So you’ve moved into a new home—yay! Maybe you’ve even celebrated with your first takeout meal in the middle of your fabulous (and empty) living room floor. But before you get too comfortable and go into a flurry of unpacking all those carefully labeled boxes, check out this list of things to do right after moving into a new place. It’ll set you up to be sitting pretty for years to come.
- Take photos
Photos of bare and unadorned rooms? Yep. If you’re renting, these are essential when the time comes to get your security deposit back. Photos are also important if you bought a new home, since a fair amount of time may have passed between the inspection and when the previous owner finally took a powder. If any damage occurred in the interim, or the movers scratched a previously pristine floor, document it. A gallery of pictures taken before your furniture makes it inside will be worth a thousand words—and maybe more than a couple of bucks—should you need to point out damage.
- Check your belongings for breakage
If you hired movers to either pack or move your belongings, “you have a limited amount of time to report any suspected damage or missing items,” says Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix operations for Freedom Financial Network. “Make sure that if a major appliance was moved”—such as a refrigerator, washer or dryer—“they still function as they should. Review your contract to determine liability coverage if you discover a problem.”
- Figure out when and where to leave your trash
As you unpack, you’ll be eager to get rid of the trash, so finding out from your landlord, homeowners association or neighbors when and where you can do that is key. “You won’t want to miss pickup day when you’ve got piles of cardboard lying around,” says Desmond Lim, founder of Boston’s moving website QuikForce.
- Change the locks
It’s your home now, but who else had the keys when the previous residents lived there? No one wants even the slightest question about safety lingering over a new home. This makes swapping out locks as soon as you can “one of the most important things homeowners can do when they are settling into a new property,” says Marty Hoffmann, vice president of marketing at Kwikset.
- Register your car
Did you move from one state to another? If so, you’ll need to register your car within about 60 days. Each state’s requirements are slightly different, but penalties range from fines to impounding your vehicle if you fail to comply in a timely manner. You’ll also need to get a new driver’s license, usually within 30 days of your move.
- Break out the drop cloth
Most people don’t have the luxury of painting prior to moving in, so, if possible, paint as soon as you regain your strength from the move. “The longer you wait, the tougher it is to paint,” says Steve Revnew, vice-president of product development at Sherwin-Williams. Most people “continue to collect and add furnishings, all of which make painting more difficult,” he says. “Moving heavy furniture or working around furniture isn’t easy, especially smaller rooms.” But with no obstructions besides neat, stackable boxes, painting is a breeze.
- Check your credit reports
Your credit reports are usually accessed during a move, as everyone from new employers and landlords need to reference them for background checks. That’s why it’s important to “request a copy of your credit report within six months of your relocation,” Gallegos says. Besides ensuring that your address change was recorded accurately, Gallegos advises to “watch for inconsistencies that might indicate you’ve been a victim of fraud. During a move, a great deal of personal financial information is exchanged and forwarded via mail and email. It’s important to make sure your personal information wasn’t compromised.”
- Update your voting address
Whether it’s the upcoming election for president or your local school board, don’t forget to update your address so you can vote. Most states allow a 60-day grace period during which time you can use an old address at your new polling place. For elections beyond that, register at least two weeks prior so you don’t miss out on swaying any important issues. After all, what better way is there to plant a foot in your new neighborhood than exercising this all-American right?