Taking that giant step into home ownership is exciting, and comes with plenty of perks (goodbye, pet policies), but it also adds a new layer of responsibilities and new things to think about. In between your daily chores and preventative maintenance, it’s easy for some of your new tasks to fall through the cracks – so we’re here to refresh your memory.
Here are five frequently-overlooked home tasks that will help you to stay on top of being a homeowner. These are especially important if you’re new to owning a home – but veteran homeowners may be forgetting a few of these, too!
Tip #1: Save for Unexpected Problems
You can’t avoid problems forever (like your dishwasher breaking, your furnace needing repair, your air conditioning not getting quite cold enough, etc) – they’re bound to come up from time to time. But you can prepare for the inevitable by setting aside some cash to pay for unexpected repairs and replacements. If you’ve never done this before, it’s a good idea to set aside a total that is between 1% and 3% of your home’s purchase price each year. That way, you’re never caught entirely off-guard by unexpected problems.
Tip #2: Create Inspection Habits
Many issues are simple to fix when they’re caught early, but become a much bigger deal (in terms of both hassle and budget) if they’re not found until later. Create a checklist of the major areas of your home to inspect (basement, attic, insulation, roof, visible plumbing, etc) and make a habit of looking at these in detail at least once a year. Finding any problems early (like a rodent infestation, small leaks, mold growth, etc) means that you’ll be able to take the proper steps to fix things before the issue becomes too big of a problem.
Tip #3: Take Good Care of your Furnace/Air Conditioner
Having reliable heating and cooling is essential – and it’s fairly easy to keep things running smoothly. One of the easiest ways you can save money (since your furnace will run more efficiently and last longer) as well as improve your health (since you’ll be breathing cleaner air) is to change your furnace filter regularly. But remembering to pick up a filter from the store every few months isn’t always easy – so buy these in bulk! Take a look at the filter currently in your furnace, and write down the size. Then order enough to last for a few years! Also take the time to set up annual check-ups/maintenance appointments for your furnace and air conditioner. Having a professional double-check that everything is working properly will not only keep your heating and cooling running efficiently, it can also help to find and fix small issues before they become big problems. In general, it’s good to get a furnace checkup in late summer or early fall, and to get an A/C checkup in the spring – right before you’ll be putting your equipment to heavy use.
Tip #4: Get to Know Your Appliances
The appliances in your home will, eventually, need to be replaced. Knowing about your different appliances and their general life expectancy will help you to plan for repairs and replacements, as appropriate. A furnace, for example, will often work well for 15-20 years, but a water heater starts to wear down after 10 years. Take the extra few minutes to figure out how old the different appliances in your home are, and plan ahead for replacements. If you have no idea about the appliances you currently have, you can have a contractor come in for a tune-up and consultation – most heating/cooling professionals, for example, will be able to let you know what condition your furnace is in and about how long you can expect it to continue working for you (with proper care and maintenance, of course).
Tip #5: Start Keeping Records
Yes, this can be a bit of a pain – but if you make a note of all the improvements, maintenance, and repairs you make to your home (from small things – like fresh caulk in the bathroom – to larger things, like a new roof), you can add to the resale value of your home. Make sure all your hard work is also working for your bottom line! Everyone likes to organize this information differently – so find a method that is easy for you (so that you can make it a habit). Some people make a “home binder” that has all the owner’s manuals for the different home appliances (stove, fridge, furnace, water heater, etc) along with a notebook for tracking maintenance and improvements. Other people like to use an app for that. The method you choose isn’t important, as long as it’s one that you’ll actually use.