Are You Outsourcing Too Much of Your Home Maintenance?

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There’s a reason we’re generally advised to keep our mortgages to a minimum — that monthly payment isn’t the only expense you’ll incur for the privilege of being a homeowner. In addition to property taxes and insurance, homeowners must also contend with annual upkeep and repairs, the cost of which doesn’t tend to come cheap. In fact, it’s estimated that the typical homeowner will spend anywhere from 1% to 4% of his or her home’s value on regular maintenance , and the older your property, the more likely you are to land on the high end of that range.

Still, property owners have plenty of options for keeping their maintenance costs to a minimum — namely, by performing much of that upkeep themselves. Yet most choose to outsource their maintenance instead and spend more in the process. An estimated 63% of homeowners use at least one recurring home maintenance provider, such as a landscaper, while 35% use two or more, according to a recent Bankrate survey . But these services come at a cost.

Image source: Getty Images.

Here’s what homeowners spend each month, on average, for a number of common services:

Maintenance Service

Average Monthly Cost

Housekeeping

$285

Landscaping

$144

Pool care

$123

Snow removal

$84

Septic service

$67

Recycling service

$55

Data source: Bankrate.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with spending extra money to buy yourself the luxury of added free time — something of which most working folks struggle to get enough. The problem, however, is that most Americans are behind on savings  and therefore can’t afford to be spending more money than necessary on home maintenance. Nearly 40% of U.S. adults have no money whatsoever in the bank, and those are the people who should be mowing their own lawns and cleaning their own homes rather than paying others to do it for them.

And let’s not forget the fact that an estimated 39 million Americans are already struggling to afford their homes. Granted, some of those folks might’ve taken on mortgages that were too ambitious to begin with, but often, it’s the lesser-known costs associated with homeownership that end up busting buyers’ budgets. But while you may have no choice but to maintain your property, you can take steps to make that upkeep as cost-effective as possible — even if it means doing more of that work yourself.

Conserving your money

Let’s be clear: If you’re in good shape financially and can afford to be paying others to maintain your property, then by all means, do so. But if you’re having a hard time keeping up with your bills, then it pays to rethink your spending and start getting your hands dirty.

Imagine you’re currently spending $285 a month on a housekeeping service. While doing that work yourself might cost you somewhere in the ballpark of $30 a month in supplies, you still stand to save over $250 a month, or $3,000 a year, by scrubbing your own floors and washing your own windows. Similarly, if you invest in a $400 lawn mower, it’ll pay for itself in just three months when you consider what the typical landscaper charges. And from there, you’ll have the opportunity to bank any future savings associated with cutting your own grass.

Of course, certain home maintenance tasks can be dangerous, and so it often pays to hire professionals to handle them. Take gutter cleaning, for example. Forking over $120 to have someone else get up on a ladder and clear those gutters is a worthwhile investment in your safety. Similarly, if you have a health condition that makes shoveling snow hazardous, then it makes sense to pay to have it removed. But when it comes to work you’re physically capable of doing, know that the less you outsource, the less you stand to spend — and the more you stand to save.

One final thing: If you’ve yet to purchase a home but are thinking of taking the plunge, aim to get a good sense of what your maintenance costs will look like before diving in. Even if you sign what’s considered an affordable mortgage based on your earnings, you could easily get caught off guard if your upkeep is higher than expected. And if you are stretching your budget, be willing to tackle as much of that maintenance as you possibly can. It’s worth giving up a little free time if doing so enables you to keep your spending in check.

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