A set of open windows from within a home, with trees joust outside.

First-time buyers? Before you pick up the keys, read our top 15 tips to make moving in a breeze

Moving is one of the most stressful experiences you can go through. To help you out, here’s our top 15 tips for things to buy and do in the first few days that will get your new house feeling like home.

Picking up the keys to your first house is a truly momentous occasion, full of emotions and excitement as you move away from all the stress and involvement of actually buying your property and can finally look forward to making your new house into a home. But before you start buying scatter pillows and planning that housewarming party, there’s a few responsible purchases to be made that will help make moving in that much easier.

1. Change the locks

It seems fairly obvious, but it’s surprising how many people overlook this important step. It might be your new home, but it’s someone else’s old one, and if it was a tenanted property, there could be quite a number of ex-residents. Although you hope that they’ve all been honest and transparent in the return of their keys, you never know for sure. Even if it’s a new build, and you’re the first occupiers, it’s likely that the builder had copies of the keys, so get the locks changed regardless. If you’ve got a new composite or uPVC door, the locks can be changed out, so there’s no need to replace the whole thing. It’s best to contact a locksmith for this kind of work. Take the time to change the locks and enjoy the confidence that once you’ve shut the door at night, you’re definitely safe and secure.

2. Check your smoke alarms

Whilst you’re thinking about safety, it’s worth going round to check and update your smoke alarms, and seeing if the property has a carbon monoxide alarm (if you use gas). Checking smoke alarms is quick and easy – press and hold the button and the loud, clear siren should tell you that the battery is still operational. If you have any concerns about fire safety then contact your local fire brigade; they should offer a fire safety survey called a ‘Safe and Well Check’. Operational fire staff will come out and do a check of your home, including things like overloaded sockets, trapped wires and safe use of electrical appliances and fittings. They can discuss a fire evacuation procedure with you too. These visits are free, and you may qualify for free smoke alarms too, so it’s worth enquiring.

3. Unpacking! Oh, the chaos

There’s nothing like fitting your life into a bunch of cardboard boxes, transporting those boxes, and then trying to unpack them again into rooms that aren’t the same size or shape as the previous ones. As disorganised as this job can be, try to remain security conscious. Leaving a smart phone here, a laptop there – it’s easy to put stuff down and forget that people might be watching. Just be cautious of your valuables, and keep them packed until you need them or until you’ve allocated a safe place to store them.

4. Curtains

Apart from matching your décor, curtains serve another purpose – keeping prying eyes out of your home. This is especially important at night, when having the lights on to unpack basically makes you visible to the entire street and anyone walking past with their dog. If you don’t know what style or colour you want yet, get some cheap, neutral curtains up as a stopgap measure.

5. Protect your flooring

Carpets cost a fortune, and re-carpeting is not a job homeowners take on lightly. If you’ve already done this, then you’ll know just how much new carpets cost, and how you would probably protect them with your life! It’s worth buying or borrowing some covering materials, such as adhesive plastic or dustsheets, to protect the carpets whilst you move in, especially if the weather is inclement. It’s also worth covering hard floors, as they can be easily scratched or damaged as you move heavy furniture.

6. New house = new things

If you’ve had a shopping spree for all the new things you need in your new house, then you’ll probably have a lot of cardboard boxes to get rid of. Avoid piling these boxes outside your property ready for the rubbish collection. To opportunistic burglars, it equates to a shop window display presenting all the brand new wares you own that they could take. Keep them stored away in a garage or outbuilding and transport them down to the recycling centre as soon as possible.

7. Sold sign

It’s worth getting that ‘sold’ sign taken down as soon as possible. No point in advertising this to everyone who passes.

8. Stock up the cleaning cupboard

It won’t feel like home until you’ve given everything a good clean. Go crazy and buy more than you’ll need, from cloths and sponges to products galore, because the last thing you want to do is get your marigolds on and then find you’ve forgotten the window cleaner.

9. Go buy a vacuum cleaner.So boring, but so necessary.

10. Buy a new house alarm

If there is one already in place then don’t take ownership of it. Take it down and get your own set up. You never know who has the access codes to the previous one. Make sure to display the external siren (if there is one) in a prominent position, and use branded stickers on the front doors and windows to advertise that the property is protected.

11. Light it up!

Adding some outdoor lighting to your property will help with security at night. Motion sensor lights are easy to install, and you can even buy solar-powered or battery ones if you don’t want to employ an electrician. For extra security, you can also buy external motion sensors that connect with your alarm system to let you know when someone is approaching the house. A great investment if you have a driveway or a path that isn’t visible from the windows.

12. Insurance

Always a nuisance to research and purchase, but invaluable when you need it! Now’s the time to consider your buildings and contents insurance requirements, as they’re important to have in place straight away. You never know when you’re going to need them, and you’ll regret it if you haven’t sorted them out and do. Make sure to pay attention to the small print – if you own jewellery or electronics that cost over a certain threshold you may need to declare them.

13. “Hi! New to the area…"

If you’ve moved into a new area, it can be really daunting figuring out where all your local amenities are, and where the best place is to go for things like haircuts and takeaways. Social media is a great place to source this kind of information, and it’s very common for community areas and estates within a town to have their own social media group where you can ask other residents. Avoid the typical ‘New to the area!’ posts asking for recommendations – it can give you away to potential burglars. You never know who is online reading your public posts, and it can be very easy for someone to put two and two together, finding out that you’ve just moved in, which street you’ve moved to, and that you’re going to try a new local yoga class on Tuesday night (meaning you’ll be out of the house). Just be cautious with the information you put out and how others can interpret it.

14. A new doorbell

Unless the previous residents had just upgraded their doorbell, the chances are you’ll be stuck with something ugly, impractical or possibly even broken. Or they might not have had one at all. Upgrade to a new digital doorbell that suits the way you use your home space – get a dual chime product if you’re likely to be in two rooms a lot, or a portable one to carry round the house. If you have pets or a baby that may be upset by a doorbell, think about functionality such as a mute button or sleep setting. You can even get some that are MP3 compatible, so you can set them up with your own choice of melody. That really will make the place feel like home!

15. One last thing

You’re in, you’re unpacked, and it finally feels like home. But that doesn’t mean you should become complacent with your security. Now is the time to talk to your local police force about Smart Water, or other property marking solutions that they may offer. It won’t offer a physical deterrent to theft, but the unique identifying marks will mean that stolen goods that are recovered can be quickly and easily restored to you, for a little added peace of mind should the worst occur.