The first time you step into your home after closing on it can be overwhelming, especially for a first-time home buyer. That moment, when you open the door with your very own key, comes after a lot of hard work—from getting that preapproval letter, to working with a real estate agent to find your dream home, to getting an inspection, to completing the final walk-through. Before you get too comfortable, however, you have a little more work to do.
While your preclosing inspection should have revealed any obvious hazards with your home, you can make your home safer by doing a few key things when you move in. We’ve made a simple checklist of what you should do after closing. These simple tasks will help protect your real estate investment, and, more importantly, you.
We’ve split our list into three sections: things to check, things to do, and things to get. Use our chart for a quick reference, and be sure to check out all the details you need below.
Things to check
Consider this your own mini inspection checklist. Your professional home inspector should have already ensured your house was in good condition, but you need to check the following things for yourself.
Make sure your house number is visible
You’ve got a new address, but how easy is it to find? If you ever have to call 911, you don’t want the police or emergency responders to waste time driving around looking for your house. Your house number should be clear and easily readable.
Try looking at your house from the street, preferably at night or while it’s raining. Is your house number obvious? You may find your numbers need a new coat of paint or better illumination, or you might want to replace your old numbers altogether. A little effort when you move in can save valuable time in an emergency later. As a bonus, upgrading your house numbers will make it easier for your guests to find your new place.
Clear any obstructions outside your home
Once you know people can find your house easily, you need to make sure they can access it. Check your property, especially the pathway to your front door, for any obstacles like loose pavement stones or low-hanging tree branches—anything that could trip or hit you if you’re not paying attention.
Not only will this help emergency responders get inside faster but it will also keep you and your guests safe as you come and go. You won’t have to worry about tripping or hitting your head as you carry in the groceries—you’ll just get to enjoy a clear, safe path to your door.
Locate your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Your new home should have smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in place already, but you need to know where they are. This will allow you to conduct any necessary maintenance—like running regular tests or replacing batteries—and it will help you ensure you have enough detectors in your house.
At minimum, you should have a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your new home. For additional safety, consider installing a smoke detector in every bedroom, and place a carbon monoxide detector within easy earshot of each bedroom. You can even get a combination smoke/CO detector, like the Nest Protect. Whatever you choose, test your alarms regularly to make sure you’re continuously protected.
We also recommend getting a radon gas detector for your home. Radon is a poisonous, odorless gas that can cause very serious health problems. Check out our best radon gas detectors for more information.
Set your water temperature
Your water heater temperature can mean the difference between a soothing shower and a scalding one. To avoid accidental burns, set your water heater no hotter than 120° Fahrenheit. Most water heaters have an obvious dial that lets you adjust your water temperature.
After you make adjustments, take the time to test your new water temperature. Let the hot water run for several minutes before filling a glass, then use a cooking thermometer to measure the temperature. If it’s over 120°, readjust and then test again. A few minutes of time can save your skin—literally.
Things to do
Now that you’ve checked to make sure your home is safe, it’s up to you to keep it that way. Plan on doing the following tasks as you move in or immediately thereafter.
Create a fire escape plan
Whether you purchased a newly built mansion or a 1927 bungalow, you need to put together a fire escape plan for your unfamiliar new space. Figure out where your home’s exits are and how to best utilize them in case of a fire, then determine a meeting point outside your home. If you have children, be sure to discuss proper fire safety with them.
If you have a multistory home, don’t forget to include fire safety escape ladders in your planning. You’ll want to place these at key windows both on upper floors and in your basement. We suggest getting a multiuse ladder, like the X-IT Emergency Fire Escape Ladder, so you can practice using your ladder before an emergency hits.
Childproof your home
If you have young children, you’ll want to childproof your new house as you move in. Start by covering up any outlets within your child’s reach. For easier access to all your outlets, do this before you unpack and arrange your rooms.
