Moving to a new home is exciting, especially if a homeowner has had to wait weeks or months for their brand-new build to be completed. When closing day and moving day are in sight, it is wise for homeowners to proactively plan ahead to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Beyond the typical moving checklist, what should homeowners remember when moving to a new build? Are there items specific to a new construction home?
The final walkthrough
With a new build, a homeowner has the opportunity to do a final walkthrough once construction is completed before the closing date. This is in addition to prior walkthrough visits during the various phases of construction.
In the final walkthrough, the goal is to identify any deficiencies and to ensure that the home has been built to the agreed upon specifications stated in the home contract.
- It’s important to note that the walkthrough is different than a formal property inspection. A property inspection is conducted by a third party and focuses in detail on structural components (although some inspectors do offer inspection services that address items at closing with the builder, above and beyond the scope of a regular property inspection).
- During the walkthrough, the homeowner is accompanied by the builder and their real estate agent (if they are working with one). To get the most out of the tour, bring along files, with the specification sheet that lists all upgrades and choices inside and out, including paint colors, flooring etc.
- Make sure all finishes match selections (it can be helpful when picking colors and finishes during the design phase to take pictures or get samples to compare against the completed project). Use painter’s tape or sticky notes to mark areas that need attention during the tour.
- Start with the home’s exterior, checking the driveway and any landscaping (softscapes and hardscapes) that were part of the contract. Check siding or other exterior materials for defects and make sure color tones and application are even. Be sure to check hoses and spigots to make sure that they are functioning properly.
- In the garage, make sure that the lights work and that the garage door goes up and down easily. Ensure any storage or floor coatings that were part of the upgrades are included.
- Inside the home, check the flooring and pay particular attention to trim and transitions. Are areas of transition properly capped? In carpeted areas, are there wrinkles or folds in the installation? Don’t forget staircases.
- In the kitchen, test out all cabinetry doors and drawers, making sure the installation is flush and that they open and close properly. Check that countertops are even and secure. Check all plumbing fixtures, making sure they are tight and that they don’t drip when turned off. Don’t forget to check under the cabinetry for leaks or water damage. Check the lights and hood fan. Ensure appliances are working properly (appliances won’t necessarily be addressed by the builder, but it is wise to identify any problems immediately to go back to the appliance manufacturer to discuss warranty coverage).
- In the bathrooms, make sure that toilets flush and check water pressure from all fixtures. If there is a tub, make sure it seals properly when plugged. Ensure seals are tight around fixtures to avoid water leaks down the road. Ensure the tile is evenly installed and that there are no cracks or lifting in the grout lines.
- Check electrical outlets and light switches in each room.
- If any rough-ins were agreed upon as upgrades (i.e. if a homeowner wants to have an addition or remodel down the road) make sure that these are completed properly.
Document any deficiencies or discrepancies to send back to the builder to be addressed. Once a repair checklist has been determined, the homeowner works with the builder to establish a timeline for fixing the issues. It’s not uncommon for smaller, cosmetic issues to be scheduled for after closing, but if issues are more substantial, they should be addressed prior to closing and the homeowner occupying the home.
New- build home property inspection
Property inspections aren’t just for aging homes that have issues sustained from wear and tear. Newly constructed homes are still vulnerable to a number of factors that could affect their structural integrity. Mistakes do happen, particularly if a builder is rushing and has many homes to complete on a tight timeline. Similarly, there can be unforeseen issues with materials that only emerge after construction.
A property inspection done prior to closing will help homebuyers identify any structural or mechanical issues with their new home, and give them an opportunity to address them formally with the builder. While the homeowner will likely be able to spot any obvious issues during a thorough final walkthrough with the builder, a property inspection is more comprehensive and goes beyond what is apparent to the typical homeowner.
