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How to better plan for home repairs

A plummer repairs a bathroom.
January 30, 2020

By Michelle Huffman

As a homeowner, you know home repairs are in your future. If it’s not roots in your pipes or a leak in the roof, it’s a busted hot water heater or a fridge on the fritz.

Having a home improvement plan is part of being a homeowner, so the financially sound thing to do is budget for them. But as you set your home improvement budget each month, you may wonder if you’re setting aside the right amount to plan for the year — and beyond. One year you may only spend a few hundred dollars on maintenance while the next year, you’re replacing your roof.

For starters, remember that some money set aside for home repairs is better than nothing. Experts suggest setting aside 1-3 percent of your home’s purchase price for maintenance and repairs and while that gives you a good benchmark to aim for, it really isn’t based on any actual repair costs. A brand new $400,000 home in a temperate climate probably won’t need up to $12,000 in repairs annually, and an 80-year-old $250,000 home that sits through extremely snowy winters may need significantly more work than the $2,500 to $7,500 benchmark indicates. Plus, the cost of materials and labor in Kansas is probably going to be less than southern California. So let’s take a look at the details.

Regular maintenance

Annual or semi-annual maintenance costs are those associated with the seasonal operation of your home. Diligently performing regular maintenance keeps your home running smoothly, can minimize or eliminate costly damages and even extend the life of your investment.

Among the most common maintenance projects:

  • Clearing gutters and downspouts
  • Inspecting and cleaning mechanicals
  • Changing air filters
  • Sealing cracks and gaps in windows and doors with caulk or weather stripping
  • Inspecting and clean fireplace
  • Checking roof and siding for signs of damage
  • Trimming back trees and bushes

Some of these projects can be done on your own, while others require the help of professionals. You typically need a licensed professional to tune up your mechanicals (like your hot water heater, HVAC system, sump pump), and we detail some average costs below, but because the costs vary widely depending on geographic area, the best way to budget for these is to locate professionals and find out what they charge, and get regular maintenance set up from the start.

There are also several known repair or replacement costs that every homeowner is bound to encounter. Having an idea of how much these items cost, and comparing them with the condition of your home and all its component parts, which you likely learned about through the home inspection, will give you a more complete home improvement plan dictating what you need to save for and how much time you may have to save for it.

Roof

Because a new roof is so costly, you will really have to push your home improvement budget to fund this cost in a short time frame. Instead, plan ahead. Consider the roof’s age (an approximate figure is typically provided by your home inspector at the time of purchase), compared to the total lifetime of your roof type and budget accordingly. For example, if your roof was replaced 10 years ago and has a 20-year lifetime, you can set aside a relatively small sum earmarked specifically for a new roof for the next five to 10 years.

Saving for this expense can help mitigate the impact to your overall budget, and hopefully, make you feel a little less depressed about parting with thousands and thousands of dollars on something as dull as a roof.

Average repair cost: $820*

Average replacement and installation cost: $5,200 - $10,100, though this varies widely by square footage, materials and location

Hot water heater

Like a roof, most appliances have a predictable lifespan; in the case of a hot water heater, it’s about a decade, give or take a few years. Typically, a hot water heater doesn’t need servicing, though you can check online for some easy DIY ways to safely maintain your equipment by checking the pressure and flushing the tank.

Average replacement and installation cost: $750 - $1,400

Heating/cooling

Your HVAC needs an annual cleaning and tune-up, if not a bi-annual appointment in the spring and fall. You may also need to replace filters regularly. Both of these costs can vary widely depending on where you live, so your best bet is to make some phone calls. Since this is a service you should engage regularly, you can easily figure out the price point and adjust over time.

Average repair cost: AC $160 - $540 / Furnace $130 - $450

Average replacement and installation cost:  AC about $5,000 / Furnace about $4,000

Appliances

Your appliances may also wear out and need repair or replacement during your tenure in the home. The longer you stay, the more likely this is, but it all depends on the condition of the appliances when you move in. Homeowners report that the average cost for appliance repair is $170 and most spend between about $100 and $230. Replacement costs vary widely depending on the kind of unit you desire. Here are some basic repair costs:

Fridge: an average cost of between $200 and $400.

Washer: Depending on what you need fixed, repairs will most likely cost between $120 and $500.

Dryer: The average cost to repair a dryer generally runs between $100 and $400.

Smaller appliances (microwaves, dishwashers): $100 to $200

Plumbing and electric

At some point, you will need a plumber and although the cost is highly dependent on the project, bear in mind that the typical costs range from $175 to $450 for a standard job with the average cost per hour ranging from $45 to $200. Think jobs like repairing faucets, toilets, sinks or bathtubs. Electric work is similar, with the average cost to hire an electrician just over $300 and the hourly rate from $50 to $100.

While these costs give you insight into the specifics and can help you plan better, remember that there will always be *something* that comes up, so ensuring you save at least a certain percentage of your monthly income for home repairs in a base home repair savings account is essential. If you want to ensure your earmarking the right amount, open a supplemental savings account just for home repairs, so you won’t be tempted to dip into it for other things.


All average cost figures were calculated using HomeAdvisor’s annually updated average costs. Real costs vary significantly by location, type of materials and cost of labor.

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