You've scrimped and saved for your down payment and spent months going to open houses. Now you've finally pulled the trigger and purchased your dream house... now what? One of the first things every homeowner figures out is that finding the house and signing on the dotted line is only the beginning. The adventure of home ownership is nothing like renting, and homeowners who stick their heads in the sand or hope problems will go away can end up facing some major maintenance disasters - not to mention huge costs.
Smart homeowners take the time to learn how to care for their home - the biggest investment many will ever make. This means understanding when to replace the furnace or water heater, knowing how to handle emergencies like water leaks or electrical issues, and keeping an eye out for signs of major maintenance problems, like a cracked foundation or leaky roof.
Homeowners looking to keep costs in check should also understand how various systems and equipment can impact the monthly budget. For instance, do you know how much insulation you need to keep your home efficient, or which type of furnace costs the least to operate each winter?
Think you've got this homeowner thing mastered? Prove it with this quiz!
How much should you plan to spend on home maintenance each year if your home is worth $300,000?
The spending doesn't stop when you send off your mortgage payment. Maintaining a home costs around 1% of the home's value each year. Some sources, such as HGTV, suggest budgeting 1 to 3 percent of home value for maintenance and repairs. That means you should budget between $3,000 and $9,000 if your home is valued at $300,000.
Which of these is a sign that your roof might be leaking?
Fading interior paint
Water stains on the ceiling
A leaky roof can mean a major expense for homeowners, but the sooner you address a roof issue, the less the resulting repairs are likely to cost you. Some signs of a roof leak include water stains on ceilings and walls, stains on exterior walls, mold or mildew growing in the house, and missing or damaged roof shingles.
Which of these costs is generally paid into escrow each month?
When you mortgage a house, the bank will likely set you up with an escrow account. This allows you to pay a portion of your homeowner's insurance and property tax bill each month, rather than face a big bill once a year. This helps to ensure you'll make your payments as agreed and remain in good standing with the bank.
Only if you didn't receive the keys from the former owner
Yes, as soon as humanly possible
When you purchase a new home and the Realtor hands over the keys to your new pad, those new keys should be considered a temporary accessory - after all, you have no idea how many other copies of those keys are floating around or who has their hands on them. New homeowners should make swapping out existing locks a priority when it's time to move in.
Homeowners should understand exactly how the fuel used to heat their home can affect annual heating costs. In the U.S., heating with natural gas is the cheapest option. Electric heat is the next most economical, followed by heating oil and propane.
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends replacing a furnace that is older than how many years?
Experts recommend replacing your furnace if it's more than 15 to 20 years old, while heat pumps and AC units should be replaced after 10 to 15 years. Sure, your old furnace might still be running, but it could be racking up big energy bills each month. Older units had efficiency ratings between 56 and 70 percent, while modern ones can achieve efficiency of 98 percent or more.
When should you replace smoke detector batteries in your new home?
As soon as you move in
Are you sure the previous owner of your home replaced the batteries in the smoke detectors regularly? Are you sure there are even batteries in them at all? Before you go to sleep in your new home for the first time, put fresh new batteries in each smoke detector for safety.
What's the average summer air conditioning bill for a home in the U.S.?
Planning to keep your cool in the summer? Prepare to shell out an extra $262 - the average U.S. summer AC bill, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Cooling costs represent about 12 percent of energy bills, and can range from $60 in cooler climates to more than $500 a year in hotter areas.
Lowering your thermostat temperature by one degree in the winter will cut heating costs by how much?
Every degree you push your thermostat lower in the winter (for at least eight hours) will cut heating costs by around one percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. To keep bills in check, aim for 68 to 72 when you are home, and 62 to 66 degrees when the house is empty.
What's the most common natural disaster in the U.S.?
FEMA names floods as the most common natural disaster in the U.S., and most homeowners insurance policies don't cover floods. Consider whether you need a separate flood insurance policy, and keep in mind that about 25 percent of flood-related claims occur outside of high-risk flood zones.
Which of these is the safest hot water heater temperature setting?
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting the temperature on your hot water heater at 120 degrees F. This is important information for any homeowner, because most of these units come with a default setting of 140 degrees and must be adjusted manually.
Installing one of these can cut energy costs by 10 to 30 percent. What is it?
A programmable thermostat keeps the temperature in your home at a comfortable level while helping to minimize energy costs. Installing one of these surprisingly simple devices can cut energy costs by 10 to 30 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
How do you shut off all the water to your home if there is a leak?