The property inspector looks at things such as the home’s structure (particularly the foundation) roof and attic (looking for signs of water damage, leaks or mold). With the roof, they will ensure that the gutters are properly installed to facilitate drainage and that flashing is properly in place
They will examine heating and cooling systems (HVAC, air conditioning, fireplace and furnace, including ductwork and venting), plumbing and electricity. They will check gas lines for leaks. They will make sure that kitchen appliances are hooked up correctly. Exterior structures, such as the porch, garage and decking (to ensure that it is securely installed) will be examined. They will look at windows and doors to make sure that they are properly sealed and aren’t cracked or damaged.
Property inspections don’t cover everything though, so it is wise to ask what is and isn’t included with your prospective property inspector, to make sure that an area of concern with your home isn’t overlooked. Common exclusions are sewer lines, cosmetic finishes (i.e., paint, tile, etc.), pools and damage from pests.
Confirm homeowner insurance
Most mortgage lenders will require homeowner insurance as a condition of the loan, and it will need to be secured, with proof of policy shown usually a few days before closing.
It’s wise to shop around to get the best rates and to start the process early, at least about 30 days prior to closing. Speak with at least three insurers to get quotes. Make sure to read the conditions of the policy carefully to ensure that the coverage is adequate.
Confirm builder warranty
One of the biggest perks of moving into a new construction home is the builder warranty. While builder warranties vary, they typically cover structural items such as roofing, bricks, concrete floors, electrical, plumbing, tile, drywall, trim, carpentry, insulation and windows. A builder warranty would also provide coverage for home systems, like septic systems, HVAC, heating and air conditioning.
The builder may offer the warranty itself, or it may have purchased it through a third party, depending on the rules around the mortgage or loan given, type of home and location.
That said, what is covered and what is excluded can vary by builder. Read carefully through the terms and conditions of a builder warranty. This also provides the opportunity to get more coverage if deemed necessary, through a home warranty.
It’s common to have warranty exclusions for damage incurred by homeowner neglect or weather events. You could possibly void the builder warranty if you try to fix a problem yourself, sourcing your own materials and either doing the work DIY or hiring your own contractor.
Usually, the builder warranty covers one to two years on materials and workmanship, for example, exterior materials like siding, windows, stucco etc. and 5-10 years on major defects in structural items (think foundation crack).
A builder warranty doesn’t typically cover appliances. Most often, appliances are covered through the manufacturer.
Is a home warranty needed?
Depending on what is covered with a builder warranty, a homeowner may choose to get an additional home warranty.
Home warranties vary in their coverage, and typically the premiums reflect that. Basically, a home warranty covers damage that occurs through normal wear and tear on a home’s structural components and appliances, depending on the policy. There are home warranties that offer more limited coverage, and there are those that extend to items that wouldn’t typically be covered, such as pool equipment for example.
A homeowner would pay an annual fee, plus deductibles for service calls.
Double check the applicable time period for the home warranty. Many don’t start coverage until the builder warranty has lapsed (i.e. for materials and workmanship), or for the manufacturer warranty (in the case of appliances).
There are varying schools of thought if a home warranty is necessary on top of a builder warranty and home insurance. It’s wise to look at all the coverage between your home insurance policy and builder warranty and consider covering any gaps with an additional home warranty, if the costs make sense against the risk and likelihood of repair.
Choose new furniture, if necessary
If upsizing or downsizing into a new home, chances are new furniture will be required. Furniture to fit the space is a must. Nothing makes a home feel unfinished more than empty rooms, or feel cramped with inappropriately sized furniture.
Get room measurements for the home from the spec sheets and source out furniture to fit. Ideally, arrange for delivery to the new home, shortly after move-in date- or even on move-in date.
How will windows be covered? Privacy and light filtration might be priorities right away. If custom window coverings are on order, arrange for them to be installed as close to move-in as possible.
If window coverings have yet to be purchased, do a room-by-room evaluation to determine what is needed. Get window measurements from the spec sheet if possible, or if needed, get them during your walk-through inspection with the builder.
In a pinch, adhesive, temporary window shades are available at home improvement stores and provide an affordable and easy short-term solution.
Pare down before packing
Packing to move is no small task. Ensure that plenty of time is blocked off to get this job done, well in advance of the move date.
