The True Cost of Home Maintenance
You purchased a home or maybe you’re thinking about it. Congratulations! Homeownership is a feat many people strive for and many are achieving. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that owner-occupied households in the U.S. were just under 83 million at last count, an increase of over 2 million over the same time the year prior. It appears that the pandemic drove many to make the leap from renting to owning.
Pew Research says, “The boom in the number of homeowners also boosted the homeownership rate. As of the fourth quarter of 2020, 65.8% of households own their homes, up from 65.1% a year earlier. This 0.7 percentage point increase in the homeownership rate is not the largest on record (the rate increased 0.9 percent from 1994 to 1995), but it is large nonetheless.”
And while homeownership is thought to evoke a sense of stability and happiness, CNBC reports on research that revealed perhaps that notion is wrong. It appears that, unlike renters, homeowners “derive significantly more pain from their house and home” because they have less time to spend on leisure activities. One survey found that the “hidden costs” of owning a home, such as repairs and basic maintenance, caught many homeowners off guard.
How much do those hidden costs add to? Another study found that homeowners spent an average of $6,649 annually on home improvements, and costs are only rising.
Is there any hope for homeowners to get the stability and happiness they assumed were part of the homeownership package? First, let’s take a closer look at the true cost of home maintenance.
Home Maintenance Costs
Since homeowners point to home maintenance costs as the wet rag on their dreams, let’s look at exactly what those costs go towards.
First, there’s the basic, routine maintenance every home requires. Whether you live in a mansion or a “quaint cottage,” as clever realtors like to describe the smallest of homes, you’ll have household chores to complete if you want your home to hold up over time.
Routine maintenance includes everything from mowing your lawn and replacing light bulbs to changing out AC filters and testing smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and changing out their batteries. Of course, there are some basic tasks many don’t even realize they should do, such as cleaning refrigerator coils and flushing sediment from their water heaters.
And while these seemingly simple to-dos may not take up much time per task, they add up – and they often require purchasing supplies and lugging around a ladder. The result? Many don’t do them as often as they should.
Routine maintenance that turns into hardly-ever maintenance leads to increased costs and hassles, things many homeowners don’t realize only add to their overall home maintenance costs. For instance, dirty AC filters and refrigerator coils cause the systems to break down prematurely.
Dirty air filters are the most common cause of heating and air conditioning system breakdowns. They also lead to an increase of up to 15% on your utility costs. According to Forbes, a new HVAC system can run anywhere from $5,000 for the cheapest option up to $10,000 for the most efficient system. So, while you may be able to save money on your system, you’ll end up paying more over time in energy costs with an inefficient system.
You may be thinking this is an easy fix: just replace your AC filters. And you’d be correct. But one study found that nearly 30% of Americans never change their air filters, and of those who do, 82% say they only change it periodically. People simply forget, or the hassles of doing it regularly outweigh the benefits.
Then there are repairs. The leaky faucets, running toilets, hole in the wall, and oven that doesn’t seem to hold the right temperature. While you may be able to tolerate the steady drip sound or can boost your oven temperature setting 25 degrees, what is the cost that comes with it?
Let’s go with the dripping faucet. While many factors determine the true cost of a leaky faucet, USGS estimates that even one leaking faucet dripping a drip per second adds up to over 2,000 gallons of wasted water annually – water you are paying for. It is literally money going down the drain. Then there’s the hidden damage a leaking faucet can cause, such as damage to the floor, cabinet, and walls that provide the perfect environment for mold and mildew.
Home repairs can seem endless, mostly because their necessity seems to pop up randomly. Homeowners often ignore them until there are so many to tend to, they finally concede and call a handyman or repair service.
How to Lower your Home Maintenance Costs
Some costs are unavoidable. Home maintenance costs are inherent with homeownership. But what are your options and is there a way to keep costs (and hassles) at a minimum?
The DIY Route
There are many things you can do to lower your home maintenance costs. The most obvious solution is to do as much of the work yourself as possible. You can mow your lawn versus paying someone else to do it, YouTube how to fix a leaking toilet, and set an alarm for replacing your AC filters every month.
But let’s be honest, most of us don’t have the time or all of the parts to do it all, at least not as regularly as we should. Things get missed or delayed. Or even more frustrating, we buy all the parts to fix our toilet, only to have a bigger issue pop up because we didn’t do it just right. Another trip to the hardware store, more money, another attempt.
Maybe it’s time to call a plumber.
The Service Company or Handyman Route
Fortunately, you’re not stuck doing all the repairs yourself. You can call a service company or handyman to do it for you, although you’ll likely still have to do the routine maintenance yourself. After all, few people call a repair service to change out their smoke detector batteries.
But if your issue is out of your scope and you prefer to leave it to the experts, a service company or handyman may be just the right fit. Typically, service companies specialize in particular projects and appliances, so you’ll need to get a list of referrals from friends and neighbors for your HVAC, kitchen appliances, plumbing, electrical work, painting, etc.
A handyman service will have its own list of items they can address, but most won’t fix appliances. They are usually more suited for those odd jobs, like fixing the hole in the wall or adjusting a door that won’t easily close.
A few cons to these services are that the companies almost always send different people each time, schedule weeks out, and ask you to block off four to eight hours on average for the service window. You’ll also likely pay a service fee just to get someone out, ranging from $50 to $150 per call, on top of the labor and parts fees.
Most companies upcharge their parts to build in more margin, so be sure you ask before you pay. You may be able to save money if you purchase the parts yourself and provide them to the repair person. Just be sure you know what they’ll need for the repair so you don’t purchase the wrong items and delay your repair.
Home maintenance memberships
A more innovative approach to home maintenance is with a membership with a company that takes care of your maintenance needs and repairs. Unlike a home warranty service that outsources projects to local providers and often excludes many of the repairs from eligible claims, a home maintenance membership provider has their own skilled service people and can fix just about anything without additional charges.
Since many are still unfamiliar with this concept, let’s take a deeper look.
First, the program assigns a neighborhood “home manager” to do all the work. You can expect the same person for every visit – whether it’s to perform the routine maintenance (typically twice a year) or to do repairs.
Secondly, you pay a monthly membership fee as you do with Netflix or any other subscription service to have access to this home manager. Your membership comes with the bi-annual preventative maintenance and you only pay $40 per hour for labor on repairs. There are no service fees.
Third, your home manager does not mark up parts. They charge you wholesale prices and line item them so you can see exactly what you’re paying for.
Finally, because your home manager is performing the bi-annual maintenance (for free), they often see signs of failure before there is an actual failure. Put another way, they notice things you may not and can fix them before they cause more costly damage.
Home maintenance memberships are less expensive than the membership and service fees associated with home warranty services. They’re also less expensive than service and handyman companies that charge service fees and parts markups. You only have to call one company for all of your fixes and get to know your home manager versus having strangers in and out of your home.
Interested in learning more about home maintenance memberships? PreFix is leading the industry in affordable, hassle-free home maintenance. No contracts and you can cancel at any time. Contact us before you pay another dime in home maintenance.