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.


  1. I have a web site ( that provides customers with a personalized monthly to do list for the items they own. Subscribers receive a questionnaire with over 400 items. They check the items that apply and we send them their to do list for those items each month. Activities range anywhere from monthly to every 25 years. Besides the things you might expect like your home, yard, and auto, I’ve included health, finances, and more. If you have a chance to look at it I’d appreciate any comments you might have.

  2. Nice web site but I think you're WAY off on this one. Don't ask a REALTOR how much homes cost to maintain, and your house sounds like a maintenance time bomb - really, you haven't swapped out any carpets in 25 years? How's your furnace? Kitchen? Bathrooms? Siding, roofing, lighting, driveway paving? Chimney, septic, windows? It's probably easier to list the very few things that last 40 to 50 years than list what needs to be replaced.

  3. Jeff, My carpet is about 12 years old now since it was new when I got the home. The rest of the home is in perfectly good shape. You shoudl really not need to replace every part of a home in 25 years. We will need roofing in about 5 years. We could certainly remodel the kitchen at some point.

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  5. Jeff, the guy said the house is 25 years old, not that he has lived there for 25 years. Also, later he says he has lived there for about 10 years. Reading, it is a beautiful thing. How often do you replace carpets? If you take care of them and don't have annoying pets running around they could last a really long time. As for this guy's maintenance costs over the years they are pretty normal people. I mean look at the Census information. He spent like $100 less than the average person. Had he had professionals paint his house his average maintenance costs per year would be right at the normal level if not slightly higher. The only people I know who spend thousands a year in maintenance costs are people who went through a natural disaster. i.e. flood, tornado, hurricane, etc. If you're a fool and don't have your house inspected by a reliable home inspector you're a fool. 9 times out of ten they find something wrong and the current owner has to either fix it out of their pocket or reduce the selling price and you can take care of it yourself. So if the inspector finds a bad furnace or water heater the repair will be done by the current owner meaning you'll have a brand new furnace/water heater when you move in. OR you'll get the house for cheaper and if you shop around you can find a service that will replace it at a cheaper cost meaning you save money on the purchase and the repair..... win-win. Then you should be good for several years with a new water heater or furnace or any other number of things that might need to be replaced. For purchasing an old home I highly suggest to tell the inspector to thoroughly check the wiring and plumbing. I'm talking looking at every visible pipe and wire possible, even taking off utility covers and checking the connections. On bad wiring connection not to current code more than likely means there are more and the whole house might need to be rewired. For plumbing have him check for cracks, leaks, rust, calcium buildup, etc. All of these could lead to serious problems. Also, follow the inspector when he inspects the house if at all possible. Don't be over his shoulder but follow him/her and double check everything he/she is checking to make sure they aren't half assing the job so they can go to lunch sooner.

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  7. Good article, but a bit unreasonable. Most appliances are not built to last 20 years any more. And a paint job is definitely not going to last 10-20 years (especially if it only cost $500 to paint it, that means cheap paint which isn't going to last). It definitely gave me some great ideas of how to think of things, but the claims are just a bit outdated (even for 2008).


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