Things to Do When You Move
Moving? Here's our ultimate list of must-do things to make your move a smooth one.
Planning a move? There are so many things to do when you move, you likely are feeling overwhelmed. There’s the issue of canceling and rescheduling—services, utilities, access, you name it. Address changes, credit cards, insurance—school registration (if you have kids)—it’s a lot to manage on top of trying to get your belongings packed in a timely and organized manner. Lucky you found this page, because we’re going to make it easier for you with our COMPREHENSIVE list of things to do when you move. Be sure to read this entire article and, when you get to the end, there’s a checklist for you to print for your convenience. Also, whether you’re moving into a house or an apartment, there’s plenty here for you, so keep reading.
Make a New Home To-Do List
After you finish reading this, make your own personal list and prioritize everything YOU think is important before you move into your new home—or simply use our checklist and add to it in a way that makes sense to you. You’re the one who’s moving so make it work for you. Keep your moving checklist somewhere you won’t lose (on phone?) or in your glove compartment. Some super-important tasks you will likely want to prioritize:
- Turn on utilities or transfer to your name
- Forward your mail to your new home address
- Plug in the refrigerator before you move if possible, so it’s cold when you get there (stock it with your beverage of choice)
- Have locks changed (see list before)
- Turn on internet service in advance
- Enroll kids in school
- Enroll yourself in school (only if you want to)
- Schedule trash pickup and cancel your old service
- Cancel your old utilities as well
- Change your address with post office and schedule mail hold if necessary
- Change your address with utility companies, banks, periodicals, etc.
Make a Personal New Home Maintenance List
Inventory your new home’s furnace and other equipment and write down model numbers to create a maintenance list. Also request manuals from manufacturers. Some home sellers will have saved manuals (for appliances and HVAC equipment) and give them to you, but many (or most) will have tossed them. Don’t be shy about asking them for help but do it early on before they are all packed to move themselves and less able or inclined to locate them.
- Appliances (stoves, fridge, dishwasher, washer, dryer)
- Water softeners and filters
- Air conditioner
- Sump pump
- Hot water tank
- Jet pump
- Generator (if home has a built-in one)
- Any other equipment or appliances
Make a Scheduled-Maintenance Checklist
Make a seasonal maintenance checklist for all your equipment, such as a schedule for changing furnace filters (usually every two months during winter season but varies by model). Your hot water heater should probably be drained each year, and your air conditioner should be cleaned before winter. Built-in humidifier filters generally need to be replaced each year. Write down the model numbers of your filters (for furnace too) and keep everything in a folder for easy access. For ultimate organization, you can even schedule your maintenance on your phone calendar, so you won’t forget. If your home has a water softener, what kind of salt does it take (manufacturer’s generally have recommendations).
If your home has a septic field, ask the seller what the boundaries are and make a map so you’ll know in the future (and can direct traffic away from it, should you ever have work done to your home). Find out where the septic tank and main outlet is so that you can a. avoid driving on it and b. know where to direct your septic service people when it comes time to empty it. Which leads to the next item: Find out how big the septic tank is and how often it has been emptied. This is something you should confirm with a professional, based on your usage (family members) and the tank size. Find out, if you can, how big the tank is. If the homeowner doesn’t know, ask them when they last had it pumped and what company did it. The company might keep a record of last pumped date and the tank size.
Another thing to do is locate your water shut-off valves (individual and main) and your electrical breakers. If rooms aren’t clearly marked on the box, it’s a bit easier to make a list when your home is empty with the aid of a helper who plugs in a radio while you note the outlets/rooms on the breaker list. Should you have issues with circuits later, you’ll be glad you took a few minutes to do this. Find the shut-off valves to water main, furnace, electrical box and gas/propane/oil or other fuel to the home. If you have a poor memory, label them and make a map or take photos of the location and clearly label.
