Homeowners' Maintenance Costs Add Up Fast

August 02, 2009|By Ilyce Glink | Ilyce Glink,Tribune Newspapers

There's always something going wrong with my house.

This month the microwave broke. Early in the morning I put my mug of water into the microwave, and when the time was up I opened the door, but the microwave kept running. Yikes.

Shortly before that the garbage-can track inside the cabinet broke and had to be replaced. Earlier this year, our refrigerator stopped keeping things cold, so we had to replace that as well. Our kitchen sink faucet broke, and we're on the hunt for something that doesn't cost more than $300.

The seal of the picture window in my office has been replaced twice as well. We've installed new gutters and put heat wires on the roof to help keep ice dams at bay.

Then, there's the ongoing house maintenance. In the summer, we have weekly or semi-weekly, depending on the amount of rain, landscaping chores. Once a year we seal coat our driveway. If we didn't have vinyl siding, we'd have to repaint the exterior of our house every three to five years.

Inside the house, we change all kinds of filters and batteries, repaint rooms from time to time, replace carpet and broken appliances, spray for ants in the spring, watch for leaking in the fall and so on.

My point is simple: It's expensive to own and maintain property. Here's what you can expect to pay:

Mortgage, real estate taxes, homeowner's insurance premium. Often called PITI (principal, interest, taxes and insurance) for short, you'll either pay it combined each month (if you escrow for taxes and your insurance premium) or write a monthly check for the mortgage and an annual or semi-annual check for taxes and insurance. These days, more lenders require homeowner's insurance on condominium purchases, in addition to the insurance obtained by the condominium association.

Homeowner's association fees, co-op assessments, monthly maintenance fees. If you live in a condo, co-op, townhouse development or single-family subdivision, you'll have some sort of fee you'll have to pay regularly to cover the maintenance and expenses of the common areas.

Utilities: Gas, electricity, cable, satellite, Internet service, garbage removal, water and sewer (may be billed together or separately). Don't forget to budget for septic system maintenance and repairs or hard-water-system maintenance and replacement of chemicals.

Repairs and maintenance of the exterior and interior of the property. This includes everything from window washing and tuckpointing to replacing appliances, carpets and filters.

Landscape care. Lawn and garden in warm weather months and snow removal in the winter (for those who get snow).

Bottom line: Home maintenance requires vigilance and a wide-open checkbook. If you're not ready for the responsibilities, think about renting instead.

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