real estate

Get the most from your home repair dollars

Proactive approach saves money

A proactive approach to home maintenance, rather than the more common I'll-fix-it-when-it-breaks mentality, can help homeowners save money on repair costs. The hard truth is that just about everything in a home requires some sort of maintenance, and it usually makes sense to stay ahead of the inevitable deterioration.

"Your house starts aging from the second the last nail is put in," Tamny says. "It keeps running down and eventually the systems become obsolete and need repair or replacement."

Gifford cites the backyard fence as a classic example of ill-advised deferred maintenance. Fences that are sagging or leaning or have broken slates often can be repaired. But if those signs of neglect are ignored, the fence will experience a "catastrophic failure" and need to be entirely rebuilt, he says.

Do it yourself or hire a pro?

Whether the do-it-yourself option is a viable alternative for home maintenance depends largely on the homeowner's situation. For instance, older homeowners may not be spry enough to climb on the roof and clean out the rain gutters, while younger homeowners may be disinclined to take time away from their careers or family commitments, Tamny says.

For those determined to DIY, simple tasks such as painting a fence or clearing overgrown brush are a good place to start. Most homeowners shouldn't attempt electrical repairs due to the risk of electrocution. (Trimming trees near high-powered electrical lines is also extremely dangerous.) Projects that require special equipment such as cleaning air ducts are also ill-suited for the do-it-yourself approach.

One more tip: Few people enjoy house cleaning, but cleanliness can offer important home maintenance benefits, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Removing dirt and dust can prolong the lifespan of major appliances, window treatments, floors, carpets, sinks, bathtubs, cabinets and many other components of a typical home.

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