If you like the current paint in the home, and even if you don’t, ask the seller if they have a list of paints so you can buy retouch paint. You can also ask them to leave paint with markings per room. This is advice for the super-detailed, but if you’ve ever tried to get paint matched, you’ll be glad you did this. Also see the wall repair and painting sections below.
Again, these are things you should do early in your moving process (and when you still have contact with the seller of the home). Note that they will likely be packing and tossing some of those records, so the sooner you think to ask, the better.
Make a Fixit Checklist
Make a list of everything you want to prioritize for immediate fixing (from this article and from your own inspection) and also for your later-when-things-slow-down fixits. You’ll then have it to refer to when making repairs or if you decide to just hire a handyman or contractor for a day. Read our article on which you should hire.
Get Your New Home Pet-Ready
If you have pets, know that moving can be really traumatic for them, depending on their temperament. For some, it will be an adventure, but others, especially cats, may be terrified. Set up a pet space with things they are comfortable with (such as bed, toys, litterbox, food and snacks) in a sequestered area to help them acclimate to the new environment and, if applicable, keep them out of the way while the moving action is happening. It will likely be best to keep them with you as long as possible before the actual move takes place.
Designate a First-Priority/Rest Room
You won’t get unpacked the first day, so designate a special room that you can relax in and clearly mark boxes, so you can make yourself a nest to relax in as you embark on your moving and related tasks. A post-move bedroom haven is a good suggestion. Furbish it with your chill essentials which might include a TV, beverages, some food, music or other things you require to de-stress.
Thoroughly Clean and Disinfect New Home
Thoroughly clean and disinfect your new home before moving in. Everyone has different standards for cleanliness, but you are likely to get a broom-clean house when you move in, and you probably want to start with a sterilish-start before making your own dirt as you settle in.
Vinegar and water are good for general cleaning of counters, windows, and fixtures, but know that, while inexpensive and amazing, while it does kill some bacteria and viruses, it is not really a powerful disinfectant and won’t kill many bacteria types, such as staphylococcus.
The cheapest way to disinfect, is by mixing bleach and water (for those surfaces that are safe). Bleach kills staphylococcus, E. coli and some viruses such as the flu. Unfortunately, it’s harmful to skin, organs and to lungs when inhaled—so use lots of ventilation and gloves if you decide to use it and, after cleaning surfaces, rinse with clear water.
Hydrogen peroxide is another product that kills some bacteria (not as well as bleach) but must be used in very small concentrations in a water mix (less than 3%). There are commercial cleaning products available, but carefully check the labels because they may be less effective than bleach at killing the dangerous types of bacteria. While you may not be up to wall washing, the bathroom and kitchen might be areas you pay more attention to—the walls, cabinets, floors, and fixtures.
You can clean the drains using vinegar and baking soda (also a good cleaning combination for cleaning rusty fixtures, gummy fridge handles and more. Mix a paste and rub it with a cloth for grime. Let it sit for a bit for rust.
If your new home includes laundry facilities, run a clean cycle before using it to make sure you’ve eliminated any dyes from previous owners. Wipe down all laundry equipment as well (dryer, utility tubs, washer), and counters.
Floors, of course, should be deep cleaned. Depending on the floor type, you may want not to use bleach and water. Be sure to check with manufacturer’s recommendation before using any harsh products on vinyl, Formica or other surfaces. If there is carpeting in the home, you may want to rent a carpet cleaner or a service, as carpeting tends to retain smells, germs, and dust. If you don’t like the carpet and can get it replaced before you move in (read more below), that’s the perfect time, as you won’t have to move and relocate furniture.
If all of this cleaning sounds overwhelming, consider hiring a cleaning service and be sure to negotiate the terms and chemicals used.