Call the water company
Call the police
Look under the kitchen sink
Turn off the water main outside
The last thing you want to do when your home is suffering from a leak is waste time figuring out where the water shutoff valve is. As soon as you move into a new home, head outside to find the main shutoff valve, which allows you to easily switch off the water when you need to.
What is the structure beneath your home that helps keep it level and stable?
Your foundation is a brick, stone or concrete structure that provides a stable base for your home. Savvy homeowners know that addressing foundation problems early can save you big money over time - and may even save your home in some cases. Signs to watch for include visible cracks or bulges in the foundation walls, cracks on walls or ceilings inside the home, and cracks in ceramic tile floors.
The typical tank water heater lasts 8 to 12 years. If you prefer to cut water heating costs, switch to a tankless water heater, which provides hot water on demand instead of heating a tank that might or might not be used.
If your circuit breaker trips, head for the breaker panel and flip the switch for that breaker - look for one facing the opposite way from the other ones. A tripped breaker means an overloaded circuit, so take this opportunity to reduce the load by unplugging or relocating some lamps, gadgets or appliances.
Proper insulation reduces energy costs and keeps your home more comfortable for your family. When you buy a home, always check the basement and attic to find opportunities to add insulation. The Department of Energy's website can help you determine whether what's there is sufficient, or if you should add more.
Spray foam is the most effective insulator because it expands to fill every bit of space. It has an R-value - a measure of thermal resistance - that's much higher than the level offered by fiberglass batts.
What are the vertical framing members that hold up your drywall called?
Studs are the vertical framing members that form the structure of walls and support drywall. If you're planning to hang anything on your walls, use a stud finder to locate studs so you can drill directly into them, because drywall isn't made to support things like paintings or an expensive flat screen TV.
How long will a standard asphalt shingle roof last?
A standard asphalt shingle roof lasts about 20 years. If you're moving into a new home, make sure to find out how old the roof is so you can add money to your budget for replacement costs. Want to never worry about a roof again? Invest in metal, slate or clay tiles, which can last 40 to 100 years or more.
A ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is a device added to electrical outlets. This device automatically detects faults or power surges, and it can save your life in some cases. If you own an older house, it's worth paying an electrician to install these devices around certain high-risk electrical outlets - like the ones in your bathroom.
An HOA is a homeowners association. Depending on where you buy, you might be subject to the rules, laws and whims of your local HOA. Before investing in a home, always check to see if it comes with any HOA strings.
What's that rubber disc inside of your toilet tank called?
Got a toilet that sounds like it's always running? Save your money and fix it yourself. Go to the hardware store and spend a few bucks on a new flapper, then swap it for the old, worn out one in your toilet tank - no plumber required.
Did you know that water, sewer, gas and electric lines often run underground - and if you start digging, you could hit one, which could potentially be expensive or deadly? In the U.S., before you dig, call 811 and they will route you to your local One Call Center. This service will help you locate lines to keep you safe and prevent a digging disaster.
Caulk is an ideal material for air sealing - that means sealing around things like doors and windows to keep unwanted air from entering or exiting your home. This material can be applied by even the most novice DIYers to keep your home comfortable and energy efficient.
What device acts as a door of sorts within your chimney?
Excited to light the fireplace for the first time since becoming a homeowner? Better check the damper! This device closes off the chimney in the winter to boost energy efficiency, but must be opened before you start lighting fires to prevent your home from filling with smoke.
What is a deductible, as it relates to homeowners insurance?
Your monthly payment
A discount for on-time payments
Your cost per claim filed
When deciding on homeowners insurance, it can be helpful to consider the amount of the deductible offered with each plan. The deductible is the amount you will have to pay for each claim you file, and the insurance company will pay for damages over and above that amount, up to the maximum value stated in the policy. Your premium, on the other hand, is the monthly cost of the policy.
Around five percent of energy costs in the home go to lighting, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Cut costs by switching to LED bulbs, which use around 20 to 25 percent of the energy of a traditional incandescent and last 15 to 25 times as long.
If you have a 15 amp breaker, it maxes out at how many watts?
Most household breakers accommodate 15 to 20 amps - that's 1,800 to 2,400 watts. If your breakers keep tripping, check the wattage of your appliances and try to move them to different parts of the home so they are served by different breakers.
Did you know you can adjust the temperature of your fridge and freezer? To balance food safety and quality with energy efficiency, Consumer Reports recommends a setting of 37 degrees F for the refrigerator and 0 degrees F for the freezer.