Ask LH: What Do I Need To Do Before I Move Into A New Place?

Dear Lifehacker, I just got a new place and am really excited to finally move in. Before moving day, though, is there anything I should be doing to best prepare to settle in? I know about changing my address and getting internet service set up, but what else is there? Thanks, Virgin Homeowner

Photo remixed from originals by The Noun Project, Maurizio Pedrazzoli, and Bev Sykes

Dear Virgin,

First of all, congrats on the new digs! Even though it seems like all the hard work of getting your new place is behind you, there are still several steps you'll want to take to make living in your new home as great as it can be right off the bat. Here are some tips to help you plan to move in (whether you're a first-time homebuyer, repeat homeowner, or serial renter).

Moving Essentials You Should Complete Right Away

The first thing you should do, now that you have the keys, is change the locks and install deadbolts, if you're able to. (A note to renters: this is trickier, and you'll definitely need to discuss this with your landlord.) I had a friend who, after moving in, had someone who previously lived in her house just walk through the front door — creepy. So call a locksmith (or change the locks yourself if you're handy like that). Photo by Dough McCaughan

Next, take care of the other basic tasks needed to finalise your move, including:

  • Finding and booking a reputable mover. Don't leave this until the last minute, or your options are likely to be much-reduced. If you're renting your own vehicle, you'll also want to get in early.
  • Changing your address with the post office.
  • Arranging for your old utilities to be cancelled and changing the new electricity, gas (if relevant), and water to your name. If you're an owner, also make sure you've covered council rates and (for apartments) body corporate fees.
  • Setting up internet service. Experience suggests that this will often take longer than your ISP predicts; having a prepaid mobile broadband device for the first few days can be a worthwhile investment!
  • Inventorying all your possessions for moving and insurance purposes (there are a bunch of good tools available to document your stuff).

Take Care Of The Messiest Tasks While Your Home Is A Blank Slate

With your home completely empty, you've got a unique opportunity to prep it perfectly. Some things are best done without furniture, people and other obstacles are around. These tasks include:

  • Painting or wallpapering the walls, ceiling and (potentially) the inside of closets and cupboards. (Once your clothes are in there, you know the closets will never get painted). Use a top-down (ceilings, then walls) method to reduce the mess. Check our tips for hassle-free painting if you're not confident.
  • Deep cleaning or replacing carpets or refinishing hardwood floors.
  • Anything else that requires sanding, spraying, or other messiness like waxing.
  • Installing wiring for your home network.

Now is the perfect time also to get your home thoroughly cleaned. Sellers and landlords generally try leave homes clean for new tenants or owners, but that rarely equates to "spotless" in practice. Whether you hire a cleaning company or do the cleaning yourself, you'll feel much better having the inside of the cupboards clean already when you're unpacking your dishes. In a previously mentioned 8-point checklist for what to do before moving in, Apartment Therapy recommends cleaning out and disinfecting the fridge and replacing the toilet seats. (Nothing says this is my home more than brand new toilet seats.)

While you're planning, don't forget to factor in some time needed for the cleanup you have to do before you move out of your current place. Photo by Cheryl Reed

Make A Checklist of Other Tasks From Your Home Inspection Report

For new home buyers, you can use your home inspection report to create a move-in preparation checklist. Look at the advice and repair suggestions and create a spreadsheet or other document sorting them by importance and timeliness.

For example, you might list these as first-week tasks:

  • Install smoke alarms
  • Buy fire extinguishers
  • Have heating inspected and tuned up

Non-urgent tasks, such as having the gutters cleaned or replacing windows, can be given longer timeframes (such as within 2 months, 2 years or 5 years after moving in) and scheduled on a home maintenance calendar. (This doesn't need to be anything fancy; just add it as a category to your existing calendar system.)

Get To Know Your New Home And Neighbourhood

The most enjoyable part of all of this is planning how you want to set up each room. Before you move in, measure the rooms and decide how you want to them to function. Walk through all the rooms and photograph them or take videos. If you've inventoried your possessions, you can plan exactly where you want everything to go. Home design and room planning tools let you virtually place furniture where you want.

Before you get settled in, you might also want to get acquainted with your new neighborhood, so you know from day one the number of the pizza place, when the garbage and recycling gets picked up, and any strata rules you need to abide by. A walk around the neighbourhood and web visit to your local government can fill you in on these.

Finally, invite friends to a housewarming party a few weeks after you move in for some extra motivation in finishing up your move and actually putting things away.

It sounds like a lot of work — and moving is hardly ever fun — but once you're settled in, all your efforts will have been worth it. Enjoy your new home!

Readers: If you could move in again and start with a empty slate, what would you do?

Cheers Lifehacker

Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.


    Make sure you have some extra money available. In my experience there is always something that needs to be bought that you had not considered or you have overlooked. In one place the tap water was so foul that I had to send the kids out to buy something to drink. Another place the toilet roll holder had broken. Sometimes the previous owners have taken all the light globes. It is generally not big money items - they are easy to spot - it is little things that add up.

    If your buying your house (not renting) things like council rates and water rates (change of ownership) are all arranged by your conveyancer all you needs to do is sort out your power, gas, phone etc.
    I agree with topcat make sure you have some spare cash at hand for the little things and DEFINITELY change the locks.

    People have time to do all this when moving??

    Geez, I'm just happy to get the whole sorry mess transferred from one place to another without having a meltdown

      I sat down for 7 months before I first moved out and compiled a minimal list of things that need to be moved. It now takes less than 45 minutes for the removalist to do his thing when I arrive at a new place. Cheapest bet is to ask them to store all the stuff in one spot, then move it yourself.

        ...Oh yeah, get a few of those plastic containers with wheels, Red Dot sell them cheap as chips and the removalists think their wonderfull because their easy to work with.

    awesome! now to just find a place i can buy so i can start this process

    If you need to transfer naked broadband connection, it does take longer if there were none previously.
    Good tip to make sure you can rely on mobile for interim.

    Also try and find out what walls (brick or dry) you have for hanging portraits/curtain rods to ensure you get the right screws/nails.

    Get into Google Earth and do a virtual recon of the surrounding area. For me, if it's close to public transport and shops it's a go-er.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now