Owning a home is a big responsibility. It is a significant investment in both time and money. For most Americans, a house is the single most expensive thing they own and the number one way to build intergenerational wealth. Homeownership comes with responsibilities and duties. You need to pay your bills, including mortgage payments, and keep your lawn in good shape with quality tools like a mulching lawnmower and a gas-powered weed wacker. Homeowner responsibilities also include paying your property taxes every year and performing regular maintenance duties in and around the property. Explore nine tips for keeping your home in excellent condition and protecting the value of your most important asset.
1 Pay Your Mortgage
As simple as it may seem, staying current with your mortgage payments is one of the most fundamental responsibilities of every homeowner. The key to staying on top of your payments is making sure you purchase a home you can afford. Most banks recommend spending 28% of your gross monthly income on your mortgage payment. If you purchase a home that is a more significant percentage of your monthly salary, it may be challenging to keep up with payments.
If you experience difficulty paying your mortgage due to an unexpected life event, take a proactive approach. Contact your mortgage broker and explain the situation to them. They may work with you on a temporary arrangement to help you stay current on your payments, such as paying interest only for 30 to 60 days. Remember that any skipped payments will be tacked on at the end, extending the mortgage term.
2 Understand Your Home and How It Works
Your home has different systems, including HVAC, water, sewage, and gas. It is essential to understand these systems, how they work, the regular maintenance they need, and potential problems that might occur. For example, you need to regularly change the filters on your HVAC system. If you have a septic tank, hire a professional to check it every three to five years to ensure it works correctly. If you live in a cold climate, winterize all parts of your home, particularly water pipes vulnerable to freezing and bursting. Seal your pipes and insulate exposed plumbing. If you experience extreme cold, turn on your faucet and let it drip. Moving water prevents freezing and burst pipes. Keep your indoor temperature above 55° to prevent issues and circulate warm air.
3 Pay Your Taxes and Fees
Taxes are a regular part of homeownership, and many places assess personal property taxes on your home. Every state and municipality has different regulations and tax rates, but they average 1.1 percent of the home’s value nationwide. You are responsible for contacting your county appraiser to understand the taxes or fees you need to pay each year. It is also essential to know what extra fees you have to pay. You might live in an area where you need to pay for garbage or recycling collection. You might also need to pay for communal facilities like a community pool. If your home falls under Home Owners Association (HOA) rules, understand the fees you need to pay to the organization and budget accordingly.
4 Understand Your Utilities
Every homeowner needs to understand their utilities and their costs. Generally, every home has electricity, water, and sewage connection. Other utilities include gas, telephone, internet, cable, or satellite connections. One service provider may have a monopoly over a service in your location, but some places have several provider options.
Shop around for different pricing and consider adding cost-saving additions to your home to reduce expenses. These may include solar panels, high-efficiency toilets, and energy-efficient appliances. For example, the federal residential solar energy credit allows you to claim a tax credit for solar photovoltaic systems (solar panels). If you meet the requirements for filing, you can receive up to 26% tax credit if you install your system in 2022 and 22% for 2023.
5 Buy Tools to Fix Things
You can expect elements to break, stop working, or wear out when you own a home. Calling a maintenance person for every problem adds up quickly, especially if you don’t have home warranty insurance. Fixing minor breaks and doing simple repairs can save you money and keep your home in excellent shape. Consider investing in the following essential tools to prepare yourself for inevitable repairs:
- Basic tool set with screwdrivers and a quality hammer
- Gloves and safety goggles
- Plumbing tools for the bathroom
- Painting supplies for touch-ups
- Wood, carpet, and tile tools to repair all surfaces of your home
6 Stay on Top of Regular Maintenance
Every home requires periodic maintenance, such as lawn care. Make regular maintenance a habit with different tasks for every season. Maintenance tasks include cleaning your gutters twice a year, trimming outdoor plants in the summer, and checking your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly. Beyond the basics, you should check your home for any developing problems at least four times a year in winter, spring, summer, and fall. Check your foundation for cracks and your roof for small leaks and examine your home for chipped paint and drafty windows. Catching these problems before they become serious can save you money on hiring a professional to visit your home and make large, costly repairs.
7 Maintain the Appearance of Your Home
Your home is an asset and should increase in value over the years if you keep it up properly. One of the best ways to improve your home’s value is to maintain its appearance. Touch up any chipped or faded paint, cut, trim, and water all outdoor plants, and keep all sidewalks clean.
Mow your lawn regularly and trim your trees to prevent them from growing into important structures like utility lines or growing too close to your house, allowing easier access for pests like roof rats. Rake your leaves in the fall so they don’t deprive cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass of the sunlight they need to grow. If your kitchen or bathroom floor is made of concrete or porcelain large format tile, inspect it monthly to check for chips, cracks, water damage, or mold. Wash your windows at least quarterly to prevent corrosion from acid rain and built-up debris.
8 Plan for Emergencies
Emergencies happen, and every homeowner must prepare. Buy a first aid kit and at least one fire extinguisher for every floor of your home. Keep your first aid kit up to date and replace your items every three to five years or more often for medicines like OTC pain relievers. If you keep important documents in your home, particularly documents that are difficult to replace, store them in a fireproof safe in a location where you can grab them quickly if you need to evacuate your home. Also, keep copies of identification, birth certificates, deeds, titles, and insurance policies in the safe.
If you live in an area that is particularly prone to natural disasters, prepare your home by stocking emergency supplies and planning an evacuation route. Ensure that your homeowner’s insurance offers coverage for that natural disaster. Most roof damage from normal wind and rain is covered, but typically your deductible is 2% of your policy amount. Purchase an emergency alert radio to keep you informed if your home loses power or telecommunication connections.
9 Keep Meticulous Records
If you are a homeowner, it is your responsibility to document your insurance, utilities, maintenance, and taxes. Keep your mortgage paperwork, closing documents, and homeowner’s insurance policy records in a safe and accessible location so you can reference them when needed. For example, if you want to refinance your property, you’ll need access to your documents to choose the right lender and loan terms for the refinance. Keeping detailed records of your home maintenance and improvement costs can help you budget effectively. These receipts can also help you identify areas where you could make money-saving improvements to your home, such as energy-efficient HVAC systems or solar panels.
Enjoy Owning Your Home
The responsibilities of homeownership require time and effort, but they are well worth it. Owning a home affords you safety and security. It also lets you take advantage of increasing equity in a significant financial asset. Prepare for owning your home by familiarizing yourself with responsibilities like paying your mortgage, taxes, and HOA fees and performing routine home maintenance. This approach can help your property increase in value and give you an enjoyable home-owning experience.
If you are thinking of selling your home in the future, check out the infographic below about the biggest blindspots for overconfident sellers.
By HomeLight Homes