Budget · Frugality

A Story of Home Maintenance

Confession, I am not handy. I do not come from a handy family. If it were not for Mr. Hippie the only construction tools I would own for home maintenance would be a single hammer and half a dozen pairs of scissors. The fact that I consider scissors a construction tool in the first place should tell you something. The fact that I feel the need to put the word “construction” in front of “tool” should tell you all you need to know. 

 

However, I am now the proud owner of a 1,000 square foot bungalow that is older than my grandparents. And as you can safely assume, home maintenance is not my forte. So, when two days ago during an afternoon shower it started raining in my kitchen, what do you think I did?

If you guessed calmly and cooly assessed then methodically repaired the damage you have not been paying attention. Y’all, I straight panicked. 

When it rains it pours… straight into my kitchen

 

In spite of having:

  • The number of a roofing company I’d successfully used before
  • Home insurance 
  • And, a massive emergency fund, I still completely freaked because roofs are expensive and a new one could wipe out part of the aforementioned e-fund. There’s also a pandemic going on and inviting multiple companies into my home for maintenance is less than ideal right now. There was also a week of thunderstorms coming up on the weather radar. 

 

But after I finished freaking out, here’s what I did about it: 

We surveyed the damage and discovered what looked like a fresh baseball sized hole in the attic.I grabbed a 5 gallon bucket to put under the hole in the attic to prevent the living room rain. Next we called the roofing company we’d used before to come out and give us an estimate. I then asked my network for more roofer recommendations and called those companies to come out and give us an estimate as well. While waiting for the roofers to come by I took the opportunity to become more familiar with my homeowner’s policy and the home inspection we got prior to buying 3 years ago. The home inspection revealed that the roof had certain deficits caused by age even then. What’s more, it reminded me of a great deal of deferred maintenance on the house and things that had slowly drifted off of my to do list over the years. 

A day later, the first roofer came and was particularly salesmanesque. Without even getting his ladder out to climb on top of the roof he offered a quick fix for the hole for $500 but encouraged us to spring for a completely new roof for $5,000. This prompted the development of a decision tree outlining in which circumstances getting a new roof right now would be in our best interest and in which circumstances settling for the much more affordable quick fix would be best. We had just about decided that the quick fix for now was our best bet and we would evaluate getting a new roof the next time it failed or prior to us selling the house (whichever came first) when the next estimate came in. This roofer recommended patching because the damage was caused by squirrels chewing a hole in the roof and not necessarily failure from the age of the roof. He quoted us $350 to patch the hole and estimated our roof still had 5-7 years worth of life! Citing tomorrow’s pending storm he also assured us he could get a team out for repairs within 24 hours before the rain started again and no one would even need to enter our home. I have never agreed to a home repair faster. 

 

Can you imagine how much money we would have wasted if we had gone with the first estimate and let the salesman talk us into getting a new roof? 

 

One of my takeaways from this experience is always always always get multiple estimates. The more data you have, the more prepared you are and the more informed your decision will be. Another takeaway is to know your liabilities and know them well.

 

Analysis

While I knew what all of my possessions including my car cost to replace, I had cast a blind eye toward my house and wasn’t seeing it for its future maintenance costs. While we keep a large emergency fund for situations like this and could have easily paid for a new roof in cash many times over, I realize that I was not psychologically prepared to drop a significant portion of the fund on this. I, like I assume many of you, am very frugal by nature and get a lot of anxiety over making major expensive purchases quickly. But, following this experience I now have $5,000 of our emergency savings money marked “Home Maintenance” and am working on psychologically preparing myself to put a chunk of change into maintenance every year. Though I have seen as high as 4%, most real estate guides suggest homes cost 1-2% of the purchase price to maintain annually. The $5,000 I’m earmarking is going to come in more conservative than that range, but it’s an older home and I have now internalized I will absolutely need a new roof within the next few years!

This experience has motivated me to begin studying our home inspection to realize easy things around the house I can do myself to reduce the cost of this annual maintenance. I’m seeing how many cracks and crevices I could seal to extend the life of our siding. I’m researching how to insulate my home myself to make it even more efficient and reduce our A/C bill.

 

$aving$

I was also inspired to check out my homeowner’s policy to see if I needed to update or reduce my coverage. Not a lot of fat to cut here. But, while I was at it, I took another look at my auto insurance to see if I could reduce my annual mileage now that that hunk of metal and plastic stays parked nearly 24/7. Turns out, I could! My policy had been set at 10,000 miles annually which definitely left some fat to trim. I reduced this to a more comfortable 2,000 miles a year then clicked away all of the warning signs that “Most people drive at least 10,000 miles a year. Are you sure this is your accurate mileage????” Badabing, badaboom, $39.96/year off of my annual premium. Sure, I may reduce this in post-quarantine life, but for now, I will take it! 

 

Takeways:

  • Always get multiple estimates
  • Know your liabilities
  • Psychologically prepare yourself to pay for those liabilities if there is a point of failure
  • Reduce your insurance so you are not paying for more than you need

 

By the way, no one who came to the house needed to come inside and everyone kept 6 ft distance!

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