, you should change the listed address on file to match your new one.
Most apartment complexes have exterminator companies that frequent their properties, but you should check to see if that is the case. If not, or if you are renting a house and the landlord has not set one up on your behalf, then you might consider hiring one on your own. Preventative care can help stop issues before they become a problem. Start with getting a quote and see if it is something that you can fit into your budget.
Put the House into House Party
While throwing a massive bash in your new rental property may not be a great idea, you should consider throwing together a small party to celebrate this new chapter in your life. Choose a date, send invitations to your close friends and family, snag some snacks and drinks, and plan a couple of party games. Possibly even send out some invites to your new neighbors and introduce yourself to them. And if you aren’t quite ready to invite them over just yet, it might be a good idea to let them know that there may be a bit of extra noise at the time that it is happening.
Changing where you live is never an easy transition to make. Even as exciting as it might be, with all of the new possibilities it may present, there is a ton of hard work and planning needed to make sure that it goes as smoothly as possible. Just be sure to make time to enjoy your new space and settle in properly before you return to the regular grind of life. Make sure to thank all of the people who helped you open this new chapter of your life.