I often hear from followers on Instagram who have recently purchased a home and they’re a bit lost as to where to start when it comes to sprucing up their new abode. What should they do right away? What things should wait? Are there any home improvements that should be made before moving in that are worth the time and money?
I figured it was time to write down all of my thoughts on this subject so this could be a useful resource for any new homeowners! We’ve purchased two homes so far on our home ownership journey and we’ve always tackled projects immediately so we could get some of the big stuff out of the way before moving in. Let’s dive into those details…
Our Chicago Condo
We purchased our Chicago condo in 2015 and we lived there for four years. (You can tour it here.) This was our first time owning a home and we were excited, yet terrified all at the same time. Back then, we were still newbies when it came to all things home improvement and DIY, so we didn’t tackle too much before moving in. Here’s what we did…
Our Current Home
With our current home, there was a much longer list of home improvements to tackle before moving in. When we were considering making an offer on this house, I had my contractor meet us to take a look. I walked him through my vision, got his ideas, and came away from that meeting with a to-do list and estimate for the labor. We then put an offer on the house and once we finalized our closing date, I got on my contractor’s schedule to start immediately, once the house was officially ours.
We closed in May 2019 and didn’t move in until the end of August. Over that time, this is what we tackled in the house…
- Replaced Floors with White Oak Flooring
- Replaced Doors and Trim
- Installed New Electrical (Recessed Canned Lighting, Upgraded Switches, New Ceiling Fans)
- Added New Railing and Staircase
- Removed Wall and Installed Steel Beam
- Power Washed Outside of Home, Garage, & Sidewalks
- Stained Deck
- Painted Walls, Ceilings, and Trim
- Expanded Laundry Room
- Designed and Installed Main Bedroom Closet
I’m not gonna lie, it was a tad overwhelming! There were a heck of a lot of decisions to make when we hadn’t even spent a night in our home. But it did leave us with a brand new shell of a home and we knew we could then take the rest from there when we moved in! You can see the entire Phase One renovation before and after right here, along with our renovation budget here.
Make a Gameplan
If you do plan to make home improvements before moving in, you need to have a plan of attack so things can happen immediately once you get those keys! Of course, things can go awry and closing days can shift or be delayed or not happen at all…eek! But going in with a gameplan is your best bet.
- Walk through the property with your contractor before making an offer on the house.
- Take measurements, pictures, and videos of every room before you close.
- Get on your contractor’s schedule as soon as you have a closing date.
- Order project supplies and products, making sure delivery is scheduled for after your closing date.
- If needed, apply for permits. (It’s a long process, so it’s always smart to get started immediately.)
- Research paint colors and gather samples.
Home Improvements Before Moving In
Okay, now let’s get to the actual projects that I recommend tackling before moving in. There are some tasks that are just so much easier to do when the house is empty and you’re not actually living there. So, if you can get any of these done ahead of time, you’ll be happy!
- Floors: Sanding and restaining floors is a big messy job that is really hard to do when all of your stuff is there! If possible, get this big task done before you move in. In our condo, we had our floors resurfaced and stained. Here in this house, we ended up replacing all of the flooring. Both were big projects that would have been difficult to do if we had been living there.
- Paint: It’s so nice to move into a freshly painted home with crisp colors on the walls, ceilings, and trim. I recommend figuring out the vibe of the colors you want before the closing day and buying samples. Then, once you have those keys, head to the house, get those samples up, and start making choices. You can then hand your list of colors over to your contractor – or better yet, paint yourself – so the painting can be done immediately.
- Pest Control: We subscribe to a seasonal service and have our home sprayed to keep pests and insects out. While we didn’t tackle this before moving in, it’s a good task to get done when your home is empty!
- Carpets Cleaned: We only have carpet in the basement and it’s very old and shabby. We had it cleaned immediately, and that helped a lot. This is an easy task to get done before moving day.
- Replace Toilet Seats: This is a DIY that anyone can do – replace the toilet seats in every bathroom! It’s an easy task (you can find my step-by-step tutorial here) and you’ll feel better knowing that your tush is the only one that has used the toilet!
- Window Treatments: Window treatments are usually one of the first big projects I tackle in a home because privacy and room darkening are needed right away! If possible, take measurements and order your shades before closing. Sometimes it can take a while for custom shades and you don’t want to go too long with bare windows.
- HVAC Cleaned: Because we underwent such an intense renovation, we had our HVAC cleaned before we moved in to get all of the construction dust and debris out of our home. Wow, it was so worth it! You can read more about the process here.
- Change the Locks: This is a must whenever you move! We always take the old key, frame it, and then change all of the locks to every exterior door.
- Deep Clean: Once our renovation was complete, my mom and I spent a week cleaning this house from top to bottom and inside every drawer and cabinet. It was a ton of work, but it felt so nice knowing that everything was clean before we got our stuff in here.
Projects That Can Wait
Now, onto the tasks that can, and should, wait until you’ve lived in your new house for at least a few months. I think people often rush into huge home improvement projects before they’ve even had a chance to learn how they use a home on a daily basis. It’s much better to live in a home for six months or more, figure out what you like and don’t like, and then make upgrades from there.
We lived in our home for over a year before we renovated our kitchen and I’m so happy that we waited. I don’t think we would have made the smartest decisions if we tackled it before actually living here. Not to mention, we were able to save more money so we could design our dream kitchen. (You can find more about the kitchen budget in this post.)
As for bathrooms, we haven’t done any major work to our bathrooms in this house just yet, although we have made some small budget-friendly upgrades, like in our basement bath above. We plan to renovate the main bathroom next winter and it will be a big change! While I’m eager to enjoy a luxury bathroom, I know it’s a smart decision to wait until we have the perfect design plan and the savings to do it the right way.
Happy Home Ownership
I hope this post was helpful for you as you start your journey in your new home. With a little planning, a lot of flexibility, and a sprinkle of DIY, you can make a lot of home improvements before moving in!
Now, what am I missing? What other tasks do you recommend tackling before moving into a home? Share in the comments below so this can be a helpful resource for everyone.Casey