First-time homeowners sometimes find themselves surprised at how much maintenance they need to do on their houses — even new ones.
Sometimes maintenance is as simple as plunging a toilet or touching up paint on a wall or stain on a deck. Other times, however, home maintenance means bigger projects. These are the kind you might not be willing to undertake right away — either because you lack the expertise or the money.
But skipping these projects could wind up costing you in the long run. How? Because neglecting some maintenance or repair projects could mean expensive home insurance claims. That means paying a deductible now and facing the prospect of higher premiums in the future.
Here’s a look at some common maintenance projects, their price tags and the potential cost of ignoring them.
Start at the Top
The last windstorm that blew through town sounded pretty vicious, and you remember thinking that the hail was pounding your house particularly hard. Do you know whether the wind or hail loosened or damaged any of your shingles?
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It matters. Roof damage can remain hidden until the next storm strikes. What could happen? Plenty. A loose shingle or two could evolve into a hole in your roof, inviting major water damage.
What you can do: Break out the ladder and inspect your roof after particularly violent storms and every time the seasons change. It won’t cost you anything but time. Better yet, have your roof professionally inspected. How much will that cost? About $200, sometimes less depending on how extensive a procedure you request. And if you need to replace or repair shingles? That can run about $200, depending on the damage.
The other threat to your roof comes from tree branches. A branch can smash through your roof (or for that matter, a window or side wall), resulting in the need for major repairs.
What you can do: Check your trees for dead, diseased or damaged branches. Hiring a professional to remove them will cost roughly $250, depending on how much work you want done. You should also check trees on neighboring yards and alert owners to any problems.
What if you ignore these tasks? The average cost of a weather-related homeowners insurance claim is more than $7,300.
Where There’s Smoke
More than 64,000 structure fires in the U.S. in 2011 (the latest year for which statistics are available) happened because of faulty heating or electrical distribution equipment, according to the National Fire Prevention Association. You’ve got a real stake in making sure that your heating and cooling system is maintained properly and that you’ve got an updated electrical distribution system.
What you can do: If your heating system is more than 10 years old, have a professional inspect and clean it. It will cost about $100, possibly less. Replacing your HVAC system, of course, will cost much more, depending on the type of system you select.
What else you can do: Hire a professional to upgrade your electrical wiring. It should cost between $400 and $500. If you have electrical outlets that need replacing, bite the bullet and get it done at the same time. The cost is roughly $100 an outlet.
Before you light the fireplace: Your chimney is another major fire risk. Before you light the first fire every winter, hire a chimney sweep. Cost: about $125.
What are the potential consequences of ignoring these tasks? You increase the chances of fire in your house. The average home insurance fire claim is more than $34,200.
Water Your Options
It’s easy to ignore your plumbing and gutters — until something goes wrong. Broken pipes and appliance failures (think water heater and washing machine) can cause thousands of dollars of damage to your home by the time you get everything fixed.
What you can do: Check the supply hoses on your appliances. If they’re worn or leaking, replace them. You can buy PVC pipe for about $20; better yet, spring for braided steel hoses. That will cost about $100. As for the gutters, you can clean them yourself or hire a pro to do it for around $200.
If you don’t take these steps, you could face serious water damage. The average water damage claim comes in at nearly $7,200.
Remember, while your home insurance likely would cover all these claims, you’d still have to pay the deductible. Plus, you stand to lose your claims-free discount, which means your premiums will be higher for years.
Putting in a little work or money on the front end means you stand a better chance of avoiding costly repairs down the road. It also will pay off when you want to sell your house. If you keep up maintenance on the home, you likely won’t have to make a lot of costly repairs — or drop the purchase price to account for them — before you close on the sale.
Read More from Zillow:
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- Summertime — and the Liability Is Easy
- 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Homeowners Policy
Arthur Murray writes for HomeInsurance.com, an online insurance resource for homeowners and drivers across the country. Offering comparative homeowners and automobile insurance rates, consumers rely on HomeInsurance.com for the most competitive rates from the top-rated insurance carriers in the country. The HomeInsurance.com blog provides fresh tips and advice on a range of financial topics to help homeowners and homebuyers make educated decisions about their insurance purchases.