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Getting a handle on the cost of maintaining a house

Posted by Rona Fischman May 19, 2011 01:28 PM

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Whether it is a house or a condo, owning a structure is going to cost CatB money to maintain over the years. I am not going to throw figures around today, except in the most general way. That is because it is way too easy to be wrong, when getting specific about repair costs. When a problem begins, it is much cheaper to repair than the same problem left for years to get worse. Deferred maintenance costs roughly five times more to repair than if a problem is solved when it begins.

The general rules:
The most expensive things to repair are on house features which must stand up to the elements. The exterior of the house -- from the roof to the foundation -- have the hardest job and need to be tended most. Expect that replacing a roof, re-siding, replacing windows, rebuilding foundations and waterproofing basements are your biggest ticket items. Expect that most of your 5-figure repairs will be to exterior features of a house.

After that, any repair or change in design which takes more than one type of worker will cost more, per labor hour, than something a single type of worker can do. For example, kitchens and bathrooms need electricians, plumbers and carpenters. They need to coordinate their schedules and share space and responsibility. Because of this, the cost goes up astronomically. Whereas, one or more carpenters can come in to change every interior door for less than the cost of a new bathroom.

After the multiple-worker kinds of tasks, specialized workers cost more than general workers. Plumbers and electricians get paid more than carpenters. Finish carpenters -- the ones who do custom cabinets, fine wood trims and such -- get paid more than the ones who build decks.

If you think in terms of labor costs, plus materials, you can get a rough idea of repair costs. Get time estimates from repair workers. To get material costs, you can visit any large hardware outlet or kitchen and bathroom retailer.

Then there is maintenance.
Houses age. Exterior paint needs regular touch-ups at least every five years. Roof shingles wear out every twenty or so years. Boilers last twenty years or more. Hot water heaters last a decade or less. Appliances in the kitchen fail in ten to fifteen years or so, depending on their initial quality and use.

As a home buyer, you are making a mistake if you arenít prepared to spend an extra ten percent over your monthly mortgage payment to keep your property in good order. There will be projects cropping up every year.

Readers, what goes on the list of repairs any home needs in a given ten-year period?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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