Tips & Advice

10 top-rated essentials every first-time homeowner should have

How do you decide what appliances or consumer goods you need when you first move in? That’s easy – ask experienced homeowners
homeowner-essentials

When it comes to buying items you need for a home, the process for determining what brand and style of product you prefer differs from household to household. Some people base their decisions on what friends use, what reviews reveal or comparison sites. For the seriously passionate researcher, shoppers can even pay $10 a month to access top-rated essentials on Consumer Reports. No matter what drives your choices when it comes to buying consumer goods, the one thing we can all agree on is that there is always a majority winner among the crowd. 

In our household, I’ve begun to realize that my lack of research can be quite an issue when preparing for big purchases. For starters, I noticed that you should probably measure furniture before clicking the ‘add to cart’ button. When we received the bar stools I had ordered online, it was a harsh realization to see the seats come to sit just under the countertops. No one I know would be able to slip their legs underneath at that height. 

Instead of letting this mistake continue to happen, I started to get serious about the purchases I made. I took the time to do my research and check reviews. Being a first-time homeowner myself, I was curious about what other owners were buying. So, I figured it was time to ask around before I made another silly and expensive decision.

We asked homeowners what they consider the best purchase they made as a first-time buyer. Based on the responses we got, here is a countdown of 10 top-rated essentials for new homeowners. 

#10: A toilet auger 

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One thing about being a homeowner is that you are suddenly responsible for every ounce of maintenance you need to do to keep your home functioning. Yes — that includes your toilet. One homeowner says that hands down, their toilet auger was the best purchase they made as a first-time buyer. A toilet auger, better known as a plumbing snake, is a tool you can use to remove any obstruction from your drain. The flexible metal pole is long enough to make small plumbing repairs manageable for any homeowner. 

According to The Spruce, the best seller that might be your best bet is the RIDGID 59787 K-3 Toilet Auger. The RIDGID has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon and costs just $47.57. Although you can find toilet augers for around $16 to $20 at any home maintenance store, reviews say that this specific auger is much more durable. A one time purchase of $50 has saved many homeowners hundreds of dollars in visits from a professional plumber. 

#9: Inline water filtration system

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How passionate are you about your water? It turns out, a lot of homeowners are over the moon about their decision to install this top-rated essential inline water filter system. Options for this type of filter include faucet-mounted, countertop, reverse osmosis and under the sink. Typically, the more affordable option is to buy a water filter pitcher. Still, if you have a bit more room in your budget and are concerned about the potential consumption of contaminants — an inline system might be worth the expense. 

According to Home Depot, the top-rated option is the iSpring 5-Stage Superior Quality Under Sink Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filtration System. The $269 system comes with a five-star rating and over 1,200 reviews, with 1,100 of them ranking five out of five. All of the reviews say the system comes with everything you’d need to complete the installation on your own and without any additional tools, which is always a win for consumers. Of the lower ranking reviews, the majority of the concerns came down to common leaks. Overall, this filtration system is one of the more affordable options and has the most reported reviews among all other options. 

#8: Ceiling fans

If you’re a first-time homeowner, the chances are high that you are learning to adjust to a more costly monthly budget. For that reason, now might be the time you are looking for cost-effective ways to run your home functionally and sustainably. If you live in an area that has hot summers, a standard purchase by most homeowners are ceiling fans. Not only do the fans help you to avoid the installation and cost of air conditioning, but they are also multi-functional in circulating fresh air during warmer months and even warm air during colder months. 

According to The Spruce, the best overall ceiling fan of 2020 is the Hunter 53091 Transitional 52“Ceiling Fan from Builder Deluxe Collection, but the price does not help with your search for affordability, as each fan would cost $187.20. The top-rated fan for your budget is actually the Hampton Middleton 42 in. LED Indoor Brushed Nickel Ceiling Fan for under $100.

#7: Natural gas BBQ

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Another money-saving home purchase that experienced owners ranked their number one is a natural gas barbecue. Owners who had electricians install the natural gas line found the decision to buy natural gas an easy one, citing convenience and not having to buy propane tanks frequently. The convenience alone made them more likely to use the barbecue year-round, which isn’t always appealing in a country as cold as Canada. 

If you’re gas-line ready or are willing to pay for the installation to enjoy hamburgers and hot dogs fresh off the grill, Business Insider researched to help you choose the perfect barbecue. The best overall option for buyers is the Broil King Regal S590 Pro Stainless Steel 5-Burner Natural Gas Grill with 1 Side Burner and Rotisserie Burner. The $1,649.99 barbecue has multiple burners that can all hold different temperatures, which is why it’s ranked so highly. The grill has 69 ratings on Lowes.ca, and 49 of those reviews offer a five-star rating. But, if the sticker shock is a bit much, you can also look for a more conservative option, like the $479 Weber Spirit II E-310 LP Gas Grill that also has a 4.5-star rating and over 800 reviews on Amazon.

#6: Espresso or latte machine

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Once again, experienced homeowners say their espresso machines have been the money-saving caffeine kick they needed in their lives. Rather than pay for an overpriced latte, they prefer bringing the barista to their kitchen and making their own high-end espresso. More popular these days, the typical options that people prefer are their Nespresso, Keurig or Breville. But what choice is the best? Good Housekeeping took on the task of testing and reviewing each machine in-house. 

