Congratulations, homeowner! After saving for all the costs of buying a home, the closing is over and the keys are in your hand. You’re home free! Right?
Not quite. While plenty of people prepare for buying their homes, many forget to prioritize the cost of maintaining their homes. In fact, a recent NerdWallet study found that 31 percent of new homebuyers have nothing set aside to cover home maintenance costs. However, 44 percent of homebuyers run into an unexpected repair cost within just one year of purchase.
So how much should you be setting aside to cover home maintenance and repairs? And what maintenance projects should be on your radar? Here’s how you can best plan for — and pay for — your home’s maintenance in the years to come.
Making home maintenance a recurring priority
Beyond the typical home inspection that happens before closing on a home, Scott Patterson, licensed home inspector and president of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), encourages homeowners to get a maintenance inspection every three to five years. Reports for these inspections may be more detailed and provide cost estimates that a buyer’s report would not.
“By having a third set of eyes that are trained to look for defects, a professional home inspector will see things that most homeowners would never notice until it becomes a major issue,” Patterson says. “Home inspectors help to prioritize the items that you need to address quickly or over the next year or longer.”
Leave complex tasks like plumbing and electrical issues to the professionals.
Budgeting for home maintenance costs
Frank Lesh, former ASHI president and executive director, recommends saving well in advance of housing troubles cropping up. “Initially, the cost for the first few years will be much less,” he says. “However, as time goes by, maintenance will become more expensive.”
DIY-ing simple repairs can be worthwhile to help save on costs. That said, leave complex tasks like plumbing and electrical issues to the professionals. An amateur mistake could turn a simple project into a pricey fix-up job or risk your safety.
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And what about when you buy a brand-new home? “Typically, a newer home should have more time before major repairs need to be performed,” Lesh says, “but preventive maintenance is important in any age home.”
As for how much you should be saving for home maintenance and repairs, Lesh recommends socking away roughly 1 percent of your home’s value every year. Even if you don’t drain that account annually, the money will be there when you do hit a problem.
Your home maintenance to-do list
Here are some key home maintenance projects that should be on your timeline:
Within 1 year of purchase
- Fix outstanding issues identified as problems by your inspector during the home sale.
- Repair trip hazards like uneven steps and loose railings.
- Consider personalizing your home with new paint and flooring.
- Test your sump pump monthly to ensure good operation. ($100 to $200 to replace)
- Check smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms and ground fault circuit interrupters monthly.
- Inspect your deck for loose boards, wood rot, and rusting fasteners and hardware annually.
- Check windows for peeling paint and wood rot each year.
- Clean debris from gutters annually.
- Get your fireplace swept and chimney cleaned annually. ($300 to $400)
- Perform annual routine HVAC system maintenance. ($100 to $200)
- Winterize AC units each fall. (Remove window units and secure covers on outside units.)
After 2 to 5 years of purchase
- Seal an asphalt driveway every one to three years. (Costs vary by size.)
- Inspect caulk throughout your home and repair as needed. (Caulk typically lasts about five years.)
- Renew or refresh the protective finish on decks every three to five years.
- Wash your home’s exterior as needed.
6 years after purchase and beyond
- Pump your septic tank every five to seven years. ($300 to $400)
- Inspect your home’s grout, which lasts up to 15 years. Repair as needed.
- Replace carpeting after about 10 years.
- Refinish hardwood floors after about 20 years.
- Replace linoleum or vinyl flooring after 20 to 30 years.
- Replace your furnace after 15 to 20 years.
- Replace roofing after 20 to 30 years. (Spot repair as needed over the years.)
- Put in a new deck after 20 to 25 years.
- Plan and budget for your dream home updates — kitchen and bathroom remodels, finishing your basement and more!