5 Must-Have Items in Your Maintenance Budget

When buying a house, experts advise you should budget for maintenance costs. With an ambiguous title like that, it’s no wonder that new homeowners are shocked to realize it costs more than $50/month to maintain a home. Here are five maintenance issue that surprise many first-time home buyers:

1. Landscaping – Whether you do this yourself or hire a professional, landscaping will cost you some money. While raking and weed pulling are free, you will probably want to plant some spring flowers or maybe add some trees around the property line for privacy. Mulch, fertilizer, grass seed can also be included in this category. Cost: As little as $200 if you are going bare-bones. You can easily spend $1,000 on a large yard doing “minimal” landscaping and the costs go up as the plans get more elaborate.

2. Pest Control – If you have a house, you will get bugs. If bugs don’t bother you, how about rats? Mice, bats, squirrels, snakes, and all sorts of other critters like to come inside houses to avoid the elements. If you’re brave enough to venture into the attic to trap a cornered raccoon, forget this budget item. If you’re like the rest of us, it will cost you a pretty penny. Cost: Quarterly pest control (bugs) runs around $30/month. If you need to get a creature trapped, plan to spend at least $200 per incidence.

3. Gutters – You can do this yourself of course, but depending on how many stories your house is, you might have to hire this one out to the pros. Gutters get clogged up with all sorts of junk. Leaves, sticks, trash, bird debris, etc. can cause gutters to stop working. This can lead to water penetration in your home. It is recommended that this be done twice a year, but if you’re only going to do it once, autumn (after the leaves fall) is the best time to get the biggest bang for your buck. Cost: Approximately $75 per cleaning, plus the cost to replace any non-functioning pieces.

4. AC/Furnace checkup (fall and spring) – To avoid any nasty surprises (like the AC not working the first day you turn it on), it’s a good idea to hire an HVAC person to come and inspect your systems in the fall and spring. They make sure everything is working properly and usually can fix any minor problems that could lead to bigger, more expensive problems later. Cost: About $200 per year.

5. Vent cleaning – From the inside of your home, dryer vents get clogged with lint, which is a major fire hazard. From the outside, birds like to nest in the warm vent, which can lead to more lint buildup. While you can easily take care of the area accessible near the dryer, it may be impossible to get the entire length of the vent cleaned out yourself (and you run the risk of hurting the vent). There are companies that have a special vacuum cleaning trucks that attach to the vent. They can clean it out quickly and it is not that expensive. Most of these companies offer a combo package where they clean out your heating and cooling ducts too, which can get dirty and aggravate allergies. Cost: Expect to pay $100, but probably not necessarily every year.