Congratulations, you just bought your first home! After years of apartment living, exotic stuff like extra bedrooms, garage space, and a backyard seems pretty exciting, right? Even a modest starter home can make you feel like an aristocrat—for a while, until you think about all the stuff you need to buy to make it actually homey.
Yes, this means that despite having just borrowed an enormous amount of money and spent every dime you had in savings in order to purchase the place, you’re now going to have to hit the stores, and hit them hard, to buy everything you need to live there. Even if you intend to keep using all the stuff you already own, if your new home is larger than your old one, you’re going to have a lot of space to fill, and a lot more responsibilities to take care of.
Owning a property is a lot different than renting one. Unless you’re in a condo with a maintenance company on call, all the upkeep is now on you—and the same goes for your home’s safety and security. Your personal shopping list for a new home might be longer or shorter depending on what you’re bringing from the old place (and their respective sizes), but here are the things you’ll need to acquire after buying your first house.
Whether you just bought a charming bungalow or a McMansion with a great room so large you can play tennis in it, there are a few universal basics you’re going to need:
- Window coverings. It’s very common to find your new home completely stripped down to the bare walls. Unless you like the idea of your neighbors getting a real good look at you, you should make window coverings of some sort a priority. You can buy something cheap and basic just to get some privacy and leave a more thoughtful design decision for later.
- Welcome mat. If the previous owners left one, chances are it’s filthy and doesn’t reflect your sense of humor or style. Plus, you want to keep the nice floors you just bought as clean as possible, so a fresh start is a good idea.
- Shower curtains. If the showers in your new home need curtains, bring brand-new ones so you don’t have to contemplate the moldy sins of the previous owners. Again, these can be super cheap stopgaps until you settle in and have the time to pick out cool ones.
- Garbage cans. Maybe you have some to bring with you, or maybe the previous owners left them. Either way, the grime and gunk caked in them might mean they aren’t worth the time they’ll take to clean out. Best to start fresh.
- Showerheads. This is galaxy-brain stuff: Showerheads should be replaced or cleaned once or twice a year anyway, as they get really gunky over time. Since you have no idea how the previous owner treated their showerheads, put in new ones for peace of mind (and better water pressure).
If you bought a place with an HOA or condo association that pays for a maintenance company, you might be able to skip this part. Otherwise, I have news for you: Nothing is going to get done on your property unless you do it (or hire someone to do it). So you’re going to need some implements you never needed in a rental:
- Snow shovel. If there’s any chance of snow in your new neighborhood, get a good shovel. Not only will this be necessary for getting out of the house after a storm, most local governments legally require you to clear the sidewalk in front of your house.
- Ladder. Even in a one-story home you’re going to need a decent ladder to access areas while painting or making repairs. If you’re not sure what you’ll need, a multi-position ladder gives you a lot of flexibility and is easier to store.
- Tools. Maybe you already have a full set of tools, but if you’ve spent the last few years calling a landlord for minor repairs and your tool kit amounts to a single screwdriver and a hammer you bought at CVS, you’re going to want a more robust set. Luckily, you can buy convenient tool kits that will give you all the basics, and then add on from there as needed.
- Plunger. The lowly plunger is something people don’t think about right up to the moment they flush their toilet and the water level starts rising. There’s a non-zero chance that the previous owners left their gunky plunger behind, but…do you want to touch it?
- Lawn mower. Again, unless you have a property with a maintenance service, you’re going to be in charge of taming the grass and weeds growing in your yard. You might also need some other landscaping tools, unless you intend to hire a company to handle that for you. For starters, though, you at least need some sort of lawn mower, though a simple reel mower might be enough to get you started.
Stuff for those extra rooms
Buying a house often means the furnishings and other stuff that filled a cramped apartment suddenly seem pretty sparse. You’re going to need some fundamentals to occupy all that extra space:
- Furniture. This might seem obvious, but if this is your first home I guarantee you haven’t really contemplated the scale of your needs: extra beds, nightstands, dressers, rugs, desks, tables, lamps, bookshelves—the list goes on. You certainly don’t need to fill every room up on day one, but keep in mind that if those rooms are going to work for you, you’re going to need to go on a furniture hunt.
- Sheets and bedding. Very often new homeowners are motivated in part by a desire to have spare bedrooms so family and friends can visit and stay with them. Even if the previous owner left some beds behind—and even if you’re okay with keeping the existing mattresses, at least for a little while—you’re going to need new bedding and sheet for all of them.
- Cleaning supplies. Whatever you were using in your old place, double the amount at the very least. Even if you plan to hire a cleaning service, you’re going to need implements to handle sudden messes and spot-cleanings for when the in-laws drop in unannounced.
You bought a house, which means you now have a significant asset filled with a variety of slightly less-significant assets. There are some basic things you’ll need to protect it all:
- New locks. Change the locks on your doors immediately. No one is plotting to rob you (probably), but you have no idea who has a key to those old locks. People give keys to neighbors, to family, and to contractors for convenience—and then forget all about them.
- Security system. This is optional, but a good idea. Even a cheap DIY security setup offers some level of protection, and home sale listings are sometimes used by thieves to identify empty homes that will be easy to rob, so it’s a good idea.
- Fire extinguisher. The first thing you should do when you walk into your kitchen is look for a fire extinguisher. If there’s one there, check the pressure and the date. If it’s old or missing, get a new one. Like a plunger in the bathroom, don’t wait until there’s an emergency to wish you’d picked one up.
- New smoke alarms. Unless you had the forethought to ask the previous owners when they installed the smoke alarms and carbon dioxide detectors, swap them all out right away. This will give you up to 10 years before you have to think about it again, and ensures you and your family are protected.
- Nightlights. You might not like or need nightlights on a regular basis, but when in an unfamiliar space, they’re a great idea. Navigating an unfamiliar floor plan will be a little disorienting for the first few weeks (or longer), so being able to see where you’re going at night will be an advantage until your mental muscle memory kicks in.
Your first home is a time to celebrate—but also a time to go shopping. Armed with these basics, you’ll be able to enjoy your new house right away. Unless it’s haunted, of course.