December 1, 2008

What does home maintenance really cost?

Exactly how much it costs to maintain a home is a pretty vague thing. Every home is different so the number will vary a lot. A brand new home should not cost anywhere near as much to maintain as a run down home built 100 years ago. So getting a generic number for home maintenance costs is not realistic. However when you're buying a home you should at least have some sort of ballpark idea of what maintenance costs will be. How can you figure a ballpark estimate of annual home maintenance costs?

I've seen sources cite rule of thumbs for figuring maintenance. This page from Coldwell Banker says: " The recommendations for annual maintenance costs range from 1.5 to 4 percent of the home's original cost." The Housemaster website says: "HouseMaster estimates that homeowners should spend between 1 to 3% of the value of your home on annual home maintenance and repairs." But these are both just rough ballpark estimates. The ranges are 1-4%. For an home worth $200k that would be $2000 to $8000 per year. This is much higher than what I've actually spent myself. But this broad range might reflect the wide differences between new and old homes and between well maintained or run down homes.

I can look at my own experiences. Personally my home has not cost much to maintain. The house was built around 25 years ago and is in pretty good shape. I did have a major expense a couple years ago when the water main to my house had a leak. That was my responsibility to fix and it cost about $1500. I also had to paint the exterior of my house but I did it myself and it cost about $500 including materials and tools. I've fixed a few minor things over the years and maybe ran up another $200 max in parts. I recently paid $350 to get some tree trimming work done. Over 10 years I've spent about $2550 total for roughly $255 a year. I'm going to have to put on a new roof before too long so that will run a few thousand.

The Census report on American Housing Survey for 2005 says on page 82 that the median expenditure for routine maintenance was $27 per month for home owners. Thats $324 per year for the median home. Routine maintenance covers: " painting; papering; floor sanding; restoring of shingles; fixing water pipes; replacing parts of large equipment, such as a furnace; repairing fences, gutters, sidewalks, decks or patios; removing dangerous trees; or termite inspection."

The total cost of replacing everything: One more way to look at home maintenance is to figure the cost to replace everything in the home after its typical life cycle. For example your fridge might last 20 years and you'd have to replace it so the cost of maintaining a fridge annually is purchase price / 20.

Using the cost estimator at Improvenet, I figured that a new roof will run $4000 to $9000 for a 1500 square foot house. The roof will last 20 years so thats $200 to $450 a year. Costhelper estimates that painting a home will cost anywhere from $500 to $5000 depending on if you do the work yourself and what kind of paint job you get. The medium figure was $1500 to $3000. A paint job should last 10-20 years so thats another $75 to $300 a year. You may need to completely replace your major appliances in 20 years. On average that will cost you roughly $400 for a water heater, $2000 for kitchen appliances and maybe $4000 for a new furnace. So thats $6400 total every 20 years or $320 a year.

You could replace your roof, repaint and replace your appliances for about $595-$1,070 per year ballpark. This doesn't count repairs to electric or plumbing systems or air conditioning.

So that gives us a few different numbers:
Rule of thumb : $2000 - $8000
What I've spent : $255
Census data : $325
Replacement costs : $595 - $1070

One thing to keep in mind is that my own expenses have been low since I've done most of the work myself. The Census data doesn't include all home repairs or replacement of appliances as far as I can see. So those two figures are lower than the total real maintenance costs.

I'd say that overall the total maintenance costs could range anywhere from $500 to $8000 for a median value home. Its impossible to get more specific than this unless you know the details for the home. The amount is really dependent on the home itself and theres no easy way to figure the costs.

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