How to Save Money and Time on Home Maintenance
How Much Money Do Homeowners Spend on Home Maintenance?
Owning your own home is an achievement, particularly with the skyrocketing housing costs. Not to add salt to the wound, but maintaining your home can be a significant additional cost many don’t think about until things start to break down. In fact, studies show that the typical annual maintenance cost is anywhere between 1% and 4% of your home’s value.
Let’s say your home lands in the average range in Austin at around $400,000. Do the math and you can see that beyond your mortgage payments, you can expect to spend $4,000 to $16,000 per year on those little (and maybe not so little) projects and repairs. Ouch.
Of course, how much you spend will depend on several factors, such as your home’s age, the types and age of appliances you have, and even the number of people living in your home. Just ask any parent with a house full of children or teens. But financial cost isn’t the only factor a homeowner should consider.
How Much Time Do Homeowners Spend on Home Maintenance?
Time. There’s never enough of it and we often wish we were doing something better with it. Home maintenance falls into that latter category. Some love spending a weekend changing out smoke detector batteries and AC filters, cleaning refrigerator condenser coils, and replacing a garbage disposal. It can feel good to take care of your home, and as long as you have the right skillset, tools and time, you can do most of it yourself. For those less inclined or equipped, they may prefer spending their time and money paddleboarding or dining al fresco with friends.
The time homeowners spend on tasks like these varies, as many ignore them completely or call a service company to do some of it for them. But even calling various service providers often means asking for referrals and having long wait times and service windows, not to mention dealing with different people in and out of your home and arbitrary bills you’re expected to pay without question.
If you work from home or have nothing else to do all day, waiting for a repair person may not be a big deal. But if you actually need or want to get out, there’s nothing more frustrating than calling an HVAC company to get your AC running again in 102-degree temperatures, only to be told someone will be there between 8 AM and 6 PM.
Who’s Coming to Your Home, Anyway?
Time and money matter, of course, but so does your comfort level. Renters and homeowners alike know what it’s like to have random service people in and out of their homes. Who are these people, and can you trust they’re doing what they came to do and will do it well?
Most service companies do a good job vetting their employees. Others contract out the work, so who knows who’s walking in your door. According to Business News Daily, “Many business owners believe that background checks are just an additional, unnecessary cost.” That’s a bit unsettling.
While we may have been taught to be nice to strangers, we likely wouldn’t invite them into our homes, yet that’s exactly what homeowners do every time they need maintenance or repairs. If you partner with a reputable service company for each type of service, you should be able to at least trust them to send quality, screened employees, but you’ll still likely have to deal with different, unknown service people each time.
Are Home Warranty Companies the Answer?
When you purchased your home, you were probably offered (and perhaps accepted) a home warranty from the seller. It provides financial protection for the seller and gives you one company to call for many fixes. These service plans usually last the first year free of charge to you, and then you have the ability to continue your membership on your own dime every year after. But do they save you time and money?
The first thing is to understand that a home warranty is for things that break, like a hot water heater. They don’t provide any preventative home maintenance services. This fact is essential to consider because, just like your car, you can often prevent future costly repairs (and hassles) simply by consistently maintaining your home. Repairs can eat up the biggest chunk of your time and money, but you can’t forget the time and money that goes into routine maintenance.
So, how does a home warranty work? In theory, it can be attractive and give homeowners peace of mind they have a resource for repairs. Something breaks, you call your home warranty provider, they check your contract terms and claim, and schedule a service company to do the repair. Sounds great, but the actual homeowner experience? Let’s just say there’s a lot of small print.
Investopedia says of home warranty memberships, “The improper maintenance clause to warranties can mean the new homeowner isn’t really protected if something goes wrong and the previous owner hadn’t maintained the system properly. The homeowner may have little or no say in the model or brand of a replacement component, or may not like the job the company-designated contractor does.”
Some home warranty companies have better reputations than others, but no matter which one you choose, you can expect to pay between $500 to $700 annually to be a member and around $150 per service call, depending on your plan type. You’ll still have random service people doing the work and will have to wait, particularly as the home warranty company processes your claim. You may also have to pay for labor and won’t be able to select the parts or brands used. It’s in the home warranty service company’s best financial interest to choose the least expensive replacement parts and appliances, even if that means they are of the lowest quality.
If you choose to go this route, be sure you read your contract carefully before you make a claim. Home warranty contracts are notorious for having complicated terms and conditions that are intended to negate your coverage in a wide range of scenarios.
What Is Considered Routine Maintenance on a Home?
Let’s talk about that routine home maintenance. Routine maintenance is often preventative – those seemingly never-ending tasks that keep your home and things in it humming. Here are just a few chores that need tending to on a regular basis:
- Testing and replacing smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector batteries
- Replacing AC filters
- Replace water filter in refrigerator
- Clean refrigerator condenser coils
- Vacuum lint out of dryer and outtake vent
- Unclog slow or blocked drains
- Clean and sanitize dishwasher drain and filter
- Flush sediment out of water heater
By tending to these little tasks throughout the year, you can save all kinds of money and hassles later on down the road. For instance, failure to regularly replace AC filters not only results in dirty air and higher energy bills, but they can destroy your HVAC.
