After you get the keys to your new place is not the time to figure out how to get the water and lights turned on. You don't want to spend your first week shivering in a house with no heat or hot water. Understand the steps you should take to make a smooth transition of utilities in your new home.
Setting up and Transferring Utilities
Before you reach the settlement table you'll need to have an action plan for setting up and transferring the utilities accounts in your new home. Not all utilities shown here are applicable to every home, but this is a comprehensive list of the accounts that you need to inquire about:
- Water and sewer
- Natural gas
- Cable or satellite TV
- Trash collection
- Security/alarm systems
Utilities transferred before settlement
There are two important reasons to work with the seller of the home on the transfer of utilities. One, you do not want to be left with the seller's unpaid bill and a potential cancellation of service. Two, you want to make sure that the service is active when you move in. The utilities that you need to be most concerned about in this regard are water, electricity and gas.
In a typical arrangement, the seller and buyer will agree to transfer these services into the buyer's name before settlement. Any balances owed on these accounts are paid out of the seller's proceeds. This is a fairly straightforward part of the settlement process since it's in both the seller's and buyer's best interest to ensure that this is done properly. If no payment is currently due and no bill has been sent, you can calculate the amount owed on a pro-rated basis.
Utilities set up after settlement
With other utilities, you have a choice of providers, so you don't have to transfer existing services. For phone, cable TV and Internet access, you'll want to find out which providers serve your new home and contact them for rates and terms.
Know that it is always easier to use the providers that already serve the home. If you want to change from cable to satellite or from DSL to fiber optic Internet, there will most likely be more time needed to run new wiring and installation charges may be higher. In any case, it's best to know your options and to start making calls before move-in day. If workmen to need to come to the home it's great to be able to schedule them all on the same day and before you have unpacked too many things.
In the case of phone service, you may be able to keep your existing home phone number when you move. You'll want to call your phone company before you cancel service at your old place (since you may lose your number if you do so) and give them the address of where you are moving to. If it's within a short radius, they can take care of the transfer for you and you won't have to notify friends and family of your new number.
One special consideration is what to do about an existing home security system if there's one installed. In most cases, the previous home owner will cancel the monitoring service, and you'll need to contact the company to have them come out and reactivate it with a new account in your name. Because the technology in these systems change over time, you should find out how old the system is and if it's more than 10 years old, look into having it upgraded or replaced.
The market for home security installations is very competitive, since companies make most of their profit from the monthly monitoring fee. If you are going to make any serious upgrades to an old security system, get quotes from multiple companies and you may save yourself some money and get a brand new system to boot.
Other services that the previous home owner may have used won't be a part of the settlement transaction, but you may want to inquire about them with the seller to get their opinion of the current provider's cost and quality. This includes lawn care, pest extermination, housekeeping, snow removal and septic service. The home's last owner is a great resource for recommendations on these other services.
Other Buyers Guide Topics
Jump back for the index of articles on taking possession of your new home.
Other Web Info
Utility connections service from Allconnect.