By Andrew Heritage
Over the past two years, our homes have become more central in our lives. As a result, it’s more important than ever to embrace the idea of continuous care — not just fixing things when they break, but keeping homes running smoothly all year long.
That’s why we are releasing our first Home Care Price Index. This new report leverages data from over one million essential home maintenance projects to provide insight into the annual cost of homeownership across the country.
We found the average cost to care for a single family home has risen 9.3 percent over the past 12 months driven in part due to labor and material shortages. Service professionals are facing increased costs as supply chain disruptions have caused the price of materials to increase. The tight labor market has also made it difficult for business owners to find qualified professionals, contributing to increased costs for consumers.
Despite these increases, homeowners continue to see their homes as a wise investment with 30 percent saying they plan to spend more than $10,000 on home projects in the next 12 months*.
Average Cost Of Home Care
According to our new Home Care Price Index, the average annual cost to take care of a single-family home is $4,886 — up roughly $450 per household compared to 2020.
This takes into account various projects homeowners need to tackle each year — including HVAC maintenance, gutter cleaning, roof maintenance and more — to prevent costly repairs and avoid unnecessary emergencies. Among these projects, the largest spikes are happening in sprinkler and irrigation system maintenance (+28.8 percent), appliance maintenance (+19.7 percent) and duct and vent cleaning (+19.5 percent).
What’s more, this trend is impacting not only single family homes but also townhomes and apartments. In the last 12 months, the average cost for townhouse maintenance has risen 8.6 percent to $1,922 — up roughly $150 since 2020 (not including HOA fees). And, over the same timeframe, the average cost for an apartment has risen 10 percent to $682 — up $62 from 2020.
While prices are continuing to rise, the increases appear to be slowing with costs growing 0.4 percentage points less in Q4 2021compared to the prior quarter. This year, the index will likely continue to increase as supply chain disruptions and the labor shortage persist. Once these disruptions are resolved, the rate of inflation throughout the economy should subside, including home services.
Many areas across the country have seen cost increases in the past year due to the ‘great reshuffling,’ labor and supply shortages, and a new focus on minimizing wear-and-tear on homes during the pandemic.
The increased demand for home service professionals is contributing to inflation in the hottest markets. These trends vary vastly on a local level:
Florida and the ‘Sun Belt’ see spikes: As homeowners, and families especially, look for warmer (and milder) weather, Floridian cities like West Palm Beach (+18.4 percent), Orlando (+16.6 percent) and Miami (+14.4 percent), as well as cities along the ‘sun belt’ like Charlotte (+18 percent), Houston (+15.8 percent), San Antonio (+13.8 percent), San Diego (+13.7 percent), Austin (+12.6 percent), Atlanta (+10.8 percent) and Greenville-Asheville (+10.8 percent) are all seeing increases.
Hot markets see rising costs: In addition, cities where real estate has boomed since the pandemic started like Portland (+33.9 percent), Las Vegas (+17.6 percent), Seattle (+16.3 percent), Salt Lake City, (+12.8 percent), New York (+12.1 percent) and Denver (+10.5 percent) are also seeing sharper rises.
Cooler markets see slowdown: Cities like Baltimore (-1.9 percent), Columbus (+0.9 percent), Boston (+2.1 percent), Philadelphia (+2.4 percent), Washington DC (+2.5 percent), San Francisco (+3 percent), Nashville (+3.1 percent), Milwaukee (+4.3 percent), Chicago (+4.4 percent) and Dallas-Ft. Worth (+5.2 percent) are trailing nationwide averages significantly or seeing slowed growth.
For those considering moving in 2022, it’s important to keep in mind that buying a home and making any renovations or general maintenance and improvements will take longer than in years past and may cost more than expected. We recommend a lead time of three to six months between closing date and moving into a home if you’re planning to make any updates or changes. And while forgoing an inspection to get your home may feel like a good idea, it could lead to countless headaches and unforeseen expenses.
Shift To Continuous Care
While you can delay buying a new couch, you cannot put off servicing your HVAC system ahead of winter in Portland or your air conditioning if you live in West Palm Beach. As costs rise, staying on top of home care is a wise investment — saving money, adding value and delivering peace of mind for homeowners. For example, annual HVAC maintenance could save you thousands of dollars by pushing replacement dates down the road.
And while budgeting for kitchen renovations or backyard improvements tends to be top of mind for homeowners, they oftentimes focus on cosmetic upgrades and forget to think about the general upkeep of their homes — which helps them to avoid costly emergencies and repairs.
How much should you save each year for maintenance on your home?
So where do you start? Think of your home like your own circulatory system with your mechanical room as the heart. If you’re looking for a place to start your proactive home maintenance, make sure your HVAC furnace filters and water systems are clean — this is akin to watching out for cholesterol. It’s important to make sure you’re changing your filters, doing multi-point annual maintenance checks on the units and cleaning ducts or exhausts.
From there, focus on your home’s framework — window cleaning, gutter cleaning, tuck pointing, checking for stripping paint, weather stripping and foundation inspections. Staying on top of these projects helps to prevent unexpected complications from water damage, mold or structural changes.
Finally, focus on your home’s appearance and overall health. It is so much more arduous (and expensive) to tame untamed hard and softscape areas than to maintain a freshly prepared one. Think projects like regularly edging your flower beds, trimming your hedges and replacing cracked mortar. Inside your home, all of your finishes, especially the natural ones like marble, need applications of sealer and the occasional re-finish. If you stay on top of the touch ups and maintenance, you’ll have more predictable costs and your home will always be in tip top shape.
To book a local professional for your home projects, download the Thumbtack app (available on iOS and Android).
Methodology: The Home Care Price Index incorporates Thumbtack categories that are deemed essential annual tasks for home maintenance — Appliance Maintenance, Carpet Cleaning, Central Air Conditioning Maintenance, Deck Staining and Sealing, Duct and Vent Cleaning, Fireplace and Chimney Cleaning, Full Service Lawn Care, Gutter Cleaning and Maintenance, Heating System Maintenance, House Cleaning, Leaf Clean Up, Pressure Washing, Roof Maintenance, Sprinkler and Irrigation System Maintenance, Tile and Grout Cleaning, Tree Trimming and Removal, Water Heater Maintenance, Window Cleaning, Caulking, and Deep Cleaning. Pricing data is based on projects requested on Thumbtack between January 1, 2020 — November 18, 2021 reported directly by the independent service professional or individual customer. The cost is an unweighted index of home maintenance projects on a quarterly basis using a moving average. Outliers were removed if the reported price was 3x the standard deviation from the mean within each individual category.
* In a Thumbtack survey of over 1,000 Americans, 22 percent of homeowners plan to invest $5,000 to $9,999, 19 percent plan to invest $10,000 to $24,999, 6 percent plan to invest $25,000 to $49,999 and 5 percent plan to invest $50,000 or more.