7 Ways to Avoid Pricey Home-Repair Surprises in 2022

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.

For many people, having to spend lots of time at home can highlight the flaws in their living situations. Either we need to do a bit of remodeling to bring things up to date, or we need some maintenance to keep things running smoothly.

Judging by the amount we’re spending on home maintenance and remodeling, we must be noticing a lot of flaws.

Through the third quarter of 2021, the U.S. spent $357 billion on home improvement and repairs on the way to a projected total of $368 billion, according to the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. The program projects the total will grow to $400 billion by late 2022.

Are you among the people planning home maintenance and repair projects? If so, chances are you don’t have a huge stash of cash sitting in your home maintenance budget.

You can save some pennies with some home maintenance and repair tips we Penny Hoarders learned in 2021. We’ve gathered them into this guide to home maintenance and repairs.

1. Don’t Ignore Your House’s Cries for Help

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Your house can’t talk, but it can send you messages. If it’s crying for help, ignoring the message could cost you money later.

Don’t ignore home repairs, and you’ll save in the long run. Here are eight you can’t afford to put off:

  1. Anything involving water. A small wet spot can be the sign of a leak somewhere. Eventually, that leak will grow and possibly destroy floors, walls, furniture, and more. A leaky faucet, running toilet, or dripping water heater can cost more in water bills than the repair would.
  2. Anything involving electricity. Flickering lights, bad outlets or switches, tripping breakers, and GFI outlets that won’t reset can be signs of electrical problems, which could lead to fires.
  3. Pests. Rodents and bugs can do lots of damage if left alone.
  4. Peeling caulk and paint. Once the protective caulk or paint is gone, water gets in and causes damage.
  5. Broken or malfunctioning HVAC. Problems with your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) could mean you’re too sweaty or too chilly. But temperature swings inside the home can lead to problems. Additional humidity could cause mold and cold temperatures could cause pipes to freeze.
  6. Cracks. Small cracks are normal. Big or changing cracks aren’t.
  7. Carbon monoxide detectors and alarms. Working detectors save lives. Change the batteries regularly.
  8. Darkening ceilings near fireplaces. Dark places or a sooty smell can mean the fireplace isn’t drafting properly, which can let deadly gasses inside.

2. Keep Up With Home Maintenance

Senior man changing a folded dirty air filter in the HVAC furnace system in basement of home
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Maintenance is usually cheaper than repairs, so keeping up with checkups around your home can help you avoid a repair bill later. It’s smart to figure out how much to budget for home maintenance. Here are the things you should consider:

  • Prevent moisture problems. Water can be evil when it shows up in places it shouldn’t. Routinely check your gutters, sump pump, water heater, faucets, drains, septic tanks, and irrigation systems.
  • Maintain appliances and equipment. Do annual HVAC maintenance and change filters regularly. Check the connections in the laundry room and clean the dryer vent. Change filters and clean the range hood in the kitchen.
  • Keep up the exterior. Keep dirt away from the house so water can drain correctly. Inspect the paint and siding to make sure they’re looking good and doing their job of protecting your house. Maintain caulk around openings. Inspect chimneys. Service the electric garage door.

Financial experts recommend putting away about $200 a month for home maintenance. That way, you’ll have $2,400 a year, which can hopefully cover the maintenance and possible repairs.

3. Know When to DIY and When to Use a Pro

Home repair
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Sometimes it’s necessary to call in the pros when tackling home maintenance or home improvement projects.

Do you really want to DIY and regret it?

When deciding to DIY or hire a pro, ask yourself how much experience you really have. Things often look easier to do on TV or in a YouTube video than they really are.

Experts say to avoid DIYing anything involving electricity (especially 220 circuits) or water unless you have experience. Things can go bad very quickly.

4. Get Bids for Home Projects

Woman looking at her insurance policy on a laptop
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If you need professional help for your home, getting bids on home projects can save you lots of money and time.

A professional handyperson can handle a wide variety of jobs like caulking, painting, gutter cleaning, patching drywall, installing tile, hanging objects and installing fixtures. Making a list of what you want done can be helpful so you can prioritize if you only have a handyperson hired for a few hours.

When looking for the right expert for your home project:

  • Learn about the project by watching videos. This will help you know if someone’s time estimate seems way off.
  • Ask for recommendations. Neighbors, friends and family often know good people who do good work. Also, real estate agents will be able to tell you whom they recommend to get homes ready for sale.
  • Websites and apps make it easy to research who can do what you need. Some even allow you to post a request for someone to bid on your project.
  • Read reviews before you hire someone.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and discuss exactly what the estimate includes and what the payment terms are. It’s your home.

5. Do What You Can to Lower Electric Bills

Table fan
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Some simple things can help you get a lower electric bill each month.

  • Seal cracks and leaks.
  • Upgrade to more energy-efficient equipment.
  • Use fans.
  • Air-dry laundry as much as possible.
  • Change to LED lighting.

You can save on other utility bills, too, with attention to your consumption habits. For instance, some simple reductions in water use could mean saving money on water bills.

6. Know What Your Home Insurance Covers

adulting responsible adults saving money
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Disasters or repairs can ruin your budget. Homeowners insurance can help protect your property and belongings from damage and losses. It also provides liability coverage.

But it isn’t always easy to know what is covered and what isn’t. And when is it worthwhile to file a claim?

All homeowners policies are not created equal, and they can also vary widely based on where you live and in what kind of dwelling. It’s important to understand when it can help you out — and when it can’t. Here’s an article that will help you learn what home insurance covers.

7. Homebuyers: Don’t Skip Home Inspections

Worker inspecting the roof of a home
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If you’re ready to dive into the world of homeownership or move into a new home, don’t get so caught up in the excitement that you make a big mistake.

Following this eight-point home inspection checklist could end up throwing cold water on your plans, but it will also prevent buyer’s remorse if you’ve fallen in love with a money pit.

Inspectors look at more than 1,000 things throughout a house. In general, those things are:

  • Structural components
  • Roof
  • Attic and insulation
  • HVAC systems
  • Plumbing and water
  • Electrical and wiring
  • Outside the house
  • Appliances

In today’s crazy real estate market, forgoing the inspection could make your offer more attractive to the seller, but the average inspection cost of $350 could save you thousands of dollars down the line.

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