How Much to Budget for Home Maintenance
Owning a home comes with certain responsibilities. There is no landlord to call when a sink stops draining or the lawn needs mowing. Regular home maintenance is essential to lengthening the lifespan of key components in a house as well as ensuring a property is a safe and enjoyable place to live.
With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping people home last year, many took the opportunity to catch up on home repairs and improvements. Among those surveyed by home insurance company Hippo, 52% said they have become more proactive about home care in the past year.
Part of properly caring for a house includes creating a home maintenance budget. While costs will vary depending on a home's location and size, keep reading for some average home maintenance costs that you can use in your budget calculations.
Regular Home Maintenance Cost Estimates
Many maintenance items must be completed on a regular basis. "Monthly home maintenance tasks can vary, especially if it's a larger home or if your home and property are located in a warmer location," says Jeff Slipko, co-founder of NestEgg.rent, a property management platform.
Although not an exhaustive list, here are some regular maintenance tasks that apply to many single-family homes:
Clean gutters: Leaves and debris need to be removed regularly from gutters to ensure water can flow freely through them. "We recommend that gutters should be cleaned at least twice a year to prevent damage to your roof and home," says Jeff Beck, CEO of Leaf Home Solutions, which makes LeafFilter gutter protection systems. Homeowners can expect to pay $100 or more for professional cleaning, depending on a home's size and the accessibility of gutters.
Change filters: Filters for HVAC systems should be replaced quarterly in four-season climates. This task is something homeowners should be able to easily do themselves, and filters for most systems run between $10-$20 each.
Check sprinkler system: Homes with in-ground sprinkler systems should be drained in the fall and checked for breaks in the spring. "They often break and get eaten by animals, which causes a major water bill," explains Raf Howery, CEO and founder of Kukun, a company that provides property data and home management tools. Expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $400 should a break be found.
Lawn maintenance: Depending on the size of your lawn and personal preferences, yards may need regular mowing, fertilizer and pest control. If you hire this work out, monthly costs could range from $200-$250 or more.
HVAC tuneups: Heating and cooling systems should be inspected at the start of their respective seasons. A routine inspection could cost between $65 to $125, according to Howery. Repairs, if needed, can run into the hundreds of dollars. "Gas furnaces can cost more due to the complexity of natural gas piping and valves," he says, and an improperly functioning air conditioning compressor could be as much as $1,000 to fix.
Keep pipes clear: "Toilets and sinks don't need regular maintenance but should be added to your list of inspections to get ahead of any damage," Slipko says. Using a drain cleaner monthly can also help prevent clogs, and specially made bacteria additives can help septic systems run smoothly in the years between routine pumping to empty the tank. The cost of these additives may be $10 or less a month.
"It's also important to consider home maintenance tasks that don't require an additional (cost)," Slipko says. "For example, cleaning your ice maker, flushing the water heater and deodorizing the dishwasher."
To keep track of all the tasks specific to your home, consider using a spreadsheet or a digital tracker such as Kukun's iHome Manager tool.
Prepare for These Replacement Costs
Regardless of how well they are maintained, some parts of a home will eventually need to be replaced. By saving for these large expenses as part of a home maintenance budget, homeowners can avoid the need to finance their cost.
Roofing: Asphalt shingles can last 15 to 30 years, and replacement costs may run $5 to $8 per square foot. Owners of a 2,000 square-foot home should plan on spending roughly $14,000 for a new roof, according to Howery. "Other roofs, like red clay tile or slate, can last 70 to 100 years and are proportionately more expensive to replace," he says.
Furnace: Homeowners can expect their furnace to last at least 15 years. The size of a house and the type of furnace will dictate the price, but Slipko says $3,500 is an average cost. "Natural gas furnace installation is typically more expensive out of all furnace types and can range from $5,000 to $7,000 for an installation cost," he adds.
Air conditioner: Central air conditioners may need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years, and Howery says their price tag can run from $3,200 to $8,000. Again, the size of the house will partially dictate the cost of a replacement unit.
When to Call in the Professionals
It can be tempting to try to reduce home maintenance costs by completing repairs yourself, but proceed with caution. "You should be careful with anything that touches plumbing and electrical because of the high risk of problems when untrained people attempt repairs," Howery says.
Also, be realistic about your abilities. According to a survey by Travelers Insurance, 42% of U.S. homeowners delayed a needed repair in 2020 because of the pandemic. While most people simply left the repair undone, 19% tried to do it themselves and failed. Rather than risk a costly mistake, it can be better to hire a professional if you are unsure about your ability to be successful.
"Hiring someone for any home task can be stressful and time-consuming, but it's important to do your research," Beck says. That means not only asking for referrals but also checking to see whether a company is insured or uses subcontractors.
It's also important to know whether you are hiring a handyman or a home contractor. "Handymen can perform most minor home repair jobs," Slipko says, "but for larger jobs, a licensed contractor who's highly specialized in a certain area is best."
A number of online services such as Kukun, Angi and HomeAdvisor can help homeowners find professional contractors and repair workers, while websites such as NestEgg can do the same for landlords.