The best overall espresso machine for homeowners is the Breville-Nespresso USA VertuoPlus. From personal experience, and as an owner of the device myself, I can say with full confidence that I agree with this ranking. Our Nespresso is an everyday appliance that we use to start every morning, and sometimes even for a late-night treat. The $220 machine has a 4.5-star rating and includes a complimentary welcome gift of some capsules. Although you have to purchase the capsules from Nespresso, each cup of coffee still comes out to less than $1.00 per cup, which is much more affordable than any cafe.  

#5: A giant sectional

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What is a home without a comfortable place to hang out and relax? Homeowners won’t deny the love for their sectional that fits every member of the family, and then some. Choosing what furniture you buy is always a tough decision, given the multitude of furniture shops you have to explore. Any purchase you make for your home should be quality, given the fact that the intention is to use the item for as long as possible. A sectional or couch is no exception. 

According to The Spruce, their 2020 rankings named the Infini Furnishings Reversible Sectional as best overall. The $2,200 sectional can fit any layout that you please and holds a four-star rating on Wayfair. Of the 710 reviews, 413 people ranked the couch with five-stars. The tester from The Spruce says the “sofa is very simple to maintain,” and noted that “crumbs, dirt, and other debris brushed off easily,” which is an absolute must if you have pets or toddlers. 

#4: Smart home security system

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In the number four spot on our list, most experienced homeowners were quick to point out their love for all smart home systems, and more specifically, smart home security systems. Once you become a homeowner, you must protect your family and your belongings. Although home insurance is always a must, it can be great to have additional security measures in case you need any evidence to file a claim or call authorities for help.  

The top two mentions from homeowners were Nest and August, but according to SafeHome.org, Vivint takes the number one spot. Vivint requires professional installation but done the same-day. Like most smart home security systems, Vivint comes with indoor and outdoor camera options and comes with a mobile app. Their monthly service starts at $29.99 per month but goes up depending on the number of doors and cameras you need to monitor. 

#3: Smart home thermostat

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Along with a smart home security system, home buyers were quick to mention their smart home thermostat that was a game-changer for automation and temperature control. Some homeowners prefer to buy a smart home system that combines security and temperature, but if you want the best of the best, you’ll likely end up with two different products. 

TechHive did an in-depth dive review into the best smart home thermostats and pegged the Ecobee smart thermostat with voice control as their number one choice with a 4.5-star rating. The thermostat, powered by an Amazon Alexa, costs $249 and is easy to install without professional help. Keep in mind that if you choose the Ecobee for your first home, you’ll also need to buy an Amazon Alexa or Echo to control your temperature by voice command, and these smart products can cost an additional $50 to $100. 

#2: A basic tool kit

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Every homeowner needs a tool kit with some basics, like a screwdriver, a wrench set, hammer, and a cordless drill. When it comes to home maintenance, you realize quickly how many things need tightening, loosening, or hanging. Not to mention, tool kits can come in handy in most emergencies. 

Most of our experienced homeowners recommend the RYOBI brand, which has a variety of tool kits, including a $98 Home Owner Starter Kit. According to Business Insider, though, the best overall basic tool kit is the STANLEY 94-248 Homeowner’s 65-Piece DIY Tool Kit, which starts at $190 on Amazon. The tool kit does not include a cordless drill, which was highly recommended by our experienced homeowners. Still, since we already had the top-rated essential tools we needed, we opted for a separate cordless drill. We chose the four-star BLACK + DECKER Max Lithium Rechargeable Screwdriver for $53.49 on Amazon. 

#1: Cordless vacuum cleaner

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Unsurprisingly, the number one top-rated essential recommended by every homeowner was their cordless vacuum cleaner. Of course, most homeowners expressly referred to their Dyson. All but one. Romana King, a Vancouver based homeowner and Zolo staff member, did a serious Consumer Report review to find the real winner among all vacuum cleaners. Her final decision? The Tineco Pure One S12 Vacuum Cleaner. What the report revealed was that the Dyson, while a popular choice among homeowners, wasn’t at the top of the Consumer Report list

In other words, every homeowner needs different things in a vacuum cleaner, and likely, most home maintenance to-dos. If one homeowner requires a vacuum cleaner specifically for pet hair, or a cordless drill powerful enough to handle a mass home renovation, they might require something completely different from the top-rated essentials or best overall choice among users. Instead, it’s important to look for reviews related directly to your search needs. For example, if you are on a budget, that may factor into your decision-making more than anything else. As a new homeowner, you’ll eventually find a process that works for you and helps you make your purchasing decisions. For me, it’s become an Excel spreadsheet that compares price and warranty length. Whatever you choose, you must take time to research. 

Alyssa Davies
Alyssa Davies

Alyssa is an award-winning personal finance blogger and founder of MixedUpMoney.com. She writes about being a mom, overcoming personal debts, and how to get away with affording your ridiculously expensive latte habit. A new homeowner, Alyssa brings her real-life knowledge of the Canadian real estate market and smart money matters to this growing brand.

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