As a new homeowner, you may not have a forgiving budget. You may have dumped your full savings into the down payment of your home, with the understanding that your first few years may be tight. Even if this isn’t the case, you’re probably interested in saving as much money as possible, increasing the financial return on your investment and shielding you from unnecessary financial risks.
Every home is going to require some degree of ongoing maintenance. Depending on several variables (including the age of your home), it’s generally safe to set aside 1 percent of your home’s value in annual maintenance expenses. For example, if you purchased your home for $260,000, you’ll want to put aside about $2,600 a year in upkeep costs.
Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to reduce your total maintenance expenditures.
How to Reduce Your Maintenance Costs
These are some of your best options:
- Try to do things yourself. Many home maintenance items can be accomplished by an average homeowner, even with minimal knowledge or experience. You can also learn some of the more complex tasks by attending local classes, or watching YouTube videos. Doing the work yourself, instead of hiring a contractor, can save you several hundred dollars per repair, and thousands of dollars over the course of your home’s life. The only exceptions here are maintenance tasks that require some degree of technical knowledge or ones that are especially dangerous, like electrical work.
- Conduct routine maintenance. Most problems with your home can be prevented with a basic maintenance schedule. For example, replacing the air filter on your furnace every 3 months can greatly extend the lifespan of your HVAC system, and minimize the severity of any problems that arise with it. Other actions, like cleaning out the gutters and resealing cracks around your doors and windows, can similarly have a protective effect.
- Inspect regularly and fix things early. You’ll probably pay for a home inspection when you first buy your house, but it’s a good idea to inspect your home for damage and issues on a periodic basis—even if you’re doing the inspecting yourself, with minimal technical knowledge. Inspections can reveal bits of damage and flaws that you can then repair proactively, before they get any worse. You can’t prevent all problems with a home, but you can de-escalate most of them once they start to emerge.
- Adjust for each season. Seasonal changes can take their toll on any home, especially if you live in a climate with extreme differences between summer and winter. Different environmental conditions, like excessive sunlight or ice, combined with alternating cycles of expansion and contraction, can introduce new types of damage. Every season, conduct seasonal maintenance like disconnecting exterior garden hoses or inspecting your roof.
- Get to know your contractors. It definitely pays to learn how to conduct DIY maintenance, but no matter what, there will be some acts of maintenance and repairs that you can’t do on your own. For these, you’ll need to work with contractors or professional companies who know what they’re doing. Get to know these people, and work with them consistently. The more you do business with them, the more willing they’ll be to cut you a deal or offer you a discount. If you don’t have a contact established in your area, connect with other people in your neighborhood and see if they have any recommendations; referrals are often the best way to find reliable service providers.
- Know your pain points. Different homes are going to have different pain points—especially problematic areas that are going to cause headaches down the road. For example, your old house might be built on a shaky foundation, or you might recognize that your roof is 25 years old and in need of repair. Knowing your home’s most vulnerable points can help you proactively address them, and increase your knowledge about them so you can handle them on your own.
- Get rid of unnecessary complexity. If your bottom-line interest is reducing the maintenance and repair costs of your home, you’d do well to reduce the complexity of your home and its features. Every new appliance you install, every new landscaping element you introduce, and every major change you make is going to present new challenges and introduce new forms of upkeep. You can keep costs down by simplifying what you already have. For example, if you have complex landscaping, you can cut it down in favor of something simpler and easier to maintain, or you could swap out your carpets for hardwood floors, which are easier to keep clean (and in many cases, are less vulnerable to damage).
- Keep an emergency fund. This isn’t technically a strategy to reduce your home maintenance costs, but it will make your maintenance and repair costs easier to handle. Do your best to keep some cash reserves on hand, so you can cover an unexpected expense. Depending on the size and value of your house, you’ll probably want to save between a few thousand and ten thousand dollars. You’ll be glad to have it when you face a sudden break or maintenance need that your home insurance won’t cover.
Buying the Right Home
If you haven’t yet bought a home and you’re preparing a budget, keep in mind that you can also reduce your home maintenance costs during the buying process. You could, for example, choose a home that’s been built within the last few years, so it will have suffered less wear and tear by the time you move in. You could also conduct a more thorough home inspection, checking every nook and cranny for potential problems—and avoiding deals that might cost you more than they’re worth.
If you’re looking for help buying the right home in the Katy, Texas area, make sure to contact Green Residential. We have some of the best buying agents in the Texas area, who can help you make the best possible decision for your first home.