10 Steps to Take After Closing on Your New Home

Congratulations on closing on your new home, and welcome to the exciting journey of homeownership!

This is reason to celebrate, but also a time you are intensely busy. On top of work and family obligations, you may be dealing with packing and unpacking, buying and installing furniture and appliances, cleaning and making a few repairs.

However, now is the time to prioritize safety, accuracy, and asset protection.

This includes making sure there is no unauthorized access, registering with the city, changing over utilities, and avoiding new home buyer scams. Given you just acquired a major asset, it is vital to secure legal documents, update addresses on financial accounts, and to create a plan with a will and power of attorney document to ensure your asset and family members are cared for in the future.

Read on to learn our “10 Steps to Take After Closing on Your New Home”!

Step 1: Change Locks and Key Codes

Changing locks after moving into a new home is critical for safety and security. Previous owners, real estate agents, and contractors, as well as their respective relatives and associates, may still have access into the residence. Don’t risk any unauthorized access (intentional or unintentional).

Look for and change any key locks at the front door, back door, basement, windows and sheds. Reset key codes for digital and smart locks, doorbells, and related online accounts.

Step 2: Change Addresses on Accounts

Updating your address on your personal accounts is essential after relocating to a new home.

This ensures that all your mail and packages are accurately delivered to your new location, avoiding lost, stolen, or mishandled mail. Many institutions, like banks and government bodies, require up-to-date address information for important communications or legal purposes. Make sure you do not miss crucial information or notifications, such as bills, renewals, tax information, and identity verifications.

Here is a list of key accounts to prioritize changing the address:

  1. Bank Accounts: This includes both checking and savings accounts.
  2. Credit Card Companies: Update billing address to ensure receipt of cards, bills, and potential fraud alerts.
  3. Investment Accounts: Investments acoounts with anybrokers or banks, such as retirement savings, stock brokerage accounts, bonds, or mutual funds.
  4. Insurance Providers: Health, life, auto, and home insurance providers.
  5. Loan Accounts: Student loans, a car loan, a personal loan, or a mortgage
  6. Government Entities: Entities like the IRS, Social Security Administration, Department of Motor Vehicles, and the post office about your new address.
  7. Digital Services: Cable, internet, and streaming service providers.
  8. Monthly Subscriptions: Delivery services such as magazines, newspapers, or paper newsletters and bulletins.
  9. Healthcare Providers: Doctors, dentists, and any other medical services you use.
  10. Employers: Mailing of paychecks, insurance forms, and tax filing forms.

Step 3: Change Utilities to Your Name

Changing utilities to your name after the closing is essential.

This is ensures continued access to critical utilities and provides you control over these services. A swift change will help manage any issues effectively and effectively, as well as ensure you have accurate billing and usage information.

The primary utilities to change to your name include electricity, gas, water, and sewer services. Life, including work from home and internet, could be interrupted without the change. Depending on your home, you might also have to consider other services such as trash collection, recycling services, pool services, septic services, and lawn care.

To change utiliites, ontact each utility company directly, either online, by phone, or by visiting their local office if neessary. Be ready to provide personal identification, the address of the property, and a copy of the new deed. Companies might require additional details such as your move-in date, or meter readings upon moving in.

Step 4: Save Key Legal Documents

After a real estate closing, a buyer receives several official documents including:

  • Deed. This is legal document transferring ownership from the seller to the buyer. You receive a copy of the deed at closing. In 30 to 60-days, a recorded copy of the deed is available.
  • Mortgage. The mortgage outlines your agreement with the lender regarding the terms of your home loan. This document will be recorded publicy and represents the lender’s interest in the property.
  • Promissory Note. Legal document in which the borrower promises to repay the lender.
  • Title Insurance Policy. Title insurance policy, issued by the title company that conducted the title search, protects against legal claims from third-parties regarding the ownership of the property. The title insurance policy not only provides traditional insurance, but it also is your “stamp” of clear title at the closing.
  • Settlement Statement (also known as Closing Disclosure). Buyer receives a copy of the statement showing the financail aspects of the closing including price, loan amounts, closing costs, and tax and utility prorations.
  • Survey (If You Conducted One). Surveys are optional – some buyers do not conduct one. Surveys are a drawing that shows legal boundaries, the locations of structures, and easements or encroachments.

Securing these documents is important. In future situations such as resale, refinancing, taxes filling, or legal disputes, and tax filings, these records provide proof of ownership, terms of the purchase, and show title free of liens.

How to store the documents?

For any paper documents, storage in a secure and locked desk or safe is a good idea to protect from physical damage. For digital copies or digital documents, utilize secure password protected cloud storage services for easy access.

Step 5: Notify Friends and Family

Notifying friends and family of your new home is important for smooth communication. They will know the correct address for sending letters, cards, or gifts, and can visit you without confusion. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss responding to a wedding invitation!

Failing to notify friends can result in some avoidable complications:

  • Mail or packages could continue to be sent to your old address, possibly getting lost or delayed.
  • Personal communication could end up in the hands of strangers.
  • Delays in communication in the event of emergency or urgent situations.
  • Close acquintances might feel neglected finding out about your purchase on social media or from a third party.

Step 6: Review Inspection Report

Very rarely will a seller conduct all repairs that were identified during your home inspection.

Revisiting the home inspection report after the closing can help put together a checklist of current and potential defects that should be addressed immediately (and also items to adress in the future when budget allows).

Prioritize items listed as “needs repairs” or “safety” defects. Although safety/needs repair are imminent, keep in mind minor items or recommendations become worse overtime. Re-visit the report in a year.

Repairs to focus on include structural concerns (like foundation, roofing, chimney), HVAC (heating, cooling ventilation), water intrusion, plumbing, and electrical systems.