Quick Clean At-a-Glance List:
- Kitchen sink
- Dryer vents
- Door knobs (yes)
- Refrigerator coils
Clean Dryer Ducts in New Home
Dryer ducts are something that most homeowners neglect, but dirty ducts and lint catchers can use 25-30% more electricity than clean ones. Plus, dirty ducts in gas-powered dryers are, especially, a fire hazard, especially if they are corrugated ducts, which tend to retain more lint. It’s rare, but it does happen that homes catch on fire because of dirty dryer ducts. There are brushes that attach to drills you can run from the outside into the interior duct. You can also partly disassemble the duct for better access for cleaning. Shop Vacs are another way to clean the dryer duct. Dirty lint in the lint trap also reduces the dryer’s efficiency, so be sure to keep it clean between uses. Tip: If you compost, you can put lint in a compost bin for carbon content.
Check Heat Ducts
The experts disagree about how frequently heat ducts should be cleaned, and how unhealthy airborne particles are. That said, if dust bothers you or you have allergies, you should definitely clean the heat ducts. You can easily pull out registers and partly clean with a vacuum or hire a professional service (approximately $300) to do a more thorough cleaning. If you find huge deposits of dust or mold, then you should consider having them professionally cleaned.
If your ductwork is insulated, it is not so accessible, but, again, if you find mold in the insulation, consider replacing it. You may not be able to determine if the mold is genuine mold without testing it, however. If you should find mold in your ductwork, you need to locate the source. Mold can develop because of humidity issues, which might be remedied by dehumidifiers or, if there is a furnace-integrated humidifier, the settings may need adjusting.
If there are basement leaks (read our article on fixing these), they may be introducing the mold-causing dampness, and this, too will need to be addressed. See our basement leak article for more troubleshooting ideas. The best time to do your duct inspection and/or cleaning is before you’ve moved things into your house, as all the vents will be visible and more accessible to you and/or a professional cleaner.
If you do decide to use a professional duct-cleaning service, be sure to check reviews and be wary of upselling for products you may not need (such as bacteria-reducing chemicals). Find out more about duct cleaning on the EPA government site.
Change the Locks
While the reasons are obvious, many homeowners don’t think to do it, which could put them at risk. Make sure the locks are up to code when you do change them. Yes, there are codes about locks. For instance, deadbolts are illegal in some areas. You can have a locksmith change all your locks at once, or, if you’re handy, you can remove them and have them re-keyed. Mark them with tape labels (and doors) so you can match them up after re-keying. Speaking of security, as a new homeowner, you may also want to consider a security system and service when you move in. Read our article on home security before making a decision.
Check Smoke Detectors
Test all the smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alerts and any other alarms in the home. At the very least, you should install fresh batteries. Know that these devices have a limited lifespan and, if it’s not too much of a financial burden, the best thing to do is replace them with new ones. Chances are, the previous owners of the home will not remember when they bought them. Tip: mark the inside with a date label so you’ll know in the future when they were installed (and when the battery was replaced).
Check for Water Leaks
Whether your new home is a brand new or a previously-owned one, you can still have water leaks. If your home has city water, there’s an easy way to test: first, tighten all the faucets inside and out; then check the water meter and note the reading, and, without using any taps or toilet for three hours, check again to see if the meter changes. If it does, you have a leak somewhere. Of course, you can do a visual inspection and listen for the toilet running after you flush it, and if you have well water, you’ll have to perform your check this way. If you do have a leak, it may be a faucet seal or easy DIY fix. Take a photo of the faucet and note the brand, and check with a local plumbing supply for parts (or call a pro plumber and send them a photo).
Change out Damaged or Outdated Faucets
Whether you have leaking, rusty fixtures, or simply don’t like the faucets, having these changed before you move in may be easier, depending on how close you are to your new home. While not at the very top of the priority list, if you do have a leaky toilet or sink, you need to tend to it because, if you have a well and pump, a leak can cause your pump to burn out. Also, if you know you hate your bathroom and want to remodel, it will be less of an inconvenience to have it updated before you move in—especially if you have only one bathroom.
Change out the Toilet Seats
Okay, you cleaned everything, but toilet seats are, well, yucky and personal. You’ll feel better if you install some new ones. Make sure you buy the appropriate size (take a measurement) and shape—some are round, and some are longer ovals. This is an easy project you can do with a screwdriver and pliers. Hint: detachable seats are easier to get clean.
