Home purchases are described as the American dream, maybe the priciest acquisition that people make. Yet once buyers have signed a deal on a house, they tend to shy away from saving a few thousand dollars to replace a worn heat pump, for instance.
A similar pattern follows car owners, who plunk down thousands for vehicles but put away little if any funds for future costs such as new tires.
“People can be caught off-guard by the true cost of home or car ownership,” says Chip Wade, a do-it-yourself expert and personality on HGTV. “After accounting for utilities, property taxes and insurance, you also need to budget for ongoing maintenance and big-ticket repairs like a busted furnace, a leaky roof, or even new tires,” he says.
Wade recommends that owners budget 1 percent to 2 percent of a home purchase price to cover annual maintenance and repairs, or $2,500 to $5,000 on a $250,000 home. An alternative would be to set aside $1 per square foot a year, or $2,000 on a 2,000-square-foot house. “It’s smart to start saving today for tomorrow’s obstacles,” he says.
He made the comments in response to a new Liberty Mutual Insurance study showing that 48 percent of Americans save less than $1,000 for home maintenance, and one in three owners hasn’t budgeted any money. One quarter of car owners have no cash for repairs, says Wade, a Liberty Mutual consultant.
Liberty Mutual notes that costs “can clearly add up quickly if not prepared.” The insurance company, citing HomeAdvisor, says the average cost to replace a furnace is $4,000, and a roof repair costs $774 on average. Angie’s List sets the average price of replacing four tires at $637.
According to the Boston-based Liberty Mutual, 80 percent of householders and nearly three-quarters of auto owners “don’t have a plan or budget in place and tend to procrastinate or deal with home- and car-maintenance issues as they arise.”
Age isn’t necessarily a deciding factor in home- and auto-repair savings. A clear majority of baby boomers, 57 percent, said they would deal with maintenance as needed but don’t have a plan or budget. By comparison, 51 percent of Gen X-ers and 32 percent of millennials prefer to cover expenses as they arise instead of planning for them.
“Home and auto repairs are inevitable, and it’s important for Americans to make a plan, which will save them from future headaches,” says Emily Fink, chief marketing officer for U.S. Consumer Markets at Liberty Mutual. “We’re committed to offering resources, expert advice and customized insurance coverage to help consumers proactively stay ahead of upkeep for their home and car,” she says.
Meanwhile, less than one-third of homeowners and auto owners prepare ahead of time for severe weather such as hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms or thunderstorms. That leaves the property holders “vulnerable to potential home and car issues,” Liberty Mutual says.
Wade and the insurance firm offer tips, such as:
— Smart budgeting: Plan to set money aside each month for home and car upkeep.
— Critical planning: Decide which maintenance work is do-it-yourself and which can be done by a professional. According to the study, 61 percent of homeowners don’t contact their insurer after a major home improvement.
— Numbers matter: Determine the values of holdings to make sure there’s enough protection. Half of the survey participants didn’t know what their belongings were worth, and 47 percent of tenants lacked renters’ coverage.
Liberty Mutual, in business since 1912, describes itself as the sixth largest home and auto insurer in the U.S.
For more information, visit libertymutual.com/masterthis.
Meanwhile, online financial site GOBankingRates explains that home-buying itself takes a toll on the bank account, so setting aside funds for maintenance can be a chore.
The average American home costs more than $360,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. “The cost of owning a home doesn’t end with your mortgage loan, however; you must add maintenance into your budget, which might cost you an additional $1,204 a month, or $14,448 annually,” the company says.
GOBankingRates cites several expenses tied to maintenance. The cost of repairs and general maintenance works out to $168 a month, or about 13 percent of total home-related ongoing costs.
Other expenses include home insurance, which averages $79 a month based on online data source ValuePenguin. “Homeowners’ insurance has gone up nearly 50 percent in the past decade, and there’s no end in sight,” GOBankingRates says.
Private mortgage insurance, a likely bill if you don’t shell out at least a 20 percent down payment, is $158; snow removal and lawn care, $130; property taxes, $218; utility bills, $201; and homeowners’ association fees, $250 a month.
There are ways to reduce house maintenance costs, GOBankingRates notes. “If you’re handy, you can handle some of the repairs yourself. If you aren’t into DIY projects, the cost of hiring a professional might be worth it to boost your home’s resale value and give you peace of mind that the repair is done correctly the first time.”