If you’re in the process of buying your first home, you probably already know that you have to save for a down payment, put money aside for furniture, and fund an escrow account. However, there are many other expenses that you may not have considered. One of these is the cost of home repair and maintenance. Popular money blog Generation X Finance explains that “unexpected expenses that can really put a hurt on your budget if they aren’t accounted for.”
Before we get into specifics, let’s talk about ways you can protect yourself from overspending. First, maintain your home. This means having your major systems serviced annually, cleaning, painting, and repairing issues on the exterior as they arise, and treating your home and appliances with respect. You also have to be on the lookout for less-than-honest contractors who might dupe you into paying for repairs you don’t really need or, worse, cause damage to your property that they can conveniently fix for the “low price” of X extra dollars. Before bringing any repair professional into your home, do your research. Look online for reviews, and interview at least three service providers for each new home repair or improvement project.
How Much Do I Need?
No universal dollar amount is guaranteed to cover all of your unexpected home repairs. However, it is generally accepted that you should put aside approximately 2 to 4 percent of your home’s value specifically for this purpose. For example, if your home is valued at $350,000, plan to have at least $7,000 stashed away. And remember, your homeowner’s insurance won’t cover issues related to general wear and tear or negligence.
Perhaps one of the most expensive home repairs you’ll encounter is installing a new roof. If you have plain asphalt shingles, you may be able to get away with adding a second layer if the underlying structure is in good shape. Eventually, however, you’ll have to do a complete replacement, and that can cost $10,000 or more. If your roof has missing shingles, damaged flashing, or you can see visible evidence of flooding, such as discolored or water-stained walls, you may need a new roof sooner rather than later.
Your HVAC unit is another significant expense that can range from about $3,700 to $15,000 depending on the size of your home and type of system you need. Hyde’s Air Conditioning, a California-based HVAC company founded in 1972, explains that even a well-maintained air conditioner will only last approximately 15 years. If yours is more than 10 years old or doesn’t keep your home comfortable from season to season, it may be time for a replacement.
Your electrical panel is, fortunately, something you can expect to last for many decades. However, they are not without faults, and an upgrade may be necessary if the home has been added onto or if you notice signs of faulty wiring, such as discolored power outlets, flickering lights, or a burning smell. A new 200-amp electrical panel costs between $1,300 and $3,000.
The plumbing system is another moving part that may require periodic repairs. Leaky faucets, clogged toilets, and busted pipes can cost hundreds of dollars each incident. If you have to replace your hot water heater, you can expect a bill of up to $1,500 depending on the type and size of the unit you need. More extensive repairs, such as replacing your incoming water pipes or outgoing mainline, can cost as much as a small car.
Don’t let unexpected expenses turn your dream home into a nightmare. Plan ahead for major repairs, and take your time when choosing a contractor. Your situation may be urgent, but you’ll be in far worse shape if you make a rash decision now.
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