Owning a home is an exciting milestone, but it comes with its fair share of responsibilities. One aspect that often catches new homeowners off guard is the unexpected costs of home maintenance. Understanding these expenses is crucial for budgeting and avoiding any unpleasant surprises down the road. It’s hard enough to actually make a purchase in today’s market of rising home prices and interest rates but a new homeowner cannot afford to forget the costs of home maintenance. In this blog post, we’ll explore common home maintenance costs, additional unexpected expenses, and provide valuable tips to help reduce these costs.
Before diving into specific costs, it’s essential to emphasize the importance of understanding home maintenance expenses. During my inspections, I talk about “regular maintenance” and “normal life expectancy” and in my reports I note items that you should “budget for replacement soon” but it’s easy to forget about this in the excitement of moving into your new home and making it your own.
I did it myself this year. I am normally pretty good at keeping a slush fund for unexpected repair costs but I had two air conditioners that unexpectedly needed replacement this year immediately after I had replaced my windows. I simply wasn’t ready for it and it made me think that I was lucky that I had some extra saving to at least defray some of the cost.
Based on the types of inspections over the past few months, there has been a noticeable shift to new home construction and I am seeing more first time buyers going that route.While new homes are generally much less costly to maintain, there are some costs that may be unexpected. Being aware of these costs allows new homeowners to plan their budgets effectively and be proactive in maintaining their homes – which saves money in the long term. Let’s explore some of the common home maintenance costs that may catch you by surprise.
Common Home Maintenance Costs
- Exterior Maintenance: This includes tasks such as painting, repairing or replacing siding, and keeping the exterior of your home in good condition. The exterior of your home is the first line of defense from the elements. If you do not take care of the little problems, they will become bigger issues that cost way more money to repair.
- HVAC Systems: Regular maintenance, filter replacements, and occasional repairs are necessary to keep your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems running efficiently. I say this to almost everyone, but regular checkups twice a year (AC & furnace) are crucial to keeping your system running optimally.
- Plumbing and water-related Issues: From leaky faucets to burst pipes, plumbing issues can arise unexpectedly and may require immediate attention. Twice a year I simply look at all my plumbing fixtures to make sure the toilets, sinks and drain piping are not leaking. I also routinely test my sprinkler system to make sure the rotors and sprayers are not busted.
- Electrical Systems: Electrical repairs, upgrades, and routine maintenance are critical for ensuring the safety and functionality of your home’s electrical systems. Routinely test the GFCIs in the home and if possible the AFCIs. But remember to turn off any sensitive electronics before testing these.
- Roofing and Gutters: Roof repairs, gutter cleaning, and periodic inspections are essential to protect your home from water damage and maintain its structural integrity. Once a year, you should get up on your roof, or have someone do it for you, and ensure there is no damage. Pro tip: Many roofing companies offer free inspections after heavy storms but understand that the salesperson (and yes, it’s a salesperson not a roofer) will attempt to sell you something.I would still suggest you verify the information provided.
- Appliance Repairs: Appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, and washing machines may require repairs or replacements over time. Additionally, new appliances do not last as long as older appliances do. While it may be due to them being more complicated, with built in water, ice and filters, I simply think the manufacturers are skimping on quality.
Additional Unexpected Costs
In addition to the common maintenance expenses mentioned above, there are a few more routine costs that new homeowners should be prepared for:
- Pest Control: Dealing with pests like termites, rodents, or insects require professional intervention. I tell everyone to have the new home sprayed inside and out before you move in, then outside every quarter. While you can DIY this, why would you? Do you have the knowledge to tell the difference between an ant and a termite?
- Landscaping and Yard Maintenance: Keeping your lawn well-maintained, pruning trees, and landscaping add curb appeal but come with ongoing costs.
- Homeowners Association Fees: If you live in a neighborhood with a homeowners association, be prepared for monthly or annual fees to cover communal maintenance and amenities. You already know this number from closing on your home but have you actually budgeted for it?
- Insurance Premiums: Homeowner’s insurance is essential for protecting your investment but comes with recurring costs. Additionally, plan for annual increases. In the past year alone, insurance costs in the Houston area have gone up around 20%!
Tips to Reduce Maintenance Costs
While you can’t eliminate all maintenance costs, there are ways to minimize them. Consider the following tips:
- Regular Inspections and Maintenance: Schedule routine inspections and address any issues promptly to prevent them from becoming more significant problems.
- DIY vs. Hiring Professionals: Assess your skills and determine when it’s appropriate to tackle a maintenance task yourself or hire a professional. DIY projects can save money, but some tasks require expertise. I am a big DIYer but know my limits. Additionally, if you do it yourself and anything is wrong with it, your spouse will never forget. Trust me, I know. It’s easier to blame someone else.
- Proper Homeowner Insurance Coverage: Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage to protect your home and belongings in case of unexpected events. Make sure you understand the roof and wind damage clauses. They have changed drastically over the years.
- Energy Efficiency Upgrades: Invest in energy-efficient appliances, insulation, windows, and lighting to reduce utility bills and long-term maintenance costs. I just replaced my windows earlier this year, and can feel the difference.
Budgeting for home maintenance costs is an integral part of responsible homeownership. By understanding the common and unexpected expenses that may arise, new homeowners can be better prepared to take care of their homes. Remember, being proactive and regularly maintaining your home will not only save you money in the long run but also ensure that your investment remains in excellent condition.
Embrace the joys of homeownership while being mindful of the ongoing responsibilities. With proper planning and a little bit of knowledge, you can navigate the world of home maintenance with confidence. Happy homeownership!