First-time homebuyers are no doubt excited when they move in, and eager to furnish their new digs with all the essentials. But here’s the rub: While they may be thrilled to buy the perfect coffee table and ottomans—and those things are certainly nice to have—they may not be exactly necessary.
In the excitement of setting up your first house, it’s all too easy to overlook a few items that will truly come in handy.
Curious about what you might be missing? We canvassed new homeowners as well as real estate pros for the essentials you’ll want at the ready on move-in day. Behold these eight surprising must-haves to add to your cart, plus some advice on picking the best of the bunch.
Every broker and homeowner polled for this article made a fire extinguisher priority No. 1. Place one on every floor in your new home, and definitely include one in the kitchen since most fires start here.
It’s also smart to have a fire extinguisher in the garage or shed in case dry leaves or other yardwork spark a flame.
This pick ($60, The Home Depot) offers a six-year warranty and sports clear graphics to illustrate how it’s used. (Smart tip: As soon as you can, take the whole family into the backyard and practice using it.)
Don’t forget to pick up smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, along with batteries, “so you can have peace of mind during the first night’s sleep,” says Adam Graham, an industry analyst who covers real estate and home construction at Fixr.
2. Heavy-duty garbage cans
After years of apartment living, you’re no doubt used to tossing your garbage bag down a chute or leaving it for a building staffer to pick up. But once you become a homeowner, curbside pickup is usually the way trash and recyclables are hauled away, which means you’ll need a sturdy can that will withstand the elements.
A rugged container keeps your waste safe and smell-free and is especially smart since “you may not have set up trash collection service by the time you’ve moved in,” says Caroline Kalpinski, a real estate agent with Sotheby’s International in Asheville, NC.
Backed by a 10-year warranty, this heavy-duty trash bin ($65, Lowe’s) has a tight seal to thwart critters from diving for corn cobs and is compatible with many types of municipal truck lifters.
Why struggle to find the breaker panel in the basement? A flashlight on hand will save you every time, whether there’s a power outage due to a storm or you’re poking around in a dark crawl space for the first time.
This four-pack ($14, Amazon) is ideal since you can keep one each in the kitchen, the bedrooms, and the garage. These flashlights also come with batteries (for 60 hours of juice).
4. Sump pump
A sump pump is pricey, but even if you think the basement will never flood, cleaning up even one busted pipe is worth the investment. Plus, it’s hard to tell what the weather can bring in a new location, so it’s better to be prepared.
Pre-assembled and ready to pop in, this energy-efficient sump pump ($449, The Home Depot) has a battery backup system and round-the-clock monitoring capability.
5. Power strips
Extension cords are obvious, as your new house might be larger or “the TV and lamps might be in different areas than your previous home,” says Graham. But along with longer cords, add power strips to your cart (bonus if they have USB ports).
These strips ($30 for a two-pack, Amazon) come with surge protection, six outlets, and USB options. The steel gray tone will blend nicely into most color schemes.
6. Step stool
On Day One (or Day Two), you’ll be hanging everything from blackout shades and curtains to framed photos and a pot rack. And don’t forget about changing hard-to-reach lightbulbs.
For all of these tasks, a simple step stool is essential, especially one with an anti-skid rubber bottom and the ability to withstand 300 pounds on top.
We love that this stool comes in four different sizes and seven colors like pink, ocean blue, and coral ($20, Amazon).
7. Stud finder
Becca Stewart, a military spouse in San Antonio, TX, who moves frequently, swears by her tool kit and work gloves for all the handiwork you need to do on move-in day. But this box isn’t complete without a stud finder.
You need this device to locate the studs in your walls so the pictures, mirrors, and huge flat-screen TV are anchored securely. (Most items can’t hang safely on drywall alone.).
This well-priced stud finder ($30, Amazon) can locate metal, live wires, pipe, and more behind your walls so you don’t bang away blindly. And the LCD screen and alarm offer both visual and audio clues, which means you’ll never mis-hang anything in your new home.
8. Outdoor key box
There’s nothing worse than returning to your new home during the first week and realizing you can’t find the key to your front door.
The fix: A lockbox with a protective cover will hold an extra set of keys as long as you can remember the four-digit code. (Your birthday, perhaps?)
This pick ($17, Amazon) is easy to set up as it comes with the mounting hardware you need, and there’s room for multiple keys within, like for the back shed or car. You’ll sleep better knowing there’s an extra key for anyone whose backpack or purse tends to be a black hole for important items like a key.
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