Homeownership is big commitment. It is likely the largest amount of money you will ever spend on a single item. And the longest amount of time to pay that money back. And the biggest chunk of your monthly budget. So do you know how take care of your investment?

1.Commit to Regular Maintenance

Buying a house one of those big promises. Like ‘Love, honor, and respect.’ So be sure you are ready to keep that promise. A home needs TLC and that will cost some money. Be sure you budget those costs in addition to the normal ones like mortgages and utilities.

One common estimate is to expect to spend 1 percent of the value of your home on maintenance every year. If you have a $250,000 dollar home, budget $2,500 dollars a year, just over $200 a month, to keeping that home in proper shape.

2.Make a Checklist of What You Need to Do

Once you know you are going to be spending money on maintenance, you should make sure you cover all the basics first before investing in extra projects. A checklist can help keep you on track, giving you assurance you are checking what needs checked and doing what needs to be done. In fact, it can be great for those less common tasks which get left behind in the day to day rush.

Break down your list by time periods, monthly, quarterly, annually, and organize them to make them easier. Find annual tasks that are best done in a certain season and add them to your quarterly list. For example, Spring is a good time to have your air conditioning serviced and to check your screens for damage, while Fall is best for servicing your central heating and winterizing pipes and faucets.

3.Know Your Limits

Many maintenance tasks can be performed by anyone. Vacuuming your refrigerator coils is pretty simple. So is checking your smoke alarm batteries. But some should be left to experts. Any major wiring project needs expertise you may not have (unless you are a professional electrician). Ask around, do some research, and think carefully about how likely you are to be able to accomplish this on your own. Don’t forget to factor in the risks.

In our wiring example, you would be working with electricity, more than enough to put someone in the hospital, or cause a fire. Is the cost of a professional worth reducing that risk? Think about this before you start. It costs less to hire a professional from the beginning than to have one come in and fix your mistakes after you’ve made them. Plus, you didn’t have to spend your time getting partway through the project.

4. Regularly Check the Value of Your Home

Some maintenance isn’t keeping things up, but improving them. Usually the idea is to increase the value of your home, either for when you sell it or to make living in it more comfortable. Be sure to make an honest assessment of the value of the project or improvement.

Let’s say you have a window that needs replacing, and you see bay windows for sale. Will putting in that bay window increase the value of your home? Absolutely. It’s likely to be a good selling point by adding warmth and light to your home.  Can you say the same for shag carpet? Absolutely not.

5. Make a Budget (And Plan for the Unexpected)

You’ve set aside money for your annual maintenance but now you have to decide what to allocate to each project. After doing your best to price it out, remember that it always costs more than you expect. Get used to adding 15% to 20% to your final estimate on most projects. Need to replace an outlet? Oh, did you remember to get new wire caps? Did you damage the cover plate while taking it off? Even little jobs can have unexpected costs.

Take a deep breath and use that little bit extra you added to take care of it. If you do end up meeting your estimate, or even going under budget, celebrate! And put the money back in your maintenance budget. You will find a good use for it, either when you go over somewhere else or on another little project.

Your home is most likely your biggest single investment and keeping it up should be a priority. So, follow these rules and you can not only preserve the value of your home, but increase your enjoyment, your comfort, in living there. Commit to maintenance, make a list, only do what you can, make sure it adds value, and be prepared when it costs a little more. And you can have a home you can be proud of.

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