If your house was previously owned, you may need to repair walls. Nail holes can be easily filled with inexpensive vinyl spackling compound. Just apply with a putty knife, let it dry, and sand flush. Bigger holes will require more attention and may need drywall patches cut and screwed in or metal or mesh patches and drywall compound applies. While these aren’t difficult projects, if you haven’t done them, you may want to hire a handyman or other pro. If you do any large patches, be sure to prime over the sanded and repaired area before repainting.
Along with cleaning, if you don’t like the wall color, painting the walls of your new home is best done before you have stuffed the rooms full of your furniture and belongings. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you’ll be amazed at how much faster and more efficiently you can paint a house when it’s still empty. Basically, you’ll still want to use drop cloths to protect floors and carpeting, but not having to move furniture or worry about dripping on your belongings is a big boon. And if you do decide to hire professional painters, they’ll also appreciate the convenience of painting an emptied house. No one enjoys moving furniture. Of course, if there is any damage to the walls, you’ll want to repair that first.
Weatherizing is a good thing to do before you have window treatments installed, as caulking windows is at the top of the list. Caulk often gets old and separates from the windows (read our article on caulking). Add weatherstripping to doors to keep out draft and check for any holes that enter your home (like around outdoor faucets). You can also use foam insulation for some gaps. While you can wait until fall (in cold climates) to weatherize, the best time to inspect for these things is really before you move in because they are more visible and accessible. Read our how-to article on weatherizing for more information.
Refinish Wood Floors
This is an important one for new (old) home owners. If your wood floors are scuffed, now is the time to repair or refinish them—not after you move in. Depending on the finish, this may be something you can do yourself. There are a couple of companies that can refinish on top of an old finish, which depends on the degree of damage and the type of finish your floors already have. This is less expensive than re-sanding and finishing. Homeowners can sand and refinish themselves, however, there is a big learning curve to the belt-type sanders and it’s extremely easy to damage floors as they are so aggressive. Some finishes can be sanded off with the triple-headed oscillating type sanders, but it depends on what type of varnish is on them. They aren’t as aggressive as the belt-type sanders, and so, are marketed to do-it-yourselfers with little experience. If you have the money, this is one of those jobs that might be better left for a pro. Check out our wood floor article if you are thinking of upgrading.
Install New Tile
If you have a single bath (some people do), this will be better done before you move than after, as you won’t want the inconvenience of not having a working toilet. If you desire tile in other rooms, same thing. It’s much easier to do flooring installations before you move than later, as furniture and other belongs must be moved first. Of course, flooring updates will depend on your budget and the timeline of your move.
Install New Carpeting
Carpeting tends to retain pet smells, dirt, dust and other undesirables. If you don’t like it or it is damaged, it will be a whole lot easier to replace it before you move in. Unless you have enormous coverage, this is usually a job that can be completed in a day.
Update Electrical Outlets and Fixtures and Switch Covers
While this may seem like an odd thing to prioritize, it’s a lot easier to access and inspect outlets before you move in. Imagine if you didn’t have to crawl under tables to change out an outlet. Are the outlets grounded? Many old houses have ungrounded outlets. While it’s standard code for them to be grounded, this is likely not something that will fail a home inspection, so you may want to upgrade any non-code outlets before moving in, especially if, say, you have young kids and need kid-proof outlets. It’s not a difficult homeowner task. You can find out how to do it on YouTube or in a DIY-for-homeowner’s text. If you feel uncomfortable, however, this is a perfect job for a handyman or electrician. In fact, if you find your home needs a lot of little repairs, you may just want to hire a handyman for one afternoon to complete your list of fixits before moving in. Don’t forget to add the fixits to your own personal ultimate move list.
