Moving into a newly built home is such an exciting time for any home buyer. You’ve put your stamp on it with all of the design choices and you’ve followed the building progress from day one.
But the weeks leading up to your actual move-in date can turn stressful as you face dealing with closing on your new home, while trying to sell the old one or coming up on the end of a lease. But, there are several steps you can take to help lower your stress level during this hectic time. Here are some tips for moving into a newly built home:
Ask questions during the building process.
“It’s an exciting time, but there’s a lot happening and a lot to remember,” says Beverly Bradley, a sales consultant with David Weekley Homes in Houston. “We tell clients, ‘We’re here. Call with any questions.’”
As someone who’s built a new home, I can attest to Bradley’s advice. Don’t be shy about asking your sales manager or field manager questions about what to expect. Hopefully, you’ve been keeping track of the building process. That’s a major part of the fun of building your own home and many builders update clients by phone or online (or both).
In Bradley’s case, she and other David Weekley sales managers call their clients on a weekly basis. “Communication is huge during the building process,” she says. “We take pictures of a client’s home throughout the process and post them to the buyer’s website and keep them updated on the stages of construction.”
Take notes during the final walk-through
Usually about a week before your scheduled closing, you’ll do a pre-occupancy orientation with your builder. If you want to get a third-party inspection for an extra set of eyes on your nearly finished home, it’s best to arrange one just prior to the pre-occupancy orientation so you can go over the list with your builder. (Our New Home Guide articles, Is a Home Inspector Right for You?, has advice on what you should know about using a third-party inspector in your new home.)
During my orientation, my builder pointed out small items that still needed attention — paint touchups, adding a railing on my back patio, flipping hinges on cabinet doors, etc. These items should be provided in writing as well, since you’ll sign off on them just prior to closing. You should also receive a detailed tour of your soon-to-be home, where you learn about the home’s water cutoffs, both inside and out; dryer vents; HVAC system; etc.
It’s important to take notes (and ask questions) during this orientation as you’ll cover a lot of material, including warranty information. At David Weekley, this walk-through can take about two hours, says Bradley. “We want to make sure things are 100 percent complete.”
Get ready for closing
For most new home buyers — well, maybe, for most homebuyers period — closing is one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the process. You cross your fingers and hope nothing goes wrong with the loan. The best thing you can do is to make sure your loan documents are in order ahead of time, as well as have a cashier’s check ready for the amount you owe at closing. If you are working with a real estate agent, he or she can help you navigate the paperwork and terminology, as well as accompany you at your closing.
Allow some deadline flexibility
“If homebuyers can allow some flexibility with moving into their new home, then they don’t feel so under the gun if something goes awry,” Bradley says.
I was fortunate that the lease on my apartment didn’t end until a couple of weeks after my scheduled closing date. I liked having that little cushion just in case something occurred to delay the home’s completion or the closing.
Keep a checklist
Moving to a new home brings with it an entire litany of little tasks to keep track of before, during and after the move. Using a checklist is a great way to stay on top of your move and hopefully reduce some stress along the way.
I kept a checklist that included hiring/confirming a mover and making changes of address for the post office, insurance, driver’s license, credit cards, banks, doctor’s offices, magazines and newspapers and so on. If you have children, you’ll need to arrange for school transfers, learn new bus routes or drop off/pick up times, etc. Check with your sales manager or real estate agent for a checklist if you don’t have time to create your own.
Find a mover
Before you lock in a moving company, the first thing you should do is research. Search online to find reviews for local movers. Find out which have the best ratings and then visit their websites.
Once you have your top companies narrowed down, it’s time to start asking questions. Get quotes and compare damage and insurance policies. Find one you trust? Share with them your moving date and lock it down.
To avoid hidden fees and other complications that come along with last-minute bookings, it’s always a good idea to lock in a moving company well before your move. To be extra careful, locking in your company six weeks prior to your moving date is a good goal, but aim for no less than two weeks.
Once you get that taken care of, here comes the fun part: packing.
Why, yes, that was sarcasm. But with a good plan in place, packing doesn’t have to be as bad as everyone thinks.
Start by packing your decorative items first, that way you can put them away first and not have to worry about where they are until later. Then go room by room, marking boxes accordingly along the way to make it easier when it’s time to unpack. At the same time, start taking inventory of what you’re packing to keep; make a copy for yourself and your mover in case anything gets lost along the way. Finally, decide what you plan on donating and trashing — or hold a garage sale.
