Home Maintenance: 5 Simple Tips to Avoid Expensive Fixes Down the Road

Photo of a man on a ladder cleaning eavestroughs.

Staying on top of home maintenance is important. In fact, some experts suggest budgeting at least 1 percent of the home’s current value annually for regular home maintenance. That figure could rise depending on the age, location, and previous maintenance activity of the home.

So what’s the difference between home maintenance and renovations, and why should you spend money on it?

Here’s what you need to know.

Home Maintenance or Home Renovations?

Home maintenance and home renovations are not the same things.  Although investing in regular home maintenance could reduce the cost of home repairs and renovations down the road. 

Home maintenance refers to regular upkeep, such as cleaning rain gutters, trimming tree branches and shrubs, and replacing furnace filters. It also refers to longer-term, higher cost maintenance activities such as replacing a roof or worn out carpeting.

Home renovations are generally much bigger jobs with bigger price tags. Popular home renovations include replacing entire kitchens and bathrooms, including cabinets, appliances, flooring, and sometimes moving plumbing fixtures.


Why Regular Maintenance is So Important for Homeowners

Home maintenance is important for all homeowners, regardless of your future plans.

Is this your “forever” home? Taking care of home maintenance chores can help prevent small cracks or leaks from developing into larger and more expensive problems. If you plan to sell your home in the near (or even not-so-near) future, evidence of regular home maintenance shows buyers the house has been well cared for.

Regular home maintenance also has an impact on your home equity. Home equity is the difference between the market value of your home (the amount it could currently sell for) and the amount you owe on it - your mortgage. Your home equity increases as the market value of your home increases and your mortgage balance decreases.

A well-maintained home will have a higher market or property value than one which hasn’t been properly cared for.

How to Budget and Save for Home Maintenance Repairs

There are at least two popular methods to calculate your home maintenance budget, the “One-Percent Rule” or the “Square Foot” Rule.

The One Percent Rule of Budgeting for Home Maintenance

To use the One Percent Rule, calculate 1 percent of your home’s value, divide it by 12, and add that amount to a “Home Maintenance” category in your regular monthly household budget.

For example, if your current home value is $600,000, you’ll add $500 to your monthly budget ($600,000 x 1 percent = $6,000/12 = $500).

The Square Foot Rule of Budgeting for Home Maintenance

The Square Foot Rule is even simpler. Just calculate one dollar for each square foot. So if you own a 2400 square foot home, budget $2400 annually, or $200 monthly. 

Whichever method you prefer to use, keep in mind that upkeep for older homes or those which haven’t been well-maintained in the past may cost more.

Now, this does NOT mean you must spend $500 or $300 each month. Instead, set up a savings account for home maintenance. Then when it’s time for more expensive projects, such as a roof replacement, you’ll have savings to help pay for it. If, however, your home maintenance savings account is a little short, talk to your lender about a Home Equity Credit Line.