Are you a homeowner? If so, how much do you budget each month for housing expenses? HINT: it should exceed the amount of your monthly mortgage payment.
The responsible homeowner budgets for home maintenance expenses and anticipates future repair expenses. That’s the best way to protect your investment and ensure a safe, comfortable living space.
How much should you budget each month to keep your home in good condition? That depends on the value of your home. The experts at our consumer credit counseling service (CCCS), Clearpoint, typically recommend setting aside at least one percent of your home’s value annually for maintenance/repairs.
Routine Maintenance: Inside and Out
It’s best to try to do a few home maintenance tasks every month. If you ignore a small problem today, it could escalate into a large, expensive project later on.
Here is a schedule to guide you through the seasons and find ways to save along the way:
Inside: Replace or clean your heating/cooling air filter each month, as needed. Have your furnace inspected and serviced by a qualified technician. Re-caulk around your tubs, showers, sinks and toilet bases, as needed. Check for leakage below every plumbing fixture. Remove and clean drain traps under sinks. Clean the exhaust hood above your range. Remove the grills and vacuum dust from vents, cold-air returns and baseboard heaters. Test your smoke alarms and replace old batteries.
Outside: Turn off and drain all exterior water faucets and hoses before the first freeze. Safely remove the gas from your lawn mower before storing it for the winter. Clean gutters and downspouts. Ensure downspouts are secure and functioning properly. Replace worn or damaged weather-stripping around your doors and windows and re-caulk if needed. Switch your window screens to storm windows. Trim tree branches and shrubs close to the house. Check your foundation for expanding dampness, cracks or signs of movement and call in an expert if you detect any.
Inside: Replace or clean your heating/cooling air filter each month, as needed. Clean your humidifiers monthly during the winter. Insulate any exposed pipes in your attic and crawl spaces. Show family members where the main shut-off valves are located for your home plumbing, heating and electrical systems. Vacuum the condenser coils under your fridge and clean the drip pans. Check around the washing machine, fridge and dishwasher for leaks and replace worn hoses. Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and space under the dryer. Inspect electrical outlets for frayed wires or loose-fitting plugs. Check pressure and expiration dates on fire extinguishers; purchase new ones, if needed. Clean the drains in sinks and tubs and vacuum the bathroom fan grills.
Outside: If you have a fireplace, check the chimney flue for obstructions. Have your chimney cleaned every two years. Make certain that snow and ice removal equipment is handy to keep your driveway and walkways clear and safe. Follow electrical safety recommendations when hanging holiday decorations outside your house.
Inside: Replace or clean your heating/cooling air filter each month, as needed. Have your air conditioning system inspected by a professional. Check your water heater for leaks and corrosion. After heavy rains, examine your attic, crawl spaces and basement floors, walls and corners for damp spots and address any moisture issues right away. Check your bathroom areas for signs of mold and clean surface areas. Call a professional expert if your mold problem appears to be extensive. If you have a sump pump, test it regularly throughout the rainy season. Also, make certain that your electrical appliances are protected from power surges and lightning.
Outside: Clean gutters and downspouts. Check to see if your siding, chimney, or roof sustained any damage during the winter. Replace missing shingles immediately. Look for evidence of rotting in wood window frames. Paint and repair windowsills and frames as necessary. Inspect the exterior walls and foundation for cracking or damaged bricks or mortar, and fill gaps as needed. Examine decks, porches, fences, walkways and driveway for safety hazards or deterioration and make necessary repairs. Remove any piles of wood or soil from around the perimeter of your home and place at least 30 feet from the house. When gardening or landscaping, set plantings away from the foundation. Clean all windows, screens and hardware and repair screens as needed. Fill and seal any driveway cracks.
Inside: Replace or clean your heating/cooling air filter each month, as needed. Check toilets for condition of plastic floater valves and secure pipe connections. Replace cracked or bulging washing machine hoses. Clean the dryer lint screen, the exhaust and the space under the dryer. Repair or replace leaky faucets and showerheads. Examine your home’s electrical panels, writing and electrical components for signs of overheating. Clear your refrigerator drip pans and vacuum the coils underneath. Deep clean your carpets and rugs. Lubricate all door hinges (Including garage door hardware). Consider purchasing a dehumidifier if your basement is humid.
Outside: If your home is in a termite-prone area, have it inspected by a licensed pest control expert. Clean and seal your wooden deck. Hose down the house exterior and wash away any grime. Walk your property line to check on the condition of your fences and note how your exterior paint job is holding up. Minor touch-ups can prevent future damage from harsh weather conditions. Make certain lawn sprinklers don’t hit the house siding or areas near the foundation.
If Your Home Needs Repair
Even with routine maintenance, you’re bound to face a major repair job from time to time. If you are a do-it-yourself person, consider whether you have the time and talents to do the job properly. You may want to take a class at a local vocational school, community college or home supply store.
If you need to hire a pro, these tips from our Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) agency can help assure that your home repair project goes smoothly.
- Always select services from among well-established, licensed contractors who have submitted written, fixed-price bids for the needed work.
- Don’t automatically pick the lowest bid; reputation is important. To find out if a contractor is trustworthy, check with the Better Business Bureau, local consumer protection office or your State Attorney General’s office.
- Check references and talk to people for whom the contractor has done work.
- Do not sign a contract that requires full payment before satisfactory completion of the work.
Avoid contractors who insist on arranging financing for you, or who demand a lien on your property. The thriftiest way to finance repairs is to draw from your savings account.
If you need assistance on effective budgeting and ways to save money, you may want to seek the assistance of a reputable credit counseling agency, like our CCCS agency, Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions. We have trained counselors that can also work with you to address financial challenges. Whether you need debt management assistance or educational materials, our counselors can help you determine the best plan to reach your financial goals.
For a free budget and credit counseling session, call toll-free, 1.877.412.2227 (CCCS), or get started online now.