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Mika and Brian Kleinschmidt are best known as the hosts of “100 Day Dream Home,” now in its third season. While these Florida residents know plenty about designing and building a gorgeous home, they’re also very aware that first-time homebuyers today are so financially overextended, they’re stressed about saving money even after they’ve found a house and moved in.
And that’s where the right home maintenance and upgrades can make a huge difference—not just on energy bills. As partners with American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning and instructors for the brand’s Homeowning01 series, the Kleinschmidts have plenty of advice on appliance upkeep and other ways to save money around the house.
We talked to the HGTV stars about what first-time homeowners need to know to save money on home maintenance in the warm summer months, which upgrades to skip if you’re concerned about resale value, and one maintenance trick you probably aren’t doing enough, or at all.
What are some ways that homebuyers can save money after they’ve bought a new house?
Mika: The biggest thing is making sure that the stuff you don’t see behind the walls is operating properly. So, as a [real estate agent], if my client is looking at a home and we’re doing an inspection, we’re checking the systems of the home. If things aren’t working efficiently, there can be really unwanted surprises after you close on a home.
The systems like your AC, heating and cooling, plumbing, the condition of the roof, those big-ticket items can cost a lot to replace.
Brian: Even getting something as simple as a smart thermostat, a programmable thermostat, it can save you a ton of money.
What are some common home maintenance tasks that first-time homebuyers aren’t doing enough, or at all?
Mika: “Maintaining” is the key word, right? Because there are certain services that, when you’re renting a property, you have a landlord that takes care of your landscaping, they may take care of pest control. So when you’re owning the property, all of that is going to be additional costs every month, in addition to regular utilities. And I think maintaining your home—especially things like changing out your air-conditioner filters—if you skip those steps, you could run into some big problems down the road.
Brian: It’s so simple to change out your filters, and so many people don’t do it. We recommend every two months or so. And there are great companies that you can sign up for, and they will send you the filters every couple of months, like a membership.
Do you have any tips for keeping energy costs down during the warm months of summer?
Mika: Obviously here, we get some excruciating temperatures in the summer, and electric utility bills kind of jump for three or four months. So I think be aware of even something as simple as window treatments.
Brian: It’s not only for aesthetics; it’s also to make sure that your [AC] unit is not working so hard. It’s also super important to have quarterly service done on these units. It’s almost like an oil change or tuneup on a car. You have to continue to do this to make sure that they’re running properly. The biggest mistake might be to start dumping too much money into these systems—it might be time to buy a new one. So always keep an eye on that.
Do you have any budget-friendly upgrades new homeowners may want to try?
Mika: I love taking something that’s old and refreshing it. Moving into a new house can get very expensive if you have to buy all new furniture for every single room. So I think it’s great to kind of salvage some of the things you have.
Maybe you want to change the paint color or change the finish, but some of the stuff you probably already have, you can reuse and make it fit into the new home and save some big bucks.
Brian: Just because it’s a brand-new house doesn’t mean all the furniture needs to be brand-new. Even with our show, we like bringing in some used pieces, because it makes it feel lived in. It makes it feel much more welcoming. But I mean, the beams in our house, those are actually faux Styrofoam beams that you can do after the fact. We did an accent wall. It’s a shiplap wall, pretty simple. Wallpaper is coming back, so that’s another great way to spruce up a space.
Are there any upgrades new homeowners should avoid?
Mika: Sometimes I’ve seen paint colors that are very specific or eclectic styles, and for resale, that can be tricky. So it just kind of depends on the intention and longevity that they’re going to spend in the home. But I’m all about making the home feel like an extension of your personality. You should be smiling from ear to ear when you walk in the front door.
Brian: A pool would have been a bad investment, but this one talked me into getting a pool and it’s fantastic. I don’t care about the resale value of it, but it definitely makes me happy. And I think that’s priceless.
What advice do you have for new homeowners who want to make the most of their living space?
Brian: Get the biggest TV possible.
Mika: Of course, you would say that, right? I honestly feel like my biggest pet peeve when we’re designing floor plans is I don’t like wasted space. You may have an entryway that’s so grand but doesn’t function as anything. Try to make every part of the house function for some kind of purpose. I love having flex spaces like you’ll see in Season 3 of “100 Day Dream Home” where we converted a home office into a classroom with lots of storage and functionality.
Brian: Real estate right now is booming all over the country, and square footage is skyrocketing. Every square foot in a house matters. And if you’re paying for unused square footage, that’s probably the biggest waste we see. So if you’re designing new, it’s got to make sense. And if you’re buying something used, then it’s going to make sense as well.
Lots of homeowners are on a tight budget. Is there a particular room or feature we should be focusing our budget on?
Mika: The generic answer you always hear is kitchen and bathrooms. That’s where you get kind of the most bang for your buck. I think for 90% of our clients, the kitchen is the heart of the home with their entertaining. That’s where everybody gathers. So I think that space for sure is important to make sure it functions for your family and also that it’s pretty. If you have an open-concept floor plan, if you’re going to see the kitchen from all the other rooms, you need to make it look elevated.
Brian: Another great return on your investment is landscaping. I think the latest stat was whenever you put in landscaping, you’ll get 100% return on that. I don’t know where else you’re getting 100% return on your investment, but curb appeal is key.
Any other tips for homebuyers in this competitive market?
Mika: The one thing you can’t change about your home is the location.
Brian: You can change paint colors, you can change your landscape, you can change design, but you can’t really lift the house and transport it somewhere else.
I think the biggest thing in the market that we’re all in right now is for these buyers to be patient, and that’s the hardest thing. But really, be patient and pick the perfect location. Don’t just settle for something because it’s available. Get that piece of land that you really, really want.