Real Talk: The value of home maintenance

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Real Talk: The value of home maintenance
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By Mary Ellen Rotondo

Moving into a new home is exciting and many homebuyers focus their time and money on remodeling and decorating to make the house as useful, comfortable and enjoyable as possible. After all, a home is the place where people spend most of their time. It’s a shelter in a storm, a refuge from the outside world and the place to gather your favorite people or celebrate major milestones.

However, at the end of the day, a home is an important investment and, like other investments, it requires care, maintenance and updating. Deferring maintenance can result in unintended and expensive consequences and faster depreciation of your asset. The fact is, proactive maintenance is essential to preserving the value of your home – without it, your home could lose 10% of its value. Regular, routine maintenance enhances curb appeal, ensures safety and prevents neglected upkeep from turning into costly major repairs.

If you think home maintenance is a miserable series of weekend-eating chores, remember the age-old advice of Benjamin Franklin: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Small problems in your home can turn into major ones if you wait too long to address them. If you complete some key home maintenance tasks once a year, your systems and appliances will operate efficiently and last longer and you can avoid costly and inconvenient repairs.

News outlets tend to run “spring cleaning” stories annually around the end of Q1, providing “how to” advice for taking care of your home’s appliances, systems and structures. I advise clients to consult their homeowners’ insurers for guidance and checklists for the important things. As an example, American Family Insurance has a prescriptive annual maintenance guide and checklist that breaks things down by season. You can find the checklists here. 

Some insurers even offer policy discounts for particular home updates, including energy efficient appliances and new roofs. It’s worth checking with your insurance provider.

How much does maintenance cost?

The cost of annual maintenance varies. Some years, routine tasks such as cleaning gutters and changing furnace filters are all that’s needed, and your total expenditures may be a few hundred dollars. Other years may include major replacements, such as a new roof, at a cost of $10,000 or more.

Over time, annual maintenance costs average more than $3,000, according to data from the U.S. Census. Various lenders and insurers place maintenance costs at 1% of the initial house price. That means owners of an $800,000 house should plan to budget about $8,000 per year for ongoing upkeep and replacements.

A return on your investment

Homeowners who keep up with maintenance, repairs and improvements have homes that show their value and keep up with market standards. Following a plan for seasonal maintenance and yearly home improvements will save a lot of headaches, money and effort and will preserve the value of your most important asset.

Lastly, do yourself a favor and keep track of your maintenance efforts. Having a notebook of all your maintenance and upgrades, along with receipts, is a powerful tool when it comes time to sell your home. It eliminates any doubts for the buyer, and it says you are a meticulous, caring homeowner. A maintenance record also provides concrete evidence of repairs and replacements for systems, such as wiring and plumbing, which might not be readily apparent. Remember: The more you put into your investment, the more you’ll get out of it.

The writer is a realtor at Compass and can be contacted at 703-472-5454 or [email protected].

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