costs of deferred maintenance

Don’t you find it odd that so many people take better care of their cars than they do their homes? While maintaining your automobile is important, your home is far more valuable and an investment equally worth protecting.

Sadly, most problems in a home didn’t happen overnight but started out small and, neglected over time, reached the point where the price to repair them became quite costly. These are homes that suffer from what real estate experts call “deferred maintenance,” and they sell for far less than well-maintained homes.

Not only does deferred maintenance drag down the value of a home (by up to 10 percent, according to the folks at House Logic), but it may cause health and safety issues as well. So, even if you aren’t planning on selling the home for years, it’s important to get on a maintenance schedule and stick to it.

It’s mainly about water

“Water causes more damage to homes than any other single deferred maintenance issue,” according to Handyman Hub in Denver. As evidence, they explain how repairing a leaky wax ring around a toilet, if caught early, costs less than $100.

Allow the repair to wait, however, and the cost of repair can balloon to thousands, and may include pulling up the toilet and possibly the vanity, the floorcovering and then replacing the subfloor, all the while crossing your fingers that the joists aren’t water damaged as well.

Frank Lesh, former president of the American Society of Home Inspectors tells House Logic how cracked caulk around a window, which costs less than $4 to repair, can quckly blossom into a $5,000 repair bill if moisture seeps into the sheathing causing rot and mold.

The moral of these stories? If anything on or in the home can be damaged by water, inspect it as often as possible.

Make a schedule

Most home maintenance experts agree that regularly inspecting the home is the key to finding small problems before they swell into huge ones. Once your inspections become habit you won’t need to worry about remembering to do them. Until then, make a schedule and stick to it. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers an excellent schedule on its website.

The most important home systems to maintain are the ones that cost the most to replace or repair. For example, roofing contractors suggest that you perform a routine roof inspection twice a year: at the beginning of spring and again in early fall. This may seem like a lot of time spent on just one aspect of the home, but when you consider that a new roof may cost you up to $15,000 it’s worth it to take the time to inspect it.

While you’re up there, clean out the gutters and downspout to make sure that water is directed away from the home. This multi-tasking on home maintenance chores will save you time as well as money.

Then there are tasks that need to be performed more often, such as changing the HVAC filter and dropping a few ice cubes into the garbage disposer to clean the blades (monthly).

Annual projects include checking sealants and caulking (important to prevent water damage) and checking the water heater for leaks. Again, HUD’s home maintenance schedule is a good resource.

While some repairs required to keep the home maintained require the services of a professional, the DIY enthusiast will be pleased to know that lots of them are easy and inexpensive DIY projects.

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