Buying a new home from a builder means you won’t have to spend time getting used to any loose floorboards, tricky toilet handles or creaky doors that are often considered quirks in an older house. But buying a brand-new home doesn’t mean you can neglect your property and expect it to keep working like new forever.
As you settle into your home, you’ll find the newly constructed space will change a bit over time as well. “Every product in the house like that has to acclimate and will acclimate,” says Geoff Bellchambers, vice president of quality assurance for Toll Brothers, a national luxury home builder.
To avoid the possibility of systems and surfaces breaking down faster than they should, you’ll need to care for them regularly from the start. Here are six things you can do to keep your new construction house in top shape.
Listen to the builder’s recommendations. When you take ownership of your brand-new house from a builder – and possibly before – you’ll most likely get a walk-through of the property from the construction manager to show you where everything is located, how everything works and what recommended maintenance is needed.
At this point, you can also confirm that there’s not additional work that needs to be done to make the home ready for use. “That house should be complete at the time of handing over the keys,” Bellchambers says.
It’s important to pay attention at this walk-through and during any other informational meeting you have with the builder beforehand. This is how you’ll know where the circuit breakers are, where the water shutoff valve is for the house and how to access the air filter in your furnace, among other important things that you’ll need to know in case there’s a power outage or plumbing problem or you simply need to perform maintenance on your home down the line.
Read the owner’s manuals. Each appliance and system is going to have an owner’s manual from the manufacturer, and while it may not be the most thrilling literature, you should reach each one to know how to properly keep each part of your house in working order.
In addition to the walk-through, the manuals tell you how everything works, how it should all be maintained and how often it should be looked after. Even with all brand-new systems, be ready to jump into regular maintenance.
Key Land Homes, a home builder for the Minneapolis-St. Paul area based in Prior Lake, Minnesota, provides homebuyers with a calendar of recommended maintenance to help keep on top of the recommended changes.
For example, your water heater should be drained yearly to remove sediment buildup from the bottom of the tank “so it doesn’t shorten the life of the water heater,” says Tom Schutz, department manager for Key Land Homes.
Be on top of air filters. There are some maintenance habits you should get into that go above and beyond even manufacturer recommendations. Schutz says homeowners should change air filters monthly, even if the filter is marketed as good for up to 90 days.
“Filters that we have today, they’re more hypoallergenic, so they trap more particles which slow down the air flow,” Schutz says. With more particles being trapped in the filter, the furnace fan and air flow is less efficient throughout the house.
Keep an eye on your yard. Naturally, the construction of your new home will have disturbed the surrounding soil, and it takes time for dirt to resettle. Expect the overall grade of your yard to change a bit, and be proactive to make sure you don’t have water flowing toward your house rather than away from it.
“It takes seven years for the soils to recompact again back to their original state,” Schutz says. “So that’s where it’s important to maintain the outside soils, so the drainage around the home does not become an issue.”
If you’re regularly caring for your yard, you’ll likely catch if it’s sloping toward your house. When you do, regrade your yard and consider adjusting drain pipes to be extended farther from the house to avoid erosion from water around your foundation, or even water leaks into your basement or crawl space.
Keep your impact on the house in mind. The way you use your home has an effect on how well systems, surfaces and appliances will fare. For example, if you prefer to keep the air conditioning off in summer, you can expect paint and wood floors to take a beating from the higher humidity levels.
Bellchambers says the number of people living in the home can even change the lifetime of your heating, ventilating and air conditioning system, washing machine or floors. When the house has just two people in it versus a family of five, “you’ve got different amounts of moisture in the space, so your systems are going to be under different levels of stress, and so AC might be cranking at different levels for longer,” he says.
Know the details of your home warranty. Your new home will likely come with a warranty, either directly from the builder or by a third party, that covers certain issues that may arise within the first 12 months or so of owning the property.
The warranty typically covers the workmanship and materials that were a part of construction, including windows, the HVAC, electrical and plumbing and some structural scenarios. Should any issues arise during the length of the warranty, you’ll be at least partially covered. However, if it’s clear an issue is caused by neglect or otherwise falls outside the stipulations of the warranty, you’ll be responsible for the fix yourself.
To help homeowners know the ins and outs of home warranties for newly built homes, the Federal Trade Commission provides an information page with resources for homeowners. The FTC notes, for example, that homes purchased with mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration or U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (referred to as FHA or VA loans) are legally required to have a third-party warranty to help guarantee the quality of workmanship on the property.
Even with warranty protection, your home is at its peak working order as soon as construction is complete, and defects aside, it’s your job to properly maintain it and keep it that way for as long as possible. Your new house may not have the quirks of an older home, but only you can keep it from developing those quirks by the time you sell it to a new owner.