HVAC.com says, “When air filters are not consistently changed, they get clogged by the buildup of particles and contaminants that stick to the filter. While the filter is designed to accommodate these minuscule items, the buildup creates an almost impenetrable barrier so that the air cannot completely flow through, which can ultimately cause multiple problems for the entire HVAC system.”
It seems that when it comes to home maintenance, the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies.
Home Maintenance Membership: A Better Approach
All of this isn’t to discourage you. Homeownership can be wonderful, but the maintenance and repair responsibilities don’t have to be such a pain. Today, you have more options, namely, a home maintenance membership.
Home maintenance membership is an innovative approach to home maintenance. For around $40 per month (less than a home warranty membership), you are assigned a neighborhood home manager who basically takes over all of your preventive maintenance and repairs so you can do other things.
Preventive maintenance is typically included in membership fees, and repairs will run you about $40 per hour plus the cost of parts. The best home maintenance membership companies do not upcharge their parts, offering you wholesale prices they pay. They’ll also replace appliances with whichever brand appliance you want.
The best part for many is that the same person comes to your home every time, whether it’s to perform the bi-annual preventive maintenance services or to repair an appliance or something else in your home. They get to know you and your home, and you get to know them. They’re your personal, concierge handyman who can fix just about anything, with no contracts or fine print to worry about. And those annoying service windows? Your home manager schedules their appointments at precise times, often a week out for general tasks and same or next business day for emergencies.
But what about larger projects? Partner with a company like PreFix, and your membership includes the expert coordination of the project with a pre-vetted contractor, specializing in what you need.
What Can a Home Manager Do?
Your home manager is highly trained and knowledgeable on most appliances and repairs. If something requires more specialized skills, they’ll find a specialist for you and manage the work.
Your home manager is there for repairs, but they’re also your eyes and ears throughout the year when they perform their bi-annual preventive maintenance service. They inspect your home and appliances to make sure everything is working properly, and if they spot something amiss, they’ll fix it right then or schedule a repair if they need more time or certain parts.
Beyond the house-wide inspection, they can make repairs on your dishwasher, refrigerator, washer/dryer, HVAC, plumbing, and light fixtures. They can perform regular handyman services so you don’t have to do them yourself or call another service provider to do it for you. They are your go-to for all things house-related.
While this type of service is innovative, its roots are established from the past, when homeowners had one person they called to do all of their home’s work. It’s a much more efficient way to maintain your home, and it can save you thousands of dollars in service call fees, high hourly labor costs, and parts upcharges. A home maintenance membership service is ideal for new or seasoned homeowners, busy families and seniors.
A More Organized Way to Maintain Your Home
These home maintenance memberships can come with a handy “home health report” that shows you all of the services your home manager provides over the years. Why would you need such a detailed record?
You can track your maintenance and repairs costs over time to get the true cost of your home’s maintenance. Over time, you can get a better sense of your average costs, enabling you to budget more accurately. You can also compare your costs to what you would have paid elsewhere, giving you peace of mind you are continuing to save money.
This maintenance record is also a powerful tool when you sell your home. You could potentially attract more buyers and sell for a higher price when you can prove how well you maintained your home and appliances.
Will Home Managers Replace Service Companies and Handyman Services?
Your home maintenance membership comes with your personal home manager, saving you time, costs and hassles. But does that mean you’ll never have to call a service company or use a handyman service?
Your home manager can work on just about any appliance and project, but as we said, if something is out of their scope of expertise, they’ll manage the specialists for you. You may never need to call a service specialist yourself again – or a handyman, for that matter.
You may also be able to eliminate other service membership fees, such as your bi-annual HVAC preventative service. Your home manager can diagnose AC issues, clean the condenser outtake, replace thermostats and even replace the entire HVAC. Streamlining your service providers can save you even more money and simplify home management considerably.
How to Get Started
Research home maintenance membership service providers in your area to determine how their program works, what’s included and the costs. Be sure to look at the fine print. Ideally, there won’t be any. Terms and conditions, pricing and services should all be straightforward and transparent.
Look also at whether they provide neighborhood home managers or if they send random service people each time. This personalization should be one of the biggest perks of a home membership, so don’t settle for a company that continually sends strangers to your home. Of course, make sure their home managers are skilled, deeply vetted, and reliable.
You will also want to verify how their costs break down. There will likely be a monthly or annual membership fee. Check to see if there are additional fees, such as service call fees and labor fees. Ask how they mark up their parts, if at all. They should be able to provide an accurate bill that breaks down their parts cost and what they are charging you.
Finally, determine how responsive your home manager will be. One of the benefits of membership should be getting your services within a reasonable amount of time without having to wait all day for your home manager to arrive. Important to ask how lead times are handled for general tasks, compared to home emergencies.
PreFix is a tech-enabled service that eliminates the hassles of home ownership, saving homeowners up to 50% off home maintenance costs. A home maintenance membership includes a fully trained, neighborhood Home Manager who performs seasonal preventive maintenance free of charge and makes repairs for a low hourly fee. For more information, go to www.prefixinc.com.