The expenses don’t end when you buy a house. In fact, they’re just beginning. Homes come with a lot of hidden costs — and chief among them is maintenance.

You might not take maintenance into account when purchasing a home, especially if you’re moving from a rental where upkeep is largely handled by the property owner. Result: surprise or even alarm when a major appliance must be replaced or a window gets damaged. A vast majority (81 percent) of homebuyers are hit with a significant, unexpected repair within the first year of ownership, according to a survey from insurance company Hippo.

But even the more mundane costs can add up considerably. A new study from real estate listings site Zillow and home renovation platform Thumbtack found that essential home maintenance projects average $6,413 annually. Of course, that can vary greatly depending on where you reside. But throw in other ongoing expenses, like property taxes, utilities and homeowners insurance, and you could be facing five figures’ worth in annual outlay.

calvindexter/Getty Images; Illustration by Austin Courregé/Bankrate Infographic by Austin Courregé/Bankrate

During the pandemic, we all put more wear and tear on our homes, meaning more maintenance in general. Unfortunately, the cost and access to the supplies and tools needed to do that maintenance has surged due to supply chain issues and inflation in general. That, paired with the increased number of extreme weather conditions/events, has led to an increase in the repairs being performed and a rise in the overall cost of those fixes. Over the last three years, maintenance outlay jumped up 162 percent on average, according to home services company Angi’s 2022 “State of Home Spending” report, with nearly three-quarters (74.5 percent) of homeowners’ spending impacted by inflation.

Below are some of the most common ongoing costs of homeownership. These are the regular maintenance expenses you can count on running into and will want to prepare for.

1. Lawn care and landscaping

Lawn care is one of the most time-consuming parts of home maintenance. For many people, it also feels like one of the most important because it is the part of your home that people see first. HomeGuide found that the average American spends about $1,200 to $2,400 per year on lawn care and landscaping. Most of that is tied up in mowing, watering, and general landscaping like tree trimming and gardening.

2. HVAC cleaning and maintenance

Air quality matters in your home. Giving your HVAC system a regular cleaning helps in this regard. According to Home Advisor, the average cost of cleaning your air ducts comes out to $376. While you should only need to do full cleaning once every five years or so, some smaller maintenance and replacing filters make breathing easier at home.

3. Clearing rain gutters

It’s important to clean your gutters to prevent damage to both the interior and the exterior of your home. If gutters get blocked by leaves and debris, you may end up with water overflow that risks damaging your roof and walls of your home if water builds up in places it isn’t supposed to be. HomeAdvisor says the average cost of gutter cleaning is about $161, and it’s recommended you clean them one to three times per year depending on the weather in your region. However, you can often clean gutters yourself to keep the expenses low.

4. Pest prevention

Stray bugs will find their way into your home, but serious infestations are something that you don’t want to mess with. Paying for an exterminator or more serious pest control situation that requires fumigation or other types of care can cost thousands of dollars, but HomeAdvisor says the average pest control measures cost $176. You can do some pest control on your own by purchasing traps and sprays that kill invaders before the problem gets out of control. Prevention often goes a long way in these situations.

5. Replacing smoke alarm batteries

Smoke alarms (hopefully) don’t go off often, but they are always monitoring to keep you safe. You’ll want to make sure they are in working order by replacing batteries regularly — as often as once per year, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). You can avoid this recurring cost by getting a 10-year smoke alarm, which may cost a little more up front (around $50) but saves you more in the long run. Also, consider installing carbon monoxide alarms if your home lacks these.

6. Housekeeping and house cleaning

A clean home is a safer home. Regularly cleaning your home, from scrubbing down countertops and other heavy traffic areas to vacuuming and sweeping is often a task that consumes more time than money. However, it does require some investment in cleaning supplies — and they won’t last forever, either. Americans spend more than $830 per year on cleaning supplies, per Statista. You can keep your costs down by extending the life of your cleaning supplies, though. For instance, microwaving non-metal sponges to disinfect them will keep them cleaning for longer. You can also clean your broom and remove fraying bristles to extend its life.

7. Pool care

A swimming pool is a luxury amenity, but it’s not without its downsides. Pool upkeep can be expensive. According to HomeGuide, the average homeowner with a pool spends about $960 to $1,800 per year in basic cleaning, supplies and upkeep. That isn’t even including the price for opening and closing the pool, electricity bills, and small repairs. In total, pool owners are likely looking at expenses up to $5,000 per year on maintenance.

Home Equity
Bankrate’s April 2023 Financial Security survey found that among homeowners experiencing buyer’s remorse, the biggest reason — cited by 41% — was that maintenance and other home-related costs were higher than expected.  

Bottom line on home maintenance costs

After purchasing your home, you’ll want to set aside some money each year for the maintenance expenses  to keep your home running smoothly. State Farm recommends between 1 to 4 percent of your home’s value. The median American home sold for $436,800 in Q1 2023 so the median homeowner is going to want to set aside between $4,368 to $17,472 per year for maintenance costs.

While that might seem like a lot, it’s worth noting that the money isn’t just disappearing. Home upkeep is essential, both for maintaining your life within the home and for the potential sale of it: One University of Connecticut/Syracuse University study, cited by the National Association of Realtors, has suggested that regular maintenance even adds 1 percent in value annually to your home. And North Carolina State University Extension research has found that performing annual upkeep helps stave off more expensive repairs or system replacements.

“Just like you would visit a mechanic for regular tune-ups to help keep your car in good condition and avoid big bills, your home needs the same routine maintenance to ensure that everything is running smoothly,” said Thumbtack home expert David Steckel in a statement accompanying the company’s study. “Staying on top of annual home maintenance will not only increase the value of your home, but will also help prevent emergency repairs that can wreck a homeowner’s budget.”

It’s an investment, in other words: in your home’s life and your enjoyment of it.