First Home: Lesson 101

Congratulations, you just moved into your new home! Boxes are everywhere and a new life is just ready to begin, but before you even begin to unpack, there are six important things you should know about your home.

1. Shut Off Valves

“Homeowners should know where their main water shut off valve is and how to turn it off,” says Francie Malina, a licensed real estate salesperson in Scarsdale. “It is helpful to know this in case a pipe bursts or the pipes freeze.”

The last thing you need is to be sloshing through a flooded basement looking for the main water valve.

Also, find out where the emergency furnace shut off valve is as well. This is especially important if you smell gasoline and do not want to risk an explosion. Having this information on hand can save you valuable time in an emergency.

2. Detectors are Detecting

You’ve always dreamed about owning this beautiful home and raising your family here, but before you rest your head on your pillow the first night make sure you are protecting that precious clan of yours. The Centers for Disease Control reports each year more than 500 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. The National Fire Protection Agency claims that three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (38 percent) or no working smoke alarms (21 percent).

“Ensure that your home not only has working carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors, but natural gas detectors as well,” says Fiona Dogan, a licensed realtor wit Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty. “Work with your contractor to ensure they are installed in an appropriate location. My gas detector, for example, is mounted near the gas drier in the laundry.”

3. Back Up Your Sump Pump

If you have a sump pump in the basement, make sure it has its own back-up generator or is run by a whole-house generator. “Westchester County has its share of winter storms, hurricanes, even tornados,” says Dogan. “If the electricity in your home goes out during one of these weather events, your sump pump will not work.”

4. Know the Professionals

If a pipe does break or the furnace goes on the fritz, who ya’ gonna call? You might have just moved in, but your real estate agent can provide a list of reliable professionals in case of an emergency.

“Real estate agents can provide names of quality, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, contractors, handymen, exterminators, gardeners and even great restaurants that deliver,” says Eric Stein, a real estate professional with RE/MAX Distinguished Homes & Properties in Bronxville, New York.

Of course, once you get to know the business owners you can use who you want, but this list is a start. Your new neighbors can also be a source of recommendations for qualified service professionals.

5. Moving Box Know-How

You can start unpacking now, but what do you do with the boxes once you’ve emptied them?

“You can keep them for future use by folding flat and storing in a dry place – moisture is the enemy with cardboard,” says Jennifer Storms, the customer service manager of Clancy Relocation and Logistics in Patterson, New York. “You can give them away too because people are always looking for used boxes on Facebook. See if your garbage company will take them during normal pickup.”

Clancy Relocation also does a Debris Pickup. “For a fee, we send a crew out after the move takes place and they are done unpacking and we pick up the empty boxes and paper,” she says. “If the customer does any unpacking on the day of the move and boxes and paper are available then, we will take those away at no charge.”

6. Change Filters

Who knows what the previous owners did in that home, so Dogan urges homeowners to change filters immediately, especially in the central air system.

“Filters take contaminants, such as dust, dirt, pollen, mold, fibers, lint, hair and animal fur from coming into your house,” she said. “Change them immediately and hire a HVAC company to service the system. You’ll want to meet these pros and be in their client base before the air conditioning breaks during a heat wave or the heat dies during a winter freeze. If you are not a contract customer, you’ll encounter much longer wait times for a service technician to come to your house.

Once you’ve gotten these basics done, you can enjoy your new home with some peace of mind.

Lisa Iannucci is a freelance writer who was born and raised in Yonkers and now lives in Poughkeepsie, New York.