Home Maintenance Budget Tips
I am frequently asked “how much does it cost to own a house?” Well, that’s a loaded question if I’ve ever heard one, but let’s try to simplify a rather complex topic.
First of all, there is no such thing as a maintenance free house. No matter what you’ve been told by friends, family members, the ‘pro’ down at your local home improvement center, owning a home takes work and costs money.
As a general rule, Set aside 1% of your home’s value annually for maintenance. Math can be a bit tricky for some of us, so as an example, say your house is worth $200,000. Move that decimal two places to the left = $2000.00 OR Multiply $200,000 x .01 = $2000.00 Whichever form of math you prefer, plan on spending $2000 each year for maintenance. “This guy is nuts – What the heck am I going to spend $2000/year on!?!?” is the thought shooting through your mind right now, right? Bear with me. You are not going to spend $2000 every year. Sometimes more, sometimes less. But budget for it regardless. If you really want to impress yourself (and me!), put it in a separate savings account and forget about it. That way it’s there when you need it.
Let’s take a look at what you should do to maintain your house, starting outside. Keep in mind, regular maintenance helps keep your home’s value, if not increase it!
That driveway your cars look so good sitting on, treat it well! It should be seal-coated every two or three years. Plowing, snow-blowing, shoveling and normal use wear off the protective coating rather quickly, allowing moisture to get down in to the pavement. Not convinced seal-coating helps? Remember that pot hole you hit on the way home from work… that was caused by moisture getting in to the pavement. You don’t want your driveway to be the roughest part of your commute. $300 every other year. With regular seal-coating, expect to get about 25 years out of your driveway before the asphalt needs replacing. (Hint: This is where the money you didn’t spend in years’ prior comes in to play!)
Landscaping: Why ‘waste’ your money on the yard!? Actually, it really is money well-spent. Install crushed stone around the perimeter of your house to help with drainage – which helps your foundation last longer – and keep insects away. Termites and carpenter ants don’t like chewing through rocks. Bark mulch on the other hand…easy target. Depending on the crushed stone you use, plan on $300-$500 for the initial cost of materials, and then freshen it up every other year with another yard of stone.
Roof Shingles: Not much you need to do on a regular basis, aside from taking a look at your roof through a pair of binoculars. If you start to see shiny spots and/or curling corners, then it’s time to call in a pro. That unused maintenance budget that’s been accumulating for the past decade means you have the cash to pay for the new roof! (Hint: Ask your roofing contractor if he offers a cash discount!) Expect 20-25 years out of quality shingles before they need replacing.
Chimney: Have your chimney professionally cleaned and inspected once a year! ESPECIALLY if it is used for a wood burning appliance. No way around this one. Chimney fires don’t often contain themselves to the chimney and can level a house in minutes. The picture at left was taken by the homeowner on Christmas Eve 2013 while he stood in his driveway waiting for the volunteer fire department to arrive. $125-$150/year. If you have a propane or oil-fired appliance, consult with your HVAC repair guy – keep reading!
Heating & A/C: This needs tuned-up, filters replaced and inspected by a qualified HVAC technician annually. No getting around this one either, unless you enjoy wasting money and an increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Your trusty HVAC repair guy – hopefully he looks like the guy above – will take a look at the vent pipe and chimney condition during regular service and advise you when this chimney flue needs cleaning. $250/year. A little less if you don’t have A/C. Keep in mind your furnace and A/C system has a useful life, and it will come to an end somewhere around 20 years of age. That extra money is sitting in your house savings account – wahoo!!! No need to put it on a credit card and and pay interest!
Water: If you are on a private well, who is responsible for the water in your home? YOU ARE. No government intervention here folks! For your own safety, have your water tested by an independent lab. Or have a Certified Home Inspector do it for you! An independent lab or your trusted home inspector have nothing to sell you. They have your best interest in mind! $100-$175 every five years. If you have a water filtration system installed, this adds to the cost, as this requires specific maintenance and extensive testing to make sure it works. Water touches everything in your life, don’t skimp!!!! And for goodness sake, please don’t go to your local home improvement center for a water filtration system (filters are ok)! Use a pro!
Septic System: Have your septic tank pumped, flushed and inspected every three years. About $300. If your septic guy doesn’t back-flush the tank or provide you with information on the condition of your septic system, time to flush his card down the toilet and find a new guy! A well-maintained septic system will provide about 25 years of reliable service before it needs replacing ($5-10,000 or more). And to think you laughed when I mentioned a savings account for your house…
I could go on, as there’s so much more to talk about, but will leave that for another day. Please, reach out to your friendly neighborhood home inspector for advice. Not sure who to call, ask. I am happy to provide you with contact information to companies and contractors I know and trust to work on my own house. If I trust them to work on my property when I’m not home, I have no problem passing their name along! Not sure where to start with your home maintenance – ask about our Home Maintenance Inspection programs – don’t sweat it – you can afford it!
I am Brookline’s Premier Home Inspector serving all of Southern and Central NH, from Amherst to Ashland, Wilton to Windham and all areas in between, give us a call – you’ll be glad you did!