How to Budget for Home Maintenance Costs

How to Budget for Home Maintenance Costs

Home maintenance costs are some of the most common surprises for first-time home buyers. When they contemplate whether or not they can afford a new home, they typically consider one thing:

If they have enough money for the monthly mortgage payment, which normally includes taxes and insurance

Unfortunately, most people fail to add money to their monthly payment estimate to cover maintenance.

They forget about basics like landscaping, HVAC annual service, minor repairs and gutter cleaning. Never mind remembering to budget for painting, replacing the windows, fixing or replacing the roof or buying new appliances. It’s important to figure maintenance costs into your monthly expenses so you can save that money for home maintenance expenses before you need to pay for them.

So, what’s the magic dollar amount you should set aside for keeping up your home each year? It depends.

It depends on a few variables such as how long ago the house was built. If it’s a newer house i.e., 10 years old or less, your maintenance costs should be lower than a house that’s 25 years old. But how do you really know?

How to Calculate an Estimate for Annual Home Maintenance

There are many “rules of thumb” you can use to estimate a budget for unexpected home repairs.

One recommendation is to set aside between 1 and 4% of the purchase price of your home each year. 1% is fine if your house is new. Older homes should plan about 4%.

For our clients, we take the insurance replacement cost of your home and divide it by 40 if you have a newer home. If your home is older, divide by 30. While it’s not an exact science (none of them are), your answer will provide you with an estimate that you can use for budgeting purposes.

Another way to estimate home maintenance costs is to mimic the commercial lender’s processes.  When you apply for a commercial property loan, you need to show you either have five percent of the sticker price already set aside, or you’re planning to put that money aside for the property’s maintenance on an annual basis.

Let’s say after doing the math from any of the above calculations you find the average annual maintenance cost for your home is approximately ten thousand dollars. That’s a lot of money you may not expect to spend each year. Where will you find this money when the time comes?

Some folks will resort to taking money from their 401(k) plans or their kids’ 529 plans. And we know this is a terrible idea!

Ideas to Free Up Money and Save for Home Maintenance Costs

No matter how you calculate the estimate, it’s important to make a conscious effort to save, monthly. Otherwise, you’ll forget about these expenses. Then, when you’re hit with having to install a new roof, you won’t have the money readily available to pay for it.

If you are a first-time home buyer, it may be beneficial to establish a bank account solely for maintenance and upkeep. Remember the phrase “saving money for a rainy day”? Home maintenance is one of those rainy days. Having money in an account you don’t touch except for home maintenance is a very good idea!

If you’ve been in your home for a while and this makes sense for your lifestyle, another idea to free up money for home maintenance costs is to downsize earlier rather than wait until you retire. Downsizing cuts your maintenance upkeep, monthly mortgage payment, property taxes, costs of heating/cooling your home, etc.

For example, if you downsize to a fifteen hundred square foot house from a three thousand square foot house and invest the money saved over a 20 year period, it could amount to three to four hundred thousand dollars. Imagine what that sizable chunk of money could do for your retirement savings.

If you can start the process when the kids go to college, you could be in a smaller, less expensive to maintain home at least 10 years sooner than if you wait until 65 to move. And for most, it is easier to change when you are younger. The older you get, the more set in your ways you become, making it that much harder to move.

Hopefully, you’ll heed this advice and add home maintenance costs to your monthly budget. It will save you a lot of financial heartache in the future!

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