McAdenville, North Carolina, USA - July 6, 2013: The American Dream is pictured in this iconic image of a new, Victorian-style, bungalow cottage home in the McAdenville Village neighborhood development. Most American homes are now built on smaller lots with sidewalks and tree-lined streets in the suburbs of large cities.

To keep your new home looking its best, develop good homeowner habits and educate yourself on all its systems. (Getty Images)

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.

[Read: What Does 'Move-In' Ready Really Mean for Your Home?]

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.

[See: Don't Call the Handyman: 9 Quick Fixes You Can Do Yourself.]

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.

[Read: What You Need to Know About a Home Warranty.]

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.


19 Essential Tools a DIYer Should Have

Stock up for your next DIY project.

Grungy tools

(Getty Images)

If you're always finding new home improvement projects to take on, you're not alone. In a 2015 study of 500 do-it-yourselfers by Venveo, a digital marketing agency and parent company of DIYConsumer.com, 58 percent of respondents said they do a DIY project either because it's a simple project or they find the work fun, while another 39 percent said they want to save money. Regardless of your reason for taking on a DIY project, you need to be prepared with the right tools. Read on for tools every DIYer should have to tackle home improvement, maintenance and crafting tasks. We've included a price range for each tool, based on current prices at various home improvement retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's, to help you plan your purchases.

The basics

The basics

Old woodworking tools on wall, retro tinted

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These DIY and maintenance must-haves help set you up for success. They're simple tools that are fairly inexpensive yet key to ensuring your safety, avoiding damage or making mistakes while you work.

The internet

The internet

Happy Asian man lying on the sofa and working on laptop

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Especially if you're new to DIY projects, take advantage of the free resources available online to help you figure out the best way to build something, make a repair or master regular maintenance you've never done before. "The information is the power," says Chris Zeisler, master technician and technical service supervisor for RepairClinic.com, an online marketplace for appliance and repair parts and equipment. Zeisler recommends watching tutorials and informational videos on YouTube or advice sites like RepairClinic.com to get a better understanding of what you need to do. If you're still nervous about the job after watching tutorials, consult a professional.

Cost: Nothing beyond the cost of your Wi-Fi or mobile data plan.

Safety glasses

Safety glasses

Mixed Race woman cutting wood with saw

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Regardless of skill level, eye protection is a necessary part of any project you take on. Safety glasses are particularly important when doing tasks that can create debris, like sawing, drilling, spraying paint or using a sealant.

Cost: As cheap as $1.50, or you can go all out and get prescription safety glasses, which can put you back a few hundred dollars.

Tape measure

Tape measure

Close up of unrecognizable manual worker making measurements while working on a piece of wood in carpentry workshop.

(Getty Images)

The saying goes, "Measure twice, cut once." So naturally, you need to be able to measure when it comes to cutting wood for a bookshelf, framing your artwork or simply figuring out what size couch you need for the living room.

Cost: Less than $10.

Level

Level

Woman Using Level

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Keep your home from looking like a college dorm room and use a level to hang any wall decor. A level is also an important tool when building or repairing anything that's supposed to have a flat surface – a DIY nightstand isn't quite as nice if your glass of water keeps sliding off a slanted tabletop.

Cost: Free phone apps are available, or you check out torpedo, beam or laser levels ranging from $4 to $30.

Drop cloth

Drop cloth

Young couple painting a wall

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Whether you're painting, sawing, drilling or gluing, keep your floor or driveway from getting damaged by placing a drop cloth beneath your workspace.

Cost: Use an old bedsheet for free, or invest in a canvas or plastic drop cloth for $7 to $10.

Wood glue and other adhesives

Wood glue and other adhesives

Carpenter. Glue on a piece of wood. Closeup.

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Plenty of DIY projects and repair scenarios can be strengthened with a little extra sealant. For wood projects, use wood glue to back up screws and nails. When wood isn't the material you're working with, a super glue or all-surface construction adhesive can help get the job done.

Cost: Depending on the type of adhesive, expect to pay $3 to $12.

Stud finder

Stud finder

Young man with stud finder examining wall at home

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If you're hanging a picture frame or shelf, a stud finder allows you to find the best possible place to anchor a nail or screw – without worrying whether it will fall off the wall later. When you're cutting a hole in the drywall, the same stud finder will help ensure you don't cut through an important part of the structure of your house. Studs in residential buildings are typically wood, but a stud finder using magnetism often still works by locating the nails in the stud. More sophisticated stud finders will detect the differences in density along the wall.

Cost: Depending on type, it will cost between $10 and $50.

Ladder

Ladder

A room ready to be painted.

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A 12-foot ladder isn't necessary if you're an apartment dweller who relies on the property manager for most maintenance issues, but a short stepladder can always help you reach the top shelf in the kitchen or get a better angle while hanging wall decor. In a house, a taller ladder can come in handy for cleaning out your home's gutters, as well as reaching high-up spots while painting, cleaning or decorating inside.

Cost: Depending on height and stability, a ladder will cost anywhere from $40 to $1,000.

Hand tools

Hand tools

Hands sawing wood

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You don't need construction experience to use these household tools skillfully. These simple tools are an important part of being able to make small, straightforward repairs at home, whether you live in an apartment, condo or house.

Clamp

Clamp

Man crafting wooden chair object keeping wooden boards in hands. Do it yourself project making process. Using press vise

(Getty Images)

In DIY scenarios where the wood glue comes in handy, you'll typically want a clamp to help serve as additional security while the adhesive dries. Clamps also help hold wood and other materials together or in place while you're sawing, drilling or sanding and need help keeping the materials steady. You can opt for a simple C-clamp or bar clamp, which will suffice in relatively simple projects.

