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Home Maintenance That May Save You Money

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It can be tempting to cut back on home maintenance to save money in an uncertain economy. But little problems can turn into big repairs that can hurt your home’s value or make it difficult to sell (most lenders have minimum requirements properties need to meet). Every home is different, but here are a few things you may want to keep on your to-do list.

Cooling and heating tune-ups

Seasonal tune-ups can help extend the life of your air conditioning unit (and furnace in the winter) to avoid expensive breakdowns, and may cost you less than $100. Considering that replacing an A/C unit or furnace could rival the cost of a used car, that could be money well spent.

If you’re worried you can’t afford a repair, you may want to purchase a home warranty plan that will cover your heating and air conditioning system. If your budget is understandably tight, you may be able to pay for the plan in monthly installments. But your agreement could still require routine maintenance to keep your coverage.

Foundation maintenance

Are you thinking about not running your sprinklers to save on your water bill? Dry soil can cause your foundation to shift and easily cost you thousands in repairs—repairs that could one day prevent a buyer from getting a mortgage on your home. Sprinklers and soaker hoses can help regulate your soil’s moisture, and it may take less water than you think to protect your foundation. In fact, too much water around your foundation can also damage it. Check with an expert in your area for watering recommendations.

In a wetter climate, gutters may be a bigger priority (though sprinklers and gutters work hand-in-hand) to keep excess moisture away from your home. If you’re concerned about the cost, gutters can be just a few dollars per linear foot, and, if you’re handy, you can pick them up at a home improvement store.

Either way, if you notice signs that your foundation is damaged (e.g., cracks in your wall, doors and windows that stick), get an inspection. Some foundation companies do them for free, and the sooner you catch the damage, the better.

Termite prevention

Termites are an expensive pest. According to Terminix, their damage can cause over $8,000 in repairs. In comparison, the cost of a professional prevention treatment may start in the hundreds of dollars. If that’s too high an expense, you can also help keep termites at bay with routine maintenance that may cost you nothing. Here are some recommendations based on tips from the EPA.

  • Don’t plant bushes and trees too near to your home and cut existing plantings back so they don’t touch wood on your house.
  • Fill openings and cracks where termites can get in (check your foundation if it’s made of cement).
  • Move firewood or “wood debris” away from your home.
  • Ensure vents aren’t blocked, even by vegetation.
  • Check for colonies regularly.
  • Repair leaks as soon as you find them.

Leaky pipe repairs

Speaking of leaks, address leaky pipes. They can waste water, cause thousands of dollars in repairs, or, worse, make you sick. That’s because leaks can lead to mold. According to the CDC, mold can irritate lungs, cause severe asthma attacks, and cause infections in people with compromised immune systems. Thankfully, fixing some pipes amounts to a reasonable do-it-yourself project. If not, it may be best to turn off a pipe’s water supply until you can afford its repair. Consult a plumber for best short-term solutions.

Quick word of caution

If you’re hoping your homeowner’s insurance will cover major repairs caused by deferred maintenance, it likely won’t. Talk with your insurance agent for clarifications.

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