When you own a home, you can’t call the landlord to repair a burst pipe or replace a broken refrigerator — it’s your responsibility. And while many homeowners budget carefully for mortgage payments and utilities, finding room in a budget for maintenance costs can be more difficult. Not only can home maintenance get spendy fast, but it’s also impossible to know how much repairs will cost — or when they’ll be needed at all.
You might not be able to predict when your water heater will burst or your roof will start leaking, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make room in your budget for home maintenance and repairs. Consider the size of your home, its age, your local climate and the cost of materials and labor in your area when calculating how much to set aside each month.
Factors That Affect the Cost of Home Maintenance
The average homeowner spends about $2,000 a year on home maintenance costs, but some years you might get away with spending a fraction of that amount, while other years you could spend two, three, five or six times that much on a new furnace, roof or air conditioning unit. What makes the difference?
One of the biggest factors affecting your home maintenance expenses will be the age of your home. A brand-new home may not need any maintenance at all for the first 10 years, but will start to need more maintenance as it ages past the 10-year mark. As your home reaches 20 or 30 years of age, big maintenance tasks will start to come up, like replacing the roof or the furnace.
If you’ve purchased an older home, much depends on how well previous owners took care of it. A 150-year-old house that has been meticulously maintained and updated will be much less expensive to take care of than one that has been allowed to fall into disrepair for some time.
Your home’s location and climate will also affect its condition and maintenance costs. Whether you live in a region with snowy, cold winters and hot summers or one prone to extreme weather events like hurricanes, your home will experience weather-related wear and tear. Even your home’s position within the neighborhood could make a difference; homes at the bottom of a hill are more likely to experience issues due to run-off, for example.
Finally, the cost of materials and labor in your area will also impact your maintenance expenses. Of course, the same local economic factors that affect these costs will also affect your wages.
Figuring Out How Much to Set Aside Each Month
There are several popular rules of thumb when it comes to calculating a monthly home maintenance budget. Many homeowners swear by purchasing home maintenance insurance in the form of a home warranty to help defray maintenance costs. A home warranty covers some or all of the costs of repairing or replacing home systems and appliances; all you need to do is pay a fee for the service call, usually $60 to $75. While it won’t cover everything that could go wrong with your home, a home warranty can help you cover repairing or replacing your furnace, air conditioning unit, water heater, large appliances or electrical system. It can also remove the burden of finding a reputable contractor to do the work since your warranty company will handle that for you.
Even if you decide to purchase a home warranty, you should still set aside money each month to cover costs that your warranty company won’t, including routine maintenance. One rule of thumb is to set aside 1 percent of the cost of your home per year. While this guideline takes into account local market factors, your home’s price may not accurately predict its maintenance costs. If you got a good price or bought right before the housing bubble burst or bought your house a long time ago, this method may be less than helpful.
Another rule of thumb is to calculate your house’s square footage and set aside that many dollars per year. So, if your home is 1,200 square feet, set aside $1,200 a year, or $100 a month. This square foot method takes your home’s size into account, which may give you a more accurate model of how much you can expect to pay in maintenance during the average year.
You can arrive at a more accurate number by increasing this sum by 10 percent for each of the factors, discussed above that affect your home’s maintenance needs. For example, if you live in an area with extreme weather, in a flood plain and have a 100-year-old home, increase your monthly base maintenance budget by 30 percent, for a total of $1,560 a year, or $130 a month.
If you can’t afford to maintain your home, then you can’t afford your home. Failing to repair and maintain your home in a timely fashion will cause it to deteriorate, becoming less valuable and perhaps even unlivable. By budgeting carefully, however, you’ll be ready when the unexpected occurs, so your home can remain your sanctuary.