Move in Checklist:
1. Change locks. Don’t assume the keys you’re holding make up the only existing set. Play it safe and have all of your locks changed.
2. Reprogram the garage door opener. Again, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to security. Most remotes have a reset button, but if you need more instructions, contact the manufacturer to walk you through the steps for your make and model.
3. Locate the water shutoffs. Find the main water shutoff as well as all outside water spigots. Ask the previous homeowner if you cannot find them.
4. Locate the main circuit breaker. Check it out and make sure you fully understand the labeling. If it’s a new home and unlabeled, identify the circuits and make your own labels.
5. Test the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. For smoke detectors, you need one in each bedroom and on every floor. Carbon monoxide detectors are needed on each floor. Also, place a fire extinguisher on every level and learn how to use it.
6. Figure out a strategy to use if you get locked out of your home. Hide a key? Leave a copy with a neighbor? (This is a great time to meet the neighbors and exchange phone numbers.) Share the key solution with family members.
7. Establish a MyLowe’s account. You can store valuable information there, such as paint colors, room sizes, furnace filter sizes, and purchase history. Lowe’s can even send you a reminder to change the furnace filter. For more info on starting an account, go to Lowes.com.
8. Read up on your HVAC system to feel confident about using the furnace and air conditioner. No instructions? Go online to find them. Put in a new filter and keep the information in your MyLowe’s account.
9. Make a list of all your lightbulbs, and buy energy efficient replacements. Don’t forget the halogen lights! Check all outdoor fixtures, too.
10. Replace all toilet seats. Enough said.
11. Make an exit plan for emergencies. Be sure even small children know how to call 911.
Some efforts offer a better potential payoff than others. Some may be necessary for your family and lifestyle. How do you get the biggest bang for the buck? Here are the top factors to consider from consumer expert Jennifer Openshaw, author or The Millionaire Zone and a columnist for The Wall Street Journal.
The cost vs. value ratio is the expected resale return divided by cost of the project. Remodeling return on investment in the U.S. traditionally averages about 58 cents per dollar spent on the project.
The Best Choices
Kitchen and deck remodels have the highest payoff, but your choice may depend on your bank account (see chart).
Replace vs. Refresh
Replacing a roof or furnace returns 10 percent more than the overall average of 58%. Refreshes can do even better, earning more than 100 percent. A front door replacement returns more than it costs (see chart). Paint, cabinet makeovers, and hardware upgrades return the most, because they don’t cost much.
Did you ever think that being different might pay off? If yours is the only home in the neighborhood with a full bathroom on the first floor—highly desirable with an aging population—you might command a higher resale price.