This is also a good time to install childproof locks wherever you need them, since your cabinets and drawers will be empty. Peel-and-stick locks, like these magnetic child safety locks, take only minutes to install but will keep little hands from getting where they don’t belong. Then, when you unpack, put dangerous items like cleaners and medications where children can’t get to them.
Anchor your furniture
Even if you don’t have children—but especially if you do—you should take the time to secure tall or otherwise unbalanced furniture items to your walls. Pets and small children can easily topple over heavy furniture pieces and get seriously hurt or even killed. For everyone’s safety, anchor your furniture as you move in.
To properly anchor furniture, you’ll need to secure your pieces to wall studs, so keep that in mind as you arrange your rooms. You may even want to get a stud finder and mark your studs before you start placing your pieces. That way, you can arrange your home in a way that maximizes both comfort and safety.
Fix slippery surfaces
You don’t want to find out there’s an extra-slippery spot in your home when it’s too late, so walk around your house and look for places that could cause falls. Wooden stairs, for example, could be a hazard for quick-moving young children, and a slick bathtub could pose a fall hazard for older adults.
Once you’ve identified these areas, mitigate any fall risk by installing anti-slip measures. You can get nearly invisible safety tread for your bathtub, reducing your risk without ruining the appearance. Likewise, you can get transparent tape for your stairs. These measures take mere minutes to install, but they can significantly reduce fall hazards in your home.
Things to get
Stocking your new house is exciting. As you buy everything from groceries to plungers to new décor, don’t forget to get these important items to make your home safer.
Keep a fire extinguisher handy
You’ve created a fire plan by this point, but it’s better to prevent house fires than to escape them. A fire extinguisher can help you stop a small flame from becoming a big problem. Make sure you have access to a fire extinguisher on each level of your home, and ensure you know how to use it.
Keep in mind that different fires require different extinguishers, so it’s best to get a multipurpose unit like the Amerex B402 Dry Chemical Fire Extinguisher. It’s versatile enough to handle any problem in your home, regardless of the source.
Install smart door locks
Locking your doors is an obvious part of home safety, but you can further improve your security by upgrading to smart door locks. Smart locks give you greater control and more information about who uses your doors when. Many of them also have pick-resistant designs, making them more secure than traditional locks.
Once you have your smart door locks installed, teach everyone in your household how to use them—then make sure they do! Remember, the smartest door lock in the world won’t do you any good if you forget to actually lock it.
Secure irreplaceable documents and heirlooms
Though they may seem like one of those items only your mom has, it’s important to secure birth certificates, social security cards, passports, small family heirlooms, and even old photographs in a waterproof or fireproof safe. Family documents like these can be a huge pain to replace, and storing them in a home safe will give you peace of mind to know where they are at all times.
Choose a home security system
For more comprehensive security, complement your smart locks with a home security system. Even a basic security system can deter would-be intruders, keeping you and your new house safe. With the home automation options included in many security systems, you can even keep an eye on your home when you’re not around.
As you select your home security system, be sure to look for one that meets your needs. If your new home is in a rural area, for example, you might need a system with landline monitoring options. Likewise, if you’d feel more secure with a professionally installed system, don’t choose a company that offers only DIY installation.
Assemble a first aid kit
Even with all these safety measures in place, accidents happen. Stock your new home with at least one first aid kit, and keep it somewhere you can get to quickly, like the kitchen or a bathroom. Your readily accessible first aid supplies will help you respond to any unforeseen safety issues in your home.
For maximum benefit, consider assembling your own kit. Building your own lets you personalize your supplies to guarantee you have what you really need—whether that’s Spider-Man bandages for your picky child or an EpiPen for a family member with food allergies. If you’re not ready to build your own kit just yet, you can buy a ready-made kit, like this well-organized and well-stocked option.
Home safe home
A safe and secure house starts with basic preparation—preparation you can do as you move in to your new home. Whether you’re a first-time home buyer or a veteran real estate investor, our checklist will help you make your new house into a safe and inviting home that you’ll enjoy for years to come.
What else do you do to make your new home safer? Tell us in the comments below!