The cost of everything is rising, and it appears that home maintenance expenses are no exception. In fact, according to a recent report, it now costs, on average, $6,548 a year to maintain a single family home.
In a previous article, we revealed that on average, homeowners can expect to pay $14,155 a year, or $1,180 a month, in hidden costs related to owning a home. This estimate includes changes in property taxes and utilities — as well as maintenance costs.
However, new data from the Thumbtack Home Care Price Index reveals that from the third quarter of 2022 to the third quarter of 2023, average maintenance costs increased by $400 (from $6,146 to $6,548). And although the rise in costs has slowed, Thumbtack’s economist, Jack Erb, tells us that it has still reached an all-time high.
Factors Fueling The Increase in Maintenance Costs
“There are a number of factors that have contributed to rising home maintenance costs,” Erb explains. “Inflation has increased the overall cost of goods and services, while ongoing labor and material shortages have also driven up the price.” And compared to last year, he says annual costs have increased in 12 out of the 17 home maintenance categories:
“Also, just less than half of owner-occupied homes were built before 1980, and around 35% were built before 1970,” Erb says. “With demand for new builds outpacing supply, proactive home maintenance and upkeep have never been more important for homeowners.”
Ways To Keep Maintenance Costs Down
Being proactive is always better than trying to react and play catchup when repairs will be more extensive and expensive. “Like the body’s circulatory system, proactive home maintenance ensures longevity and lower costs,” Eby says. He recommends that you start by tending to the home’s heart — your mechanical room. “Regularly change HVAC filters and keep water systems clean, much like monitoring cholesterol levels.”
Next, Eby says you should move on to the home’s framework. “Clean windows and gutters, inspect your roof for leaks, and check for paint wear and foundation issues.” Water damage and structural issues can wreak havoc on your home, so don’t push maintenance down the road.
“Finally, maintain your home’s appearance and health by attending to landscaping and finishes,” Erb says. This contributes to curb appeal, and also makes sure your home can withstand the elements and the invading critters who like to hide in upkept areas.
Planning for Home Maintenance and Repairs
Home maintenance is also something that homebuyers should consider when choosing a house, and failing to do so is a typical first-time home buyer mistake. If Thumbtack’s most recent estimate holds steady, $6,548 in yearly maintenance costs amounts to $32,740 in five years, and $65,480 in 10 years. Admittedly, you shouldn’t need to repair a roof, stain a deck, or have a tree trimmed or removed every year. However, some of the costs, such as window cleaning, carpet cleaning, pressure washing, lawn care, and appliance repair, are ongoing costs.
“It is so important for buyers to not spend too much on a house because there are many costs associated with the monthly, quarterly, and annual maintenance of a home,” says Candice Williams, realtor at Coldwell Banker Realty in Houston. “It’s very common for buyers to try to find a home at the higher end of their budget, but don’t factor in they risk living paycheck to paycheck to pay the mortgage and other expenses.”
And even when buyers predict that they will have enough money to cover everything, Williams recommends creating a buffer. “Life, and particularly the economy, can be unpredictable,” she warns. “For example, no one could have predicted that millions of people would be unemployed because businesses had to shut down during stay-at-home orders.”
For both present and future homebuyers, the importance of properly planning for both expected and unexpected maintenance and home repairs cannot be overstated. “Budgeting for unexpected home maintenance repairs could be the difference between providing a smooth remedy or one that could cause more disaster in the home,” says Jason Gelios, a realtor serving the Southeast Michigan market.
“Considering the average cost to fix a furnace is between $150 and $500, with a total replacement cost anywhere between $5,000 to $8,000, not having the money set aside or resources to fix the issue could cause additional damage in the home and further financial woes,” he explains.
And if you don’t save up enough for maintenance, Gelios warns that it could end up costing you more in the long run. For example, if you don’t handle missing shingles and rotting vent boots on your roof, as well as clogged gutters, these small problems can lead to substantial roof damage, which will cost significantly more to fix.
“Maintaining a home should be a top priority for every homeowner because you never know when something could go bad,” Gelios says. “And homeowners should apply regular maintenance to their home to not only reduce the chance of a big surprise issue, but also to extend the life of the home.”