A 2021 survey by Bankrate concluded that 16% of homeowners regret their purchase because the cost of maintaining their new home is higher than they expected.
The common wisdom bandied around online is that home buyer should allocate 1-4% of their home’s purchase cost for annual maintenance.
The truth, however, is that the cost of maintaining a home can vary greatly between properties. Furthermore, many of the causes of this variance can be discovered before you purchase a property.
Here is a breakdown of these factors so you can get an idea of how expensive your prospective home will be to maintain.
Past Structural Problems
If your floors are sloping and your foundation is unlevel, then you most likely need your foundation underpinned to lift and level your floors back to a more desirable level. These are all signs of foundation settlement but, in most cases, can be corrected by underpinning your foundation and foundation leveling in the process
Looking at how frequently maintenance work has been done in the past is one of the best methods to anticipate future maintenance expenditures for a property.
Maintenance works that have required a permit should be reported on a property’s title. Any recurring work in the past is a potential issue that may reappear.
You should also check the materials that were used for the construction of the property in the title.
The use of low-quality materials almost always leads to higher maintenance costs, so have a homebuilder look at the list of the property’s construction materials so they can give you a better understanding of your possible new home.
For example, stone or faux stone siding is better than vinyl siding.
Vinyl siding is prone to cracking in colder climates and warping in hotter climates. Stone or faux stone siding on the other hand is weather-resistant.
Another example is aluminum wiring and copper wiring.
Aluminum wiring is cheaper than copper, but they are also softer and expands more when heated. Thus, they are more likely to cause a fire than copper.
A property’s title will also tell you its age. However, a newer property does not always lead to lower maintenance costs.
If a 20-year-old property has not had any issues that require major maintenance work in the past, then it is a good sign that the cost to maintain it will be cheaper compared to a 5-year-old property with low-grade construction materials.
Core Checks During a House Viewing
Aside from checking the most obvious things such as the number of bedrooms and the size of the outdoor space in your potential new home, you should also look out for the following so you can have an idea of the property’s condition:
- Check the floors and the walls – Sagging and dipping on the floor near the bathroom is a sign that there might be a plumbing issue.
Large drywall cracks with discoloration may be a hint that there’s a structural issue or leaks.
- Look out for fresh paint and water in the basement – If the property looks like it hasn’t been renovated in a while and you spot fresh paint, ask the seller why. It could be that they needed to fix something or they’re covering something up like termite or carpenter ant damage.
You should also check for any sign of water in the basement. If the weather has been dry and the basement is damp, there’s a leak somewhere that must be sorted out.
- Check the windows and the roof – Although a window with cheap materials is not the most worrisome thing when maintaining a property, it is still worth checking as it can add up to the cost if you need to replace them in the future.
Also, ask about the roof’s most recent installation and its warranty to back it up.
It is also better if you can get an expert’s opinion about the property’s roofing since older homes can have several layers of roof and some can have asbestos.
- Check electrical and plumbing structures – ask your realtor if there has been a history of plumbing or electrical issues in the property. You can also sometimes find this on the property’s title.
Protection from Natural Disasters
You should also consider how well a property is protected from climate and natural disasters that may occur in its location.
For areas that are prone to wildfire, properties should have a defensible safe zone around the house.
This defensible zone is a 5-foot area around the property where there are no combustible materials such as furniture or firewood. Vegetation should also be removed if they are present in the defensible zone.
Check if the construction materials of a property are fire-resistant. Concrete and stones are recommended for wildfire-prone areas because of their high susceptibility to fire.
For areas that are prone to hurricanes and flooding, it’s a good idea to choose properties with no basement and those that are built on raised foundations.
Ask the seller as well if a property has hurricane straps. These metal straps connect the roof, walls, and foundation of a building ensuring that a property can withstand a wind speed of up to 100 miles per hour.
For areas that are earthquake-prone, choose a property that is bolted to its foundation and has braced cripple walls.
However, knowing that a property is bolted and has braced cripple walls is not enough. You should ask an expert to check that the bolts and braces are properly done to avoid expensive maintenance work later.
Don’t be afraid to ask your realtor for any problems that occurred in your potential home due to natural disasters. Doing so will help you make informed decisions and can save you money down the line.
It is critical that you take your time in inspecting a property and knowing its true condition by getting insights from experts before purchasing. This will give you a solid idea of how much it will cost to maintain your potential new home. However, if you currently have a property with these kind of issues, your best choice may be to sell it. There are many companies like The Local House Buyers that are ready to buy houses in bad conditions, this way you can get rid of a burdensome property at the lowest cost possible.