Home ownership, repairs, and bills… oh my

Home ownership is expensive. Let me just get that off my chest right there. There was a point in my life where I thought home ownership would save me money, but now I’m thinking that was naive and delusional.

Maybe I’m just feeling whiny today, but by tracking our expenses and paying close attention to our bills, I’ve noticed a lot of money and work has been going to our house lately.

We refinanced our mortgage recently so that monthly bill has gone up. That increase was self-induced and we were fully prepared for that change though. Minor bill pain for being mortgage-free sooner!

Our property taxes have inched up every year, our electricity bill has gone up and we have a never-ending list of minor maintenance and repair tasks. It feels like whenever we finish one thing, something else pops up.

Maybe it’s the by-product of living in a 50-year-old house. Again, that’s a choice that we made willingly, knowing there would be associated repair costs with an older house. However, this slow and steady stream of inflation/maintenance costs has been making me re-evaluate some things.

First, here’s a recap of some of our recent home-related expenses:

Re-stain porch:

Our front porch is built out of wood. Since our home faces south, the poor porch gets constant exposure to sun and rain so the wood stain wears quickly and needs a lot of maintenance. We’ve thought about replacing it with composite decking at some point, but haven’t been able to justify the cost yet.

Photo of our re-stained front porch. - Home ownership, repairs, and bills... oh my | Femme Cents
The finished re-stained product. I’m a DIY blogging fail and didn’t get a before photo.

This is a sunk cost because I already had the brushes and stain from when I last stained it two years ago. Nevertheless, it still cost me two days worth of toddler-free nap time.

Soffit/Gutter repair:

We’ve had some water damage to the soffits on our house (the underside of where the roof overhangs the house). Water, where it’s not supposed to be, is generally bad news. Before it gets worse and causes bigger problems, we figured we needed to get it looked at to understand what we are dealing with.

Image of the water damage behind our gutters. - Home ownership, repairs, and bills... oh my| Femme Cents
Water damage=bad. Wherever it is.

Apparently, whoever installed the gutters did it wrong. We need to replace the gutters and install proper sheathing with it. That will prevent water from dripping back up under the shingles then through the soffits when it rains. The estimated cost to fix: $468.

Before biting the bullet though, we’re going to get another estimate to make sure we’re paying a reasonable price. I’m an enthusiast of DIY projects, but I don’t quite feel comfortable tackling this one myself.

Broken Garage Door:

Image of where our door frame broke - Home ownership, repairs, and bills... oh my | Femme Cents
Busted door frame. Darn wind.

We have a detached garage. One day, the wind caught the door and slammed it shut so hard that it broke the frame and now the door won’t latch. Cost to replace: $100

Flooring:

Fun fact: little tiny tree roots are attracted to water and hence particularly like sewer pipes. They are notorious for finding ways in around pipe joints. Then, the little bastards build up and cause clogs.

So, unexpectedly after giving your toddler a bath one day all that bathwater you just drained ends up backing up into your closet.

PSA: Snake your sewer annually! If you haven’t done so recently, do it sooner rather than later, even if you have a newer house. I’ve learned my lesson.

Fortunately, I was in the basement to hear water coming up and noticed it right away. However, it still flooded enough to damage the carpet. The carpet was old and gross anyway and we had looked at replacing it in December, but we were put off by the cost at that time. Since it ended up flooding, I’m glad we decided not to do it then so that new carpet wasn’t ruined!

Side note: the clog cleared right after I sent that tweet so I was able to cancel the after-hours service call and schedule a cheaper visit for the next morning. #littlewins

Nonetheless, we still had to take out the damaged, molding carpet. Since it ran through the whole basement, we decided to just replace it all. The incident prompted us to think about the nature of water in basements and we decided to replace all the carpet with waterproof vinyl flooring. It was also cheaper than the carpet replacement we had considered.

 

Thankfully hubby doesn’t mind DIY projects either so we were able to do it all for the cost of material. Cost to fix: $1200 for flooring, $110 for sewer cleaning.

By this point, you may be thinking our house is a falling apart, money pit.

At least, that thought may have crossed my mind a time or two.

But then I remind myself, that there are features about our house that I do like, and the way property prices have risen lately, the cost of a different house would be significantly more expensive than just repairing these things. After all, any home is going to have maintenance expenses.

In the renting vs. buying debates, I’ve always been pretty firmly in team home ownership. However, I feel like these experiences are helping me to understand the other side better. It would have been much easier to just call a landlord when any of these things happened.

Maybe someday I’ll do a cost/benefit analysis of renting vs. buying for our situation, but I think that would make this post a little too long.

We’re not going to be selling our home any time soon, but for now, this all has got me thinking about some questions:

  • How much is home maintenance an investment versus just an expense?
  • At what point is home ownership not worth it?
    • Relative to expenses?
    • Relative to the life choices you need to make to afford it?
  • How do you really anticipate annual maintenance costs? Is the 1% rule really accurate (because in my experience, the answer is NO!)
  • How do you avoid a home that had shoddy prior maintenance if the inspections don’t catch it?

I don’t really have any answers to those questions right now, but they’re mulling at the back of my head.

Stay tuned for my follow-up post on my thoughts on how this relates to income, inflation, life-planning and hard choices!

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