The first step is to purge belongings to scale down on what needs to be packed and transported. Go through household items with a critical eye, and assign categories to each – keep, donate and sell.
For sell items, sell through an online portal or have a garage sale. To donate, find a community organization that is meaningful to you. There are lots of charitable groups that might benefit from specific items that a homeowner is willing to donate, which might make it easier to part with items.
For items being kept, preparing to pack them starts with planning ahead.
Have a packing plan
When getting ready to pack, make sure that there are adequate packing supplies on hand, including packing tape, boxes, wrapping and markers/labels. Finish packing one room before moving on to another. Be sure to label in detail what is in each box, and which room it should be placed in the new home.
If a homeowner is using movers, they should make sure that belongings are organized and easily accessible. The movers are there to pack- and move of course- not to sort and tidy.
Move-in day essentials
Don’t forget to pack a separate box or two containing move-in day essentials and set them aside. Moving day is inherently chaotic, so having necessary items at hand helps to reduce the stress. Include items such as:
- extra keys
- documents you may need access to quickly
- pet food and dishes
- a place setting of dishes and cutlery
- drinking glasses and coffee mugs (one for each person)
- saucepot and frying pan
- basic pantry staples, like pasta, pasta sauce, tuna, beans and rice
- can opener
- dish soap
- first aid kit
- flashlight with batteries
- basic tools (boxcutter, hammer, screwdriver, tape measure, hooks)
- chargers for phones, laptops, tablets etc.
- paper towels and toilet paper
- garbage bags
- towels (one for each person)
- bed linens and sheets
- change of clothes
Change address and services
Arrange for mail forwarding with the post office. Inform phone/cable/internet providers of the address change on the move-in date.
Let the bank and credit card companies know about the address change, as well as the DMV and car insurance companies. Do an inventory of any memberships and subscriptions and notify them about the address change as well. Don’t forget loyalty programs and delivery apps.
It’s wise to set up a spreadsheet for this task to keep track of who has been informed, and confirmation that the address has been changed. It can help to avoid confusion later.
Inform utility companies of the transfer of address and ownership.
Pet and childcare
Moving day is busy and there are multiple things going on at once. In order to make life easiest for the whole family, arrange for pet or childcare out of the home on moving day.
It’s also a safety consideration. Doors in various access points to the home may be open for long periods, so keeping pets and children out of the way can be challenging.
While the builder typically does a post-construction clean, it’s not a bad idea to arrange to have an additional deep clean done prior to moving in.
In addition to cleaning the hard floors, carpeting and other surfaces, it’s a good idea to do a full clean inside cabinetry and drawers. Dust everywhere, including window frames and trim, because there will likely be lingering dust from the construction.
That way, on move-in day, the home is truly shiny and new to let the unpacking begin.
Homeowner essential kit
Before moving in (or shortly thereafter), assemble a homeowner essentials kit, which will ensure that necessary items are on hand, whether in case of an emergency, or just to make life easier when a quick repair is needed. Suggested items include:
- Lightbulbs (LED preferably)
- Drywall repair kit
- Basic tool set (hammer, handsaw, multi-purpose screwdriver, tape measure, pliers, socket wrench, level, duct tape, cordless drill and bits, Allen key, nails and screws and a stud finder)
- Batteries (multiple sizes)
- Model names and serial numbers for appliances, along with details for length of coverage and manufacturer contact info (or third-party company if they outsource the coverage).
- Flashlights and candles
Tips for unpacking
Once everything is moved in, resist the urge to try to unpack everything at once, as having several boxes half unpacked will create disarray and stress. The very first thing that you should do (if the movers didn’t already) is assemble and make the beds, so that you’ve got a place to sleep once night falls.
Unpack one room at a time, one box at a time. Once a box is emptied, break it down and remove it. It’s much easier to be organized with less clutter.
Finally, test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure there is a working fire extinguisher located on each floor of the house (check the expiry dates).
Locate the plumbing shut off valve. You’ll need to know where this is in a hurry if a plumbing leak occurs. Locate and label breaker switches in the electrical panel.
If you are using a security system, install it now and have it activated.