Before signing the dotted line for a new home, your real estate agent might point out features about the property that could be “good for resale value.” And while you may be in the market for your forever home, the unexpected twists and turns of life mean that people sell their homes for a million reasons.
For homebuyers who are in the market for a smart investment, selling their home when the time is right is the objective from Day One. They may anticipate the future of an up-and-coming neighborhood, get a killer deal on a short sale or foreclosure, or intend to upgrade once they grow their families.
For others, a move can be unexpected. Issues like financial changes (for better or worse), job transfers, unexpected bills, marriage or divorce, or the need for more or less space can all motivate homeowners to sell.
And for a few, they just realize that the house they bought isn’t right for them.
In fact, Americans move every five to seven years on average. (Apparently, we’re a restless lot.)
No matter what your future plans are for your home, doing what you can to maintain its value can be a smart strategy. And while some value-add items take care of themselves, like the property’s location and the current real estate market, the majority are up to the homeowners.
And let’s be real. When it comes to working on a home, a little work here and there is a lot less painful than a lot of work on a moment’s notice.
Here are some ideas for creating a home maintenance checklist:
Update, Update, Update.
If a home that’s for sale has an updated anything, the real estate listing will scream it out in ALL CAPS. This can apply to appliances, cabinetry and countertops, flooring, popcorn ceiling, bathroom remodels, kitchen remodels, and more.
But which updates will actually add value to the house is a different question, and the answer can vary depending on current trends. In 2020, for example, home buyers are looking for large, spacious kitchens and, thanks to COVID-19, a home office space.
If your kitchen is due for an update, try to keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily mean stripping it to the studs and starting from scratch. Are the cabinets in good shape? Consider a fresh coat of paint or stain to reflect the latest color trends.
In addition, something as simple as upgrading to matching appliances or installing a garbage disposal or water filtration system could help maintain value—even if they’re not top-of-the-line.
It can also be important to remember that “update” means bringing the home’s aesthetics into line with current styles—replacing brass fixtures for brushed bronze, for example, or swapping out carpet for wood—but it doesn’t necessarily mean having to buy the most expensive version.
Something as simple as adding some USB outlets to a room could turn it into a potential home office space.
Other, more intensive, updates might adjust the actual layout of the home. If your current house only has one bathroom, is it possible to find a space for another half bath? Are there unused rooms or wasted space that could be updated to become more functional?
If you’re unsure about whether an update is a smart idea, SoFi’s value estimator could help inform your decision.
Keeping an Eye on the Big Ticket Items
Repainting to cover wall damage or update to a more modern color is a project that may not take too much time or money out of your budget.
Repairing or replacing a home’s expensive items, like the foundation, roof, electrical, plumbing, water, septic, well, A/C—can come with some serious sticker shock.
Issues with a home’s foundation, for example, can cost upwards of $10,000 to remedy. But a foundation inspection? That’s more like $350 to $1,000 . And keeping an eye on the foundation and walls yourself is free. Note that estimates will vary based on factors like location, the size of the house, and the extent of repairs required.
Aside from the foundation, replacing a home’s central heating and air system can be a significant expense that can also cost five figures to replace in the event of a total failure. The biggest contributor? According to an article on Realtor.com, it’s neglect .
Regular maintenance can help extend the life of the system so it can reach it’s full life expectancy—which is generally about 15 years.
Staying On Top of Maintenance
According to HomeAdvisor’s State of Home Spending Report , the average homeowner spent $1,105 a year on maintenance in 2018. That sounds like a lot, but when compared to the average cost of $7,560 for home improvement projects in 2018, it starts to sound more affordable.
What’s more, the report found that homeowners completed an average of 6.7 home maintenance projects vs. just 2.2 home improvement projects.
For their study, they listed items like HVAC maintenance, cleaning gutters, and landscaping as maintenance-related projects, but the list can also include keeping up with the pool or hot tub, power washing siding, decking, or concrete areas.
