Real Estate

6 Simple Home Fixes to Save on Maintenance & Ownership Costs

When we compare the cost of buying with the cost of renting, we tend to look at one number: the monthly housing payment. If you’re a renter, that’s your rent. If you’re a homeowner, that’s your combined mortgage, tax, and insurance payment.

But your housing payment is just the start. The average American homeowner also spends something like $2,500 on regular maintenance alone, plus thousands more on utilities like water, gas, and electricity. 

These already-high figures exclude unexpected expenses, like emergency HVAC or plumbing repairs. And they certainly don’t include elective upgrades like countertops, flooring, or furniture. 

All-in, you could be looking at $10,000 or more in home-related expenses above and beyond your monthly mortgage, tax, and insurance payment.

Some amount of out-of-pocket spending is inevitable when you own a home. However, you can do more than you might realize to reduce it. Try these six simple home fixes to keep your homeownership expenses manageable.

1. Find and Seal Foundation Leaks

This is especially important if you have an older finished basement. There, a leaky foundation could literally be leaching cold air into the conditioned space, increasing your winter heating bills. Even if your home sits on a slab or over a crawlspace, a leaky foundation could increase your cooling bills during the summer.

And if you let your foundation deteriorate too long? Your home could have serious structural issues in its future. If you have concerns, have your home inspected by a certified building enclosure expert — someone like Karim Allana of ABB — or a local foundation repair specialist.

2. Insulate Rim Joists and Other Enclosure Seams

Your home’s rim joists run along the top of the foundation, just under the first-floor subfloor. Two-story homes have another rim joist between the first and second floor. Because they’re among the leakiest parts of the home’s frame, insulating them can noticeably reduce your heating and cooling bills. The work could qualify for a tax credit too.

3. Add or Replace Exterior Weatherstripping

Yes, “fix leaks” is definitely the theme here. Once you’ve shored up your home’s foundation and rim joists, set your sights on a more visible target: older windows and doors. Contrary to popular belief, replacing older windows and doors rarely pays for itself outright, but adding flexible insulation (known as weatherstripping) usually does. Weatherstripping is very cheap, after all.

4. Insulate Attic and Crawlspace Access

If your attic or crawlspace has an access door, make sure the unconditioned side has proper insulation. Otherwise, you’ll lose tons of conditioned air through it, increasing your climate control bills.

5. Upgrade to Low-Flow Water Fixtures

Installing low-flow fixtures can cut your home’s water consumption in half, according to Kevin O’Leary of O’Leary Plumbing, Heating & Electrical. If you’re paying $100 per month for water service alone, that’s $50 saved every 30 days, or about $600 per year. 

Saving water is good for the environment too. And when you use less hot water, you use less gas or electricity to heat it, adding to the financial and environmental benefits.

6. Replacing Aging Combustion Appliances With Efficient Electric Alternatives (Heat Pumps)

This is the costliest expense on the list, but also the most impactful. Replacing an older, inefficient gas furnace or water heater with a modern, highly efficient heat pump could cut your bills by hundreds every month while reducing your home’s pollution emissions too. Remember to plan ahead so you’re not left without heat or hot water when the old appliance finally gives out.

Every Dollar Counts

For most homeowners, it’s technically true that every one of these home repairs or upgrades will pay for themselves over time. The last part of that sentence is the key, though: “over time.”

Homeowners typically recoup insulation and weatherproofing costs in fairly short order. Bigger investments, like a new heat pump or water heater, can take longer to pay back.

Does that mean they’re not worth making? Hardly. But it’s important to be realistic, and maybe to appreciate the non-financial benefits (like improved indoor comfort) in the meantime.