Proper home maintenance is critical once you own a home, condo, or townhouse. Not only does maintenance ensure a safe and comfortable living environment, but it also helps improve your property value — which means more cash when you sell.
Unfortunately, maintaining your home doesn’t come free, and unless you already have an extremely well-established savings account at the ready, you’ll want to start stowing away cash for upkeep as soon as you can (before you buy a home if possible).
Want to make sure you have enough saved up for home maintenance and upkeep? Here’s what you need to know.
Who needs a home maintenance fund?
Having a home maintenance fund is most important if you already own a home. You’ll need the cash to do general upkeep — like replacing air filters, maintaining your lawn and landscaping, tuning up the HVAC system, and more — as well as any repairs that may crop up along the way.
A home maintenance fund is also important for hopeful homebuyers. In fact, if buying a home of any kind is anywhere on your radar, actively saving up for home maintenance costs and repairs now is a good idea.
Potential home maintenance costs should also play a role in your eventual home search. Experts generally say that home maintenance will cost about 1% to 4% of your home’s value (sometimes more). So if you’re eyeing a $300,000 home, you’ll need to have cash for at least $3,000 per year in upkeep (at the minimum). If that seems too costly, you may want to consider a lower-priced home.
What home maintenance costs
According to the State of Home Spending Report, the average homeowner spent just under $3,200 on home maintenance in 2020. Keep in mind, though: that’s just the average. Exact maintenance costs depend on a whole slew of factors, including the condition and age of your home, where you’re located (and how much labor and materials are there), the local climate, and more.
Typically, you can expect to pay more if your home is older, you’re in a particularly expensive place to live, or you have a pool or other high-maintenance amenities on the property.
Here’s a look at some of the more common home maintenance tasks you’ll need to cover as a homeowner — as well as what they tend to cost:
Task Cost per year
Annual HVAC tune-up $75 to $200
Air filters $120 to $600
Pest prevention $300 to $550
Pool cleanings and maintenance $1,200 to $1,800
Lawn maintenance $700 to $2,600
Fireplace inspection $75 to $125
Gutter cleanings $354 to $675
Exterior pressure washing $191 to $395
Not every home will need all of the above services and some will need additional ones. Other common home maintenance needs include servicing your appliances, cleaning your air vents, weatherproofing, and more.
How much do you need to have saved up?
As you can see, how much you need to have saved for home maintenance costs can vary widely from one house to the next.
Generally speaking, though, experts say there are three ways you can at least guesstimate what you’ll pay annually to care for your home. These include:
The 1% rule
I mentioned it briefly above, but this rule says you can expect to pay at least 1% of your home’s value in annual home maintenance costs. Some experts argue this is closer to 4%, especially for older homes.
In action: on a $250,000 house, that’d mean you’d need somewhere between $2,500 and $10,000 saved up for home maintenance.
The $1 rule
This is a similar approach, but it instead goes by square footage. According to this rule, you can expect to need about $1 per square foot in your home.
In action: if your house was 2,100 square feet, that’d mean you should save for $2,100 in home maintenance costs each year.
The 10% rule
This approach is a little more complicated, but it says that homeowners should set aside at least 10% of their monthly household costs for maintenance — so 10% of their mortgage payment, 10% of their escrow/taxes, and 10% of their insurance premiums.
In action: say you have a mortgage payment of $1,000, an escrow payment of $500, and $350 in insurance premiums each month. You’d take 10% of each of those numbers (so, $100, $50, and $35), and add them together. That’d mean you’d estimate about $185 in maintenance costs per month or $2,220 total per year.
Remember, repairs are different than maintenance
Keep in mind that these maintenance funds would be for proactive, preventative home maintenance tasks.
As a homeowner, you also need to have cash socked away for potential repairs. If an appliance breaks down, your roof needs patching, or a big storm blows down your fence, having funds on hand can help you cover their repairs quickly and easily (and without racking up costly credit card debt).
A comprehensive home insurance policy can help here as well, so make sure you choose yours carefully. You might also consider investing in a home warranty. These come with a low, one-time cost and can help cover many appliance repairs and other issues if they arise.
There’s no hard and fast rule for estimating home maintenance costs. The one thing that is for sure? You’ll want at least some money saved up — both for general home upkeep and for potential repairs.