When it gets closer to moving day, pack up a bag of essentials that you might need on the first day or two in your new home — think toiletries, a few outfits and important documents. Be sure to take these documents with you; don’t leave them in boxes for the movers so they don’t get misplaced.
Plan for home changes
While you’re going through all your things, it’s also a great time to consider how everything will look and fit into your new home. Here are a few things to consider:
- Will you need new furniture to fill the space?
- Will your décor match your new home?
- Your builder will hold an “orientation” to introduce you to your new home’s systems and appliances, so where will you store manuals and other important information? Did you understand how to operate everything?
- Will you have adequate storage space?
- Will landscaping be included or will you need to provide that yourself?
No one wants to feel lost in their new home, so make sure to double-check that it’s all taken care of before move-in day.
Prep for moving day
It will come before you know it! So let’s get prepared.
To make that busy day a little easier, start by developing a plan for your kids and pets. Before that day arrives, devise a plan of where they will stay or how they might help out by moving their own boxes.
Now is also the ideal time to start updating your address everywhere you can think: family and friends, banks, lenders, magazine subscriptions, cable and Internet providers, the post office … the list goes on. A month before you move, make a list of all the mail you receive and a list of bills you pay, so that you can be sure to change your address with all necessary parties.
Prior to move-in day, you’ll also want to make sure all closing matters are finalized. Here are just a few to refresh your mind: final loan papers, settlement documents, title, sales contract review, insurances, tax matters, etc.
Now reward yourself by stocking up on snacks, treats and other refreshments for moving day, because it’s finally here.
Don’t forget your utilities
You also will have to deal with switching over or turning on the utilities at your new home, including electric, water and wastewater, garbage, cable, phone, Internet and a security system. If you have any questions on when you need to have the electric service switched to your name, check with your sales manager or field manager.
Take care of your pets
Moving into a new home isn’t stressful just for the human occupants. Your pets feel the stress of entering a new environment, too, so make sure you have a plan for taking care of your pets during the actual move, such as having friends watch them for a few hours. Bradley advises taking your pets over to visit the new home prior to moving in, if you can, to help them get acquainted with their new territory.
Get to know the neighborhood
When you build or buy a home in a new neighborhood, you have a great opportunity to create a sense of community with your new neighbors. “I try to encourage clients to come in and meet their new neighbors before moving in,” Bradley says. “It can give new homeowners comfort, so they feel like they’re not moving into a strange place.”
Your homeowners’ association may have various committees that you can join, such as a social or landscaping committee, to help you and your neighbors get to know each other better and to help keep an eye on each other’s properties. Or you can take a walk around the neighborhood while visiting your home to better learn the area and say “hi” to other new homeowners.
Get those keys
It’s time to move in to your new home! Depending on your builder or your lender, you may receive your keys at closing. Otherwise, you may have to stop by your builder’s sales office to pick them up. Either way, once you have those keys, it’s time to step into your brand new home and revel in the experience of making it completely yours.
You’ve paid the movers, unpacked, signed all the papers and are officially moved in … congratulations!
Now what? Let’s settle in.
Once you’ve had the time to relax, there’s still a little more work to be done. You can start by taking a few moments to review the rules and regulations in your new community. Check and see if there’s a homeowner’s association (HOA) in the neighborhood to ensure you understand its covenants.
Then take the time to get acquainted with your new area. Explore the community, meet the neighbors and try out those amenities.
Finally, once you’ve fully had the time to relax and settle in, the last thing to do is throw a house-warming party. Welcome to the next chapter in your homeowner life! How does it feel?
Judy Marchman is an Austin, Texas-based freelance writer and editor who, during her 20+-year career, has written on a diverse number of topics, from horses to lawyers to home building and design, including for NewHomeSource.com. Judy is the proud owner of a new construction home and has gained plenty of story inspiration from her home ownership experiences.
A horse racing aficionado, she also has written on lifestyle, personality, and business topics for Keeneland magazine and Kentucky Monthly, as well as sports features for BloodHorse, a weekly Thoroughbred racing publication, and the Official Kentucky Derby Souvenir Magazine. When she’s not in front of her laptop, Judy can usually be found enjoying a good book and a cup of tea, or baking something to go with said cuppa.