Make sure you and your family stay safe, and prevent unnecesary property damage!

Step 7: Estate Plan (Will and Power of Attorney)

Real estate is an expensive asset. It is vital to have a plan in place as to how this asset is handled in case of death, incapacity, or inability to make decisions.

Planning ahead will allow for your families best interests to be put paramount if one of these unfortunate events strike (after which it is too late to estate plan).

A will, perhaps the most common estate planning document, details how you want your assets, including your home, distributed and who is responsbile for distribution after death. A will is essential for the following reasons:

  1. Choose Your Heirs (Don’t Allow State Law to Decide): Property is distributed by general state laws without a will – the beneficiaries of your property may not align with your wishes.
  2. Maintain Harmonious Family Relationships: Clear intentions set in a will prevent disagreements as to how you desired your assets to be distributed.
  3. Choose a Trustworthy and Competent Estate Administrator: The court appoints one person to manage an estate. Courts will follow your choice of administators in a will. If you did not have a will, any persons and/or family members could petition to be the administrator (even those that would not have been your choice) resulting damaged relationships or legal disputes.
  4. Swift Property Transfer: Transfer of real estate ownership will be delayed without a will due to a longer probate process, resulting in problems if no person has authority to make decisions.
  5. Reduce Legal Costs: Estate administration without a will involves more legal work and higher legal fees.
  6. Increase Family Wealth with Tax Benefits: Estate planning allows for maximizing tax benefits to preserve family wealth.
  7. Choose a Guardian For Children: Appoint a guardian for your minor children in case of your death. Otherwise, it is for the courts to decide.

A power of attorney (“POA”) allows you to appoint someone to handle your legal and financial affairs if you become incapacitated.

Contrary to some beliefs, a power of attorney is needed even for spouses to make decisions on each other’s behalf. If one person becomes incapacitated without a power of attorney in place, the only option then for obtaining decisionmaking authority opening a litigation for legal guardianship.

A power of attorney for real estate offers several benefits in the event you are no longer able to make decisions:

  1. Property Management: POA would allow the person you trust to handle property affairs, pay property taxes, manag mortgages or loans, and accept rental income.
  2. Real Estate Transaction Decisions: A POA can act on your behalf in buying, selling, transferring and refinancing real estate.
  3. Efficiency and Convenience: Even if you are not fully incapacitated, a POA can step in and assist you if ownership becomes challenging due to health, age, distance, or other commitments.
  4. Legal Decisions: A POA can make decisions regarding tax matters, disputes, or legal issues involving the property.

Need assistance in preparing these important estate planning documents?

Our firm provides comprehensive guidance to ensure your estate planning goals and needs are thoroughly addressed and achieved. Call/text us at 201-389-8275 or e-mail contact@earlwhite.law visit the Contact Us assistance with any estate planning.

Step 8: Register with the City

Cities regularly offer benefits for its citizens. Each city may have different rules and benefits, so it’s a good idea to check the specific requirements and processes for your city.These benefits may include:

  1. Access to Community Services: Access to city services such as waste and recycling collection, parks and recreation and sports, and local emergency services.
  2. Eligibility for City-Specific Programs: You might be eliglbe for homeowner benefits, including subsidies, local aid programs, or property tax exemptions.
  3. Voting Rights: Update your voter registration to cast a ballot in local, state, and national election
  4. School Registration: Registration allows you to enroll children in the local school district.
  5. Local Notifications: Receive new information about road closures, weather, and community events.
  6. Legal Compliance: Citizens may be legally required to register with the city.
  7. Vehicle Registration and Driver’s License: Updating your address allows you to register your vehicle and obtain a driver’s license in your new city if required.
  8. Pet Registration: Pet registration may be required to track of certain pets within the municipality to confirm prope vaccinations and to assist in returning lost pets to their owners

How to find out and register for the city’s benefits?

Begin by looking at city’s official website to find information about the registration process and a list of available programs and benefits. Depending on the municipality, you may need to contact the city directly via phone, email, or personal visit.

Step 9: Be Aware of Home Buyer Scams

New homebuyers often find themselves targeted by various types of scams. Deeds (with your name, address, and closing date) and mortgages (with your loan number and loan terms) are public available on the county website. These documents can usually be pulled up as simple as typing your name or address.

Scams can range from minor issues such as buying a certified copy of your deed (which will be given to you free). Larger scams may include impersonating your lender and requesting mortgage payments, fraudulently requesting payment of real estate taxes, or obtaining personally identifying information.

Be wary of anything involving money, ownership, personal data, or “too-good-to-be-true” offers.

How to protect yourself from financial loss, damage to credit rating, identity theft, or title issues? Adopt a careful and informed approach to correspondence and communication.

  • Verify the credibility of people, companies, or government agencies you are dealing with.
  • Ensure communications such as e-mails and phone calls are with legitimate sources.
  • Confirm details in person or over a call if anything seems suspicious.
  • Contact trusted professionals that helped with your closing, such as your attorney, loan officer, or real estate agent.

Step 10: Leave 5-Star Google Reviews

Given you’ve successfully completed your journey to new homeownership, you likely were helped out a long the way by a real estate agent, home inspector, loan officer, and attorney.

Hopefully, the service helped organize the closing, reviewed contracts and reports, sought to understand your personal needs, and helped manage any issues that arose between the buyer and seller. If you did receive those benefits, consider leaving a five-star Google review.

Google reviews are vital for businesses. Reviews not only help online reputation and built customer trust, but ultimately allow the service provider to help more home buyers.

Call us at 201-389-8275 or visit the Contact Us page for assistance with any estate planning, real estate, or business transactions. Note: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should contact an attorney for advice on any particular legal matter.