Cost: Expect to pay between $3 and $20, based on the size and type of clamp.

Screwdriver

Screwdriver

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Securing a dresser to the wall or finally putting that Ikea coffee table together will likely see you reaching for a screwdriver. Screws vary in shape and size, so Zeisler recommends checking out a set of screwdrivers with interchangeable screwheads to keep the number of screwdrivers you own down, while still having access to the Phillips head, flat head, Allen wrench (hexagon), Torx drive (star) or Robertson (square).

Cost: Either invest in a set of screwdrivers with different heads or get a multibit screwdriver, which both run from about $7 to $30.

Wrenches and ratchets

Wrenches and ratchets

Cropped shot of man’s hand reaching for a tool from his toolbox

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Whether you're tightening a bolt on your bed frame or building a deck in your backyard, a wrench or ratchet and socket set is a must-have. Like with a screwdriver, Zeisler recommends checking out investing in a set to help reduce the total number of wrenches you need, and ensure you have the tool for every possible scenario. "You can get more than one thing and more than one component," he says. "Instead of having seven or eight combination wrenches, you can get one particular tool that has a combination of all those on one assembly."

Cost: Sets of wrenches with additional adjustability typically cost around $20. Ratchet and socket sets typically start at about $15.

Claw hammer

Claw hammer

close up builder's hands hammering nail into wood

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A hammer almost seems too simple a tool to have, but you'll find yourself needing one quite often, whether it's to hang a calendar on the wall, construct a birdhouse or repair siding on your house. A claw hammer is often the recommended go-to for DIY projects because the backside of the tool also allows you to pull out nails as needed.

Cost: Depending on the brand, expect to pay $5 to $40.

Pliers

Pliers

Goldsmith performs a wedding ring.

(Getty Images)

You may need help pulling something apart or holding it in place while you apply an adhesive – and pliers are an effective tool in both cases. Some pliers are specially designed to help cut or strip wire as well, which helps if your project requires some basic electrical work. In such cases, always have the power turned off and call a licensed electrician if you're not sure what you're doing.

Cost: Pliers range from $9 to $40.

Utility knife

Utility knife

person carefully scoring drywall during a remodeling job

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You could be opening a package you got in the mail or cutting dowel rods that don't quite require a saw, but having a utility knife specifically for home improvement purposes means you don't have to ruin your kitchen knives to complete simple projects.

Cost: Utility knives range from $5 to $45.

Handsaw

Handsaw

Woman with saw cutting wood

(Getty Images)

For a bigger cutting project, have a handsaw ready. This is one tool you want to have your safety glasses on hand for, along with gloves to protect your hands. Before getting started, mark the wood or material you're cutting with a pencil and straightedge to ensure you cut along a straight line.

Cost: Handsaws run between $9 and $25, so there’s no need to break the bank.

Power tools

Power tools

Close-up of carpenter cutting a wooden plank

(Getty Images)

For some projects, you need a bit of additional power behind it. Enter the motorized tool. "If you're going to be in an apartment or condo where it's going to be smaller projects, I don't think power tools are going to come into play," Zeisler says. "But if you’re a homeowner, you've invested in a mortgage [and] you're in the home, you're probably going to want to start getting familiar with some of that."

Drill

Drill

Close-up of carpenter assembling furniture. He is screwing a screw with an electric drill. Selective focus.

(Getty Images)

As you get into more skilled DIY projects, you'll likely need to use a drill to put holes in wood, masonry, plastic or other materials. Different drill bits are used for different scenarios, and most good DIY tutorials will tell you which one to use for setting screws or creating a clean hole. Like with a saw, always use eye protection.

Cost: Cordless power drills run between $50 and $130.

Sander

Sander

Closeup low angle shot of early 30;s man doing some carpentry work in a workshop. He's removing edges on a plank with a lunge router. Wearing protective glass and ear protectors. Tilt shot.

(Getty Images)

When building a bookshelf or giving your current one a makeover, sanding is a key step before the staining or painting phase. A sander takes a painting or staining project from time-consuming to convenient. Many DIY bloggers recommend a 5-inch orbital sander, as it's relatively easy to handle.

Cost: A sander will likely cost between $40 and $70.

Nail gun

Nail gun

A construction worker, an African American man in his 40s, working on a home remodeling project.  He is standing on a ladder with a nail gun, nailing wood posts.  He is serious, wearing safety glasses.

(Getty Images)

When your DIY skills are more advanced, a nail gun might be the tool to help you up your game. Like with a sander, a nail gun makes the time-consuming process of hammering nails happen in a fraction of the time, though it requires a certain level of caution and some more money. There are also different types of nail guns for the project at hand – flooring, roofing and building furniture all use different types of nails, for example. Some of the more sophisticated nail guns require an air compressor, which may come with the tool or need to be purchased separately.

Cost: Expect to pay $80 to $650 or more, depending on the type of nail gun you select.

Circular saw

Circular saw

Close-up of carpenter cutting a wooden plank

(Getty Images)

If you're looking to build furniture or upcycle some key pieces, many DIY tutorials call for a circular saw to cut larger amounts of wood. The circular saw is recommended as the more basic option and is less expensive than a table saw – not to mention, it'll take up less room in your garage.

Cost: As low as $39 or as high as $500.

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Tags: real estate, housing, new home sales, pending home sales, home improvements


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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