My Husband and I Plan for a Massive Home Repair Every Other Year. You May Want to as Well


When my husband and I bought our new construction home about 15 years ago, we paid more for it than what we would’ve paid for a similar home that was already lived in. Of course, we made sure to buy a home that fit into our budget. And since mortgage rates were pretty favorable at the time, we were confident that we weren’t getting in over our heads.

Even though we paid a bit extra for our home and wound up with pretty large mortgage payments, we figured that on the flip side, our home repair costs would be pretty minimal for the first decade of living in our home at least. Well, we were wrong. And we’ve adjusted our savings habits because of that.

When the repairs just keep on coming

One thing my husband and I have learned during buying and residing in our home is that when it comes to houses, they just don’t make ’em like they used to.

Several components of our home turned out to be builder-grade. That might sound like a good thing, but it’s basically another way of saying: “Let’s take the cheapest possible water heater/furnace/household system and use it for this build to save ourselves money, even though it will result in the homeowners having to replace it in short order.”

Don’t mind the bitterness. It comes out every so often.

So yeah, to make a long story short, my husband and I started to face costly repairs about six years into living in our home — just at the time when some of our appliances and fixtures conveniently came off of warranty. That served as a wakeup call. So we began putting money into a home repair emergency fund — one we kept separate from our regular emergency fund.

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The way we see it, the purpose of our primary emergency fund is to replace our income in the event of a job loss. But our home repair emergency fund isn’t really an emergency fund so much as a “we’re going to need this money at some point so we’d better save it” sort of fund.

And it’s a good thing we made an effort to build those savings, because in the past five years, we’ve had to replace two air conditioning systems, two heating systems, and a water heater. Since those things are all now pretty new and under warranty, we’re not worried about them going out anytime soon. But plenty of other things have the potential to go wrong with our home.

At this point, my husband and I budget for a major home repair every other year. And what we do is to put a certain sum of money into our home repair emergency fund so that when those repairs come up, we have the cash.

It’s best to anticipate major repairs

If you’re buying a home, it’s natural to hope for the best when it comes to repairs. But here’s a news flash. Even if your home undergoes a thorough inspection before you close on it, you might still end up having to shell out thousands of dollars within the first few years of living there.

And if you’re buying a home that’s on the older side, your chances of near-term repairs may be even higher. After all, if we faced repairs just years after moving into a home that was never lived in before, imagine what repairs you might face if you bought a home that’s 80 years old. Then again, some 80-year-old homes may be in much better condition than my 15-year-old home, so there’s that.

It can be tricky to figure out how much money to sock away for major home repairs. So one thing you may want to do is make a list of your home’s major components and research the cost of replacing them.

For example, Angi reports that the average cost to replace an HVAC system is $7,500, with the most typical range for this project falling between $5,000 and $12,500. If your HVAC system is at an age where a replacement is likely in the next year or two, you may want to aim to save $7,500 so you’ve covered for that expense.

All told, repairs are inevitable when you own a home. But planning for major ones doesn’t make you a pessimist. It makes you a realist — and one who just might manage to steer clear of debt by having enough money in your savings account.

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