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Understanding Home Improvement and Maintenance Costs

Congratulations on buying your very own home or condo! Transitioning from renting to owning is a big accomplishment—not just because you are investing in your future, but because you got through all the paperwork, which is a feat in itself. Now all that’s left is to maintain and improve your home.

If you dream of renovating your new place, you may need to plan to drop some serious cash. The average kitchen remodel can set you back $20,000 and a bathroom remodel averages about $9,000, according to

Even if you don’t take on any major renovations, home maintenance and repair can be pricey, depending on the age of your home and how well it was maintained by previous owners. A common guideline is to set aside 1% of your home’s cost each year for maintenance, even with newer homes. So, if your home costs $200,000, you should plan to spend $2,000 per year for ongoing upkeep.

home improvement projects by season

How to pay for home improvement projects

When you’re ready to renovate, remodel, or upgrade your new place, you always have the option of putting it on a credit card or taking out a personal loan. If you take this approach, just be realistic about how much you pay in fees and interest over the long run. You might appreciate your new bathroom now, but will you still love it in five years, when you’ve paid as much in interest as the overall cost of the project?

Unlike renters, homeowners can borrow against their homes to fund improvement projects. Make sure you understand the terms of any loan agreement, including fees, penalties, and restrictions.

Refinance your mortgage. If it’s been a few years since you got your mortgage loan and the interest you’re paying is higher than the current market, you could get lower monthly payments by refinancing. Once your payments are lowered, the money you save can go toward home projects.

A cash-out refinance lets you borrow enough to pay off your current mortgage. This is only a good option if you plan to make home improvements that will increase your home’s resale value. Cash-out refinance deals let you take out up to 80% of your home’s worth.

Get a home equity line of credit (HELOC). Unlike a refinance, which pays off the original mortgage, a HELOC is a line of credit for up to 80% of your home’s value that you can use over a certain amount of time—called a draw period—typically about 10 years. A line of credit is like having a credit card. You can spend as much or as little as needed. The repayment period is generally around 15 years and likely would increase your monthly payments. Tax deductions on HELOCs are limited to $100,000.

Home equity loan. If you don’t want to refinance, you can take out a second home loan. This is similar to a HELOC, but instead of a line of credit to draw from over a while, you’re getting a lump sum of cash. If your original home loan is locked in at a very low-interest rate, you might not want to refinance, but keep in mind that the interest rate on a second mortgage is likely to be higher than a refinance.

Hiring contractors and repairmen

Home improvements and repairs are big investments, so you’ll want to make sure you hire the right people to help you, even if you aren’t doing a huge home renovation. This is not an area to skimp on research. Look for complaints and reviews online. Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations. Get several quotes before any work begins and make sure you and the service provider continually check in on timelines and budget.

Especially if you are doing a major remodel, you will want to have a signed agreement with the contractor outlining the project before you begin. You can ask for the names of all the subcontractors they plan to work with and request lien releases, which are formal acknowledgments signed by the subcontractors stating that they’ve been paid. This prevents a contractor from pocketing the money.

And if someone is not working out, don’t be afraid to call them out on it. When it comes to your home, you are the boss. It’s up to you to hire the right people for the job and to hold them accountable if they don’t deliver. Keep in mind though that, unless you signed an agreement with the person before the work began, it’s essentially going to be your word against theirs.

ongoing home maintenance projects

Ongoing home maintenance

Just as you maintain your car, your home or other real estate you own requires regular attention to operate smoothly and prevent future problems. Below is a breakdown of basic home maintenance tasks most homeowners take along when it is recommended to take these actions.

You might not get to everything on this list, but it’s at least a good idea to be aware of the types of things that can wear out, clog up, or run down for your homeownership.


  • Inspect and replace HVAC filters as needed.
  • Check fire extinguishers to see if the gauges show adequate pressure.
  • Clean range hood filters and deep clean oven.
  • Clean garbage disposal in the kitchen sink.


  • Test smoke alarms and carbon dioxide detectors.
  • Check water softener and add salt if needed.
  • Test water heater’s pressure relief valve.
  • Vacuum refrigerator coils.

Seasonal projects 


  • Clean gutters and check for drainage problems. You do not want any standing water to pool near the house where it might seep into the foundation. Sometimes you can fix this yourself by sloping dirt in trouble areas to help with drainage. Other times, you might need to call for professional help.
  • Look for exterior damage to paint, screens, and siding.
  • Check the foundation for any signs of cracking.
  • Check the roof for signs of wear and damage.
  • Clear dead branches, bushes, and shrubs.
  • Check for problem trees, such as branches interfering with power lines or roots breaking through the pavement.
  • Prep your air conditioning unit for summer. See you A/C unit’s owner’s manual for service guidelines.


  • Ongoing yard maintenance including mowing, watering, weeding, and pruning.
  • Take care of pest problems.
  • Inspect plumbing for leaks, cracks, and loose connections.
  • Check dryer exhaust vents.
  • Deep clean the basement and garage.


  • Check for gaps and air leaks around windows and doors.
  • Prep heating system.
  • Clean the fireplace, including the chimney if you have one.
  • Flush water heater and remove sediment.
  • Test your basement sump pump to make sure it’s working.


  • Ongoing outdoor maintenance including snow removal. Watch for the build-up of icicles that can weigh down the roof and cause water damage when they melt.
  • Check shower and bathtub grout.
  • Clean showerheads and faucets.

Regardless of the time of year, there is always something you can do to show your home some love and care. Home maintenance is crucial to protecting your investment in the long term. If you don’t feel comfortable with upkeep, you may want to consider hiring help.

If we missed anything or you have something to share, feel free to comment below – we’d love to hear from you.

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