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The True Cost of Maintaining Your Home

One of the biggest unknowns for many homeowners and potential homeowners is the real cost of maintaining a home. There are all kinds of expenses when you own a home, and it’s wise to plan for them in advance so that you’re not scrambling for money when something comes up. And trust me, there are many of those times when you’re a homeowner.

Conventional Rules About How Much to Set Aside

A frequently given rule of thumb is that you should set aside 1% of your home’s value every year to be used for maintenance. If you have a $300,000 home, that’s $3,000 set aside each year, or $250 every month.

Another commonly cited rule is to save a dollar per square foot annually. So if you have a 2,000 square-foot home, you should save $2,000 a year, or about $166 a month.

These aren’t bad guidelines, actually. Setting aside 1% of your home’s value or $1 per square foot is a really good idea, and if you don’t want to bother with anything else, you should at least do that.

But in some circumstances, these amounts may not be nearly enough. In other circumstances, it may be more than you need. Let’s take a look.

Old Homes

If your home is older, you’re likely to need more money than these guidelines indicate. The older the home, the more you should probably set aside. Nature catches up to even the most solidly built homes.

Older homes are more likely to have severe problems with mold, plumbing, the foundation, and the electrical system, and these are all problems that can cost thousands of dollars to fix.

Luxury Homes

If you own a luxury home, you’re going to want to plan on spending more than either guideline suggests.

Luxury homes are made with high-end and often custom materials, so replacing them or repairing them is inevitably going to cost a whole lot more. If you’re cutting into custom marble ordered from Italy, for instance, you’re going to be spending a lot to replace it.

Expensive Parts of the Country

In expensive parts of the country, the land is a large portion of the cost of the home. If you’re in California, you may spend $900,000 on a modest family home that’s comparable to a $150,000 home in rural Kansas. However, maintenance costs are likely to be fairly similar.

Another Way to Budget for Home Expenses

If you want to have a more accurate picture of what you’re likely to spend on home maintenance in coming months and years, you should:

  1. Look at periodic home maintenance that you know needs to be done
  2. Look at the components of the home and guesstimate when they’ll need replacing
  3. Add a buffer for unexpected emergencies

Thinking about these things can help you have a good idea of how much you might need to save for home maintenance.

Typical Home Maintenance Expenses

There are certain home maintenance expenses you can count on like clockwork. Here’s a quick list of those expenses and what you can expect to pay for the average home (varies depending on what part of the country you’re in).

Servicing HVAC Systems

HVAC systems need maintenance to stay performing optimally for as long as possible. Filters should be replaced quarterly ($5 to $20) and both the air conditioning and the furnace should be serviced yearly (around $100 to $150 apiece).

Pest Control

If you live in an area with termites or other destructive insects, regular pest control is a good idea. (Varies widely depending on type of pest and frequency)

Yard Maintenance

You probably need to fertilize, aerate, and maintain your lawn on a yearly basis. Much of this can be done yourself for a minimal cost if you want to. (Varies depending on frequency and your lawn’s needs)

Fireplace Cleaning

Dirty fireplaces can damage the chimney and reroute smoke back into your home. This job costs around $200 to $300.

Power Washing Your House

Homes get all kinds of grime on the outside. Yearly power washing will keep it in tip-top shape (around $200).

Gutter Cleaning

Don’t neglect your gutters! Full gutters inhibit the flow of water and can damage your roof and encourage pests. Professional cleaning is around $150.

Garage Door Tune-Up

An annual garage door tune-up keeps it operating safely and quietly. This job costs $100 to $150.

For a complete list of home maintenance tasks you should do (many are ones that you don’t need to hire out), don’t miss this list.

Typical Replacement Times for Home Components

The National Association of Home Builders did this great study about the life expectancy for major parts of your home. When you know when something is likely to need replacing, it’s a lot easier to plan for it. Here are some of the highlights, but you should check out the full report for more details.


Electrical System


HVAC System

Water Heater



A Note About Home Emergencies

You can plan as well as you like, but there will always be unexpected home emergencies that nobody could have foreseen. Your toddler may flush a shoe down the toilet and causes a flood in your bathroom. Someone may hit a baseball through your large front window.

Setting aside a buffer of money for these unplanned expenses is really smart. It will alleviate some stress is an emergency situation and make it easier to cope with whatever is going on with your home.

There’s no guideline for how much to set aside for such expenses, so just choose an amount you feel comfortable with. Remember, anything is much better than nothing.

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