Moving from an apartment into your first home can be stressful. But proper planning can make the transition much smoother.
"When moving from a smaller property like a one-bedroom apartment to a larger home, worry about the necessities first and all other items last," says Elysia Casaday, part of the Casaday Allison Group of Wydler Brothers Real Estate in Chevy Chase, Maryland. "Focus on the areas you'll be living in the most. Once you're in your new home, you'll be able to analyze what's needed, where and in what size."
Some items you may need right away are extra lamps for dark rooms, says Mary Roberge, a real estate agent with McEnearney Associates in Leesburg, Virginia.
"Don't forget shower curtains for each bath, with rings and rods, and the all-important bathmat so no one slips and falls," says Roberge. "The additional toiletry essentials like shampoos and towels for each bath are often overlooked but are very comforting to have early on."
People tend to forget some of the basic things, says Katharine Delo Gregg, a real estate agent with McEnearney Associates in Washington, D.C.
"Some things don't cross your mind until you wake up in the morning after your first night's sleep in your new home, like coffee and milk!" she says. "I recommend scheduling a small Peapod order with just the basics, delivered at the end of your move-in day."
Another basic that first-time buyers often forget they will need is something to cover their windows.
"Window treatments can be a surprise cost for many buyers, especially since custom blinds can be pricey," says Steven Centrella, a real estate agent with Redfin. "But there are many different options available at a variety of price points, once you have time to research the issue. If you can't get blinds up before you move in, some stick-up blinds from the hardware store can be helpful to make sure your neighbors don't get to know you too well!"
While many sellers will clean a property before settlement, D.C. regulations require only that the home transfer "broom-clean," says Centrella. "You may want it a little cleaner before you start moving everything in, which takes time that some buyers don't budget for," he says.
Even if the previous owners left the home clean or you're the first person to live in a new place, Gregg suggests that you have a broom easily accessible on moving day. "Your floors are going to be filthy after a day of movers hauling furniture in and out of your front door," she says.
Brittany Allison, also part of the Casaday Allison Group, says a few of the absolute necessities to make you feel at home on your first day include toiletries, toilet paper, paper towels, towels and linens.
"You'll need furniture for your master bedroom and other bedrooms, depending on the size of your family, plus some living room furniture, maybe even just a couch before you start putting the room together," says Allison. "You need a place to eat, so even just bar stools for your island or breakfast bar are fine to start. Don't forget to set up your cable and Internet so you're connected on the first day."
If you're moving into a brand-new unit, there are some extra steps you can take before your move that will have long-lasting impact.
"Upgrade to devices that add efficiency to your home and save you money in the long term," says Timur Loynab, a vice president of McWilliams Ballard in D.C. "Consider programmable thermostats, like Nest, and look into renewable sources of energy for power, such as solar panels and solar battery packs."
Charilyn Wells Cowan, an associate broker with McEnearney Associates in McLean, Virginia, suggests that people think about which features are "infrastructure" and which are decorative and can be easily changed over time.
"For both new and resale homes, the furniture is the easiest to sacrifice in the beginning, and some rooms can stay empty until there's a need for them," she says.
Cowan recommends that home buyers spend money before they move in on things like woodwork, cabinets, and wiring for sound and security because those items are harder to add or change later.
Loynab suggests waiting on some decisions until you've settled into your new home and see how you use the space.
"Do test paint swatches on your walls first and sit with the color for a day or two before committing to a color for all of your home's walls," he says.
Centrella suggests spacing out your purchases and letting yourself acclimate to the space before buying furniture for the whole place. "Don't buy new furniture until you've gotten in and made sure your measurements are correct," says Centrella. "You never want to order that expensive new living or dining room set and then not have it fit in the space."
While paper towels and cleaning supplies are necessities for a move, Roberge suggests some other items to have ready on moving day.
"Not always an essential, but a wonderful feel-good item to have at the move-in, are cheese and crackers or other snacks, along with the owner's preferred beverages, for not only a possible special first night in the new home but also for any visitors and friends who may stop by to graciously help unpack or just congratulate you," she says.
Centrella suggests having disposable plates, cups and napkins for a takeout meal on your first night so you don't have to worry about finding the box with the dishes and silverware.
"If you've got kids, make sure you have something to keep them busy and out of the way if they're too young to help with the move," says Centrella.
Roberge says that if you don't have your TV or Internet connected, it's a nice idea to download a movie or two onto a laptop so you, your kids or your teens can have a little downtime when you're exhausted and adjusting to your new setting.
From the basics to a few extras, the more you prepare for your moving day, the better your memories will be of the first day in your new place.