Upgrade Lights and Fans
This may not be at the top of your list for things to do when moving, but if you have several small repairs to do, upgrading fans and lights might be consolidated into a project list for a handyman or electrician. If you do it all at once, you’ll potentially save money as contractors usually charge travel time. If you know you want to add a fan, or you have your heart on some light fixtures, you can pick them up and have them ready for your use and enjoyment when you arrive in your new home.
Meet the Neighbors
Whether you meet them before moving into your new home, or shortly after, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself and get acquainted. Among other things, neighbors can serve as each other’s watch dogs. Speaking of dogs, you’ll know who has ‘em and who doesn’t, in the event they do their business in your yard. Just sayin’. It’s good to connect with the folks near you as everyone will be more comfortable, especially if you’re moving into an apartment, it’s just more comfortable to attach a name to your greeting as you’ll likely bump into each other frequently.
If you made it through our article, congratulations. Here is an easy-to-read, at-a-glance checklist of moving priorities for you to refer to when moving or you can print for your preparations. Also check out our other move list, which is a 9-week downloadable moving checklist (and focuses less on in-home tasks).
High Priority Move Tasks
- Make your own personalized moving checklist if you need to (or make notations on this one) as we can’t possibly know everything you need for moving
- Prepare a moving timeline with benchmarks for completing tasks to keep you on track
- Change mail address from old to new
- Hold mail during move (if needed)
- Make sure auto and home insurance is updated, paid, and you've done address changes.
- Change mailing address for banks, credit card issuers, and any subscriptions (paper, food or services)
- Cancel any cleaning, landscaping or other services you hire for
- Turn off electric and turn on new electric (this may require transferring from old homeowner’s name)
- Turn off gas, cancel other fuel deliveries, and set up new accounts
- Enroll children in new school and inform old schools you are moving
- Turn on internet/phone/cable services in your new home
- Plug in refrigerator in your new home
- Set up a safe haven for you and pets for initial move (see above)
- Have locks changed in your new home
- Install a security system (unfortunately, sometimes people are targeting when they’re amidst a move, as your belongings are exposed during the process)
- Make sure all smoke detectors and other alerts work
- Schedule trash pickup
- Change your car registration, insurance, and license
- Transfer medical and dental records and update address with health insurance
- Update your voter registration
- Fill any prescriptions you need as you may be too frazzled to remember during the actual moving process
- Clean your new home before moving in (see cleaning checklist above)
Medium Priority Move Tasks
- Change your address with online accounts such as Amazon and eBay
- Get manuals to any equipment, security systems, HVAC equipment or appliances from the previous homeowners
- Update electrical outlets and any other immediate repairs (also see our fixit list below)
- Paint walls (this is usually easier to do before you move in)
- Refinish floors or lay carpeting or tile (this is usually easier to do before you move in)
- Locate shut-off valves and switches for gas, plumbing and electric, and make sure everyone knows where they are
- Weatherize your home (this is easier to do before you fill your home with belongings)
- Meet your neighbors
Home Maintenance/Upgrade Checklist
- Make your own maintenance/upgrade list tailored to your home, using this article as a guide
- Inventory HVAC and other equipment and note the model numbers/makers
- Plan a schedule for regular maintenance, spring, summer and fall
- Find out when equipment maintenance has been performed
- Septic tank emptying (if home has septic system)
- Plumbing maintenance (see our blog post for homeowner’s guide)
- Renovation plan list (kitchen, bathroom, basement updates you plan to do)
- Exterior upgrade plan/wish list
- Landscaping maintenance including pruning, mulching, mowing
- Scheduling cleaners or landscapers/mowing services
- House/siding washing
- Driveway resurfacing
- Exterior painting
- Window washing and other cleaning (see cleaning list above)
Best wishes for a smooth-sailing move and we hope this article helped you prepare. Did we miss anything? If you have any moving prep suggestions, feel free to reach out to us on Facebook or Instagram. We look forward to hearing your ideas. Be sure to check out our other blog posts for tips on DIY, negotiating with contractors, moving, organizing your home and all kinds of home improvement and maintenance advice. And don't forget that if you need movers, we can get you easy, free quotes.