If it seems like a lot to remember, consider setting reminders on your smartphone for things like replacing A/C filters, having carpets professionally cleaned, or flushing out the hot tub.
You may also consider adding a line item into your budget for maintenance items, since these are normal costs of owning a home and it can help to plan for them.
Improving Curb Appeal
If there’s a “For Sale” sign in front of your house, the outside will be the first thing a potential homebuyer judges about your property. If not, the way your home looks as visitors arrive still makes a statement.
To evaluate the outside of your home, look at it from a visitor’s perspective. Is the grass trim? Are the weeds under control? Consider taking a look at the driveway, mailbox, and front porch area and asking yourself, if you were thinking about purchasing this home, would you be interested based on the curb appeal?
If the answer is no, it doesn’t mean you have to dig into the dirt. An affordable landscaper can help if your home is lush with vegetation, invest in mulch to help keep weeds under control, and consider native plants and shrubbery that require the least maintenance.
Another item that deserves attention is your front door. It creates a statement about your home, serves as a welcome to visitors and, if it’s steel, comes with an amazing return on investment—as much as 91% of the costs, which average around $1,500.
Upgrading Energy Efficiency
Making your home more energy efficient is one of those goals that’s great not only if you’re selling (89% of homebuyers report wanting to see efficient windows and appliances in a home), but also if you want to reduce spending on bills and taxes . And it doesn’t just mean big investments like switching to solar or wind-powered energy, although those are both growing trends .
Making your home more energy efficient can also be as simple as replacing bad weather seals, ensuring that the attic has sufficient insulation, paying attention to the air and heating, and using energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances.
Upgrading the energy efficiency of your home is something that might even be rolled in with another project, such as maintenance or updating.
Installing Smart Tech
Even if your home is more than 100 years, old adding smart tech can make it 21st-century ready. Smart home assistants like Google or Alexa, for example, can control everything from the lights to the TV to locking the front door.
They can also allow you to remotely control your heating and air temperatures, make sure the oven is actually turned off, and even give you a sense of security with security systems or video door bells. In order for the home assistants to accomplish all of these features, additional smart appliances may be required.
While some types of home tech are hard-wired into the house and others are more portable, even being able to say “wired for surround sound” can be a bonus on a home listing.
According to a recent Forbes report, smart home tech is starting to move up the must-have list for homebuyers. But, like energy efficiencies, adding it to your home can be a perk even if you have no immediate plans to move.
Keeping the Bugs at Bay
One important job that comes with homeownership is keeping unwanted critters outside where they belong. Public enemy No. 1 in this category? Termites. They can wreak havoc on a home’s wood structures to the tune of $1 billion in property damage every year.
The problem is so widespread that some home loan companies require buyers to get a termite letter , which is basically a guarantee that the home is free from termite damage.
DIY recommendations for keeping the pests at bay can also check off items on the home maintenance list, including keeping gutters and downspouts flowing, filling in any places where water pools around the home or in the yard, filling in cracks in the foundation and keeping air vets free and clear.
And if an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, then a $75 to $150 termite inspection is worth avoiding a $1,000 termite treatment.
Beyond termites and the havoc they wreak, there are a variety of other living creatures that can cause damage to a home or surrounding property, including attic squatters like mice or raccoons, carpenter bees, moles, mosquitoes, and even grasshoppers that brunch on beautiful landscaping.
Making Improvements Affordable
Budgeting a few extra dollars a month for A/C filters is one thing, but putting on a new roof is a bigger beast. Before going down the path of home improvement, it can be important to determine whether the goal is to add resale value, or something that’s just a personal desire. If it’s the former, consider using a Home Project Value Estimator that can help determine whether it’s a smart investment, or if it might be wiser to take a different route.
From there, one next step could be to weigh the various options for paying for a home project. Some companies offer same-as-cash financing options, or deferred-interest loans , but in those cases it’s important to remember that if the balance isn’t paid by the deadline, it could lead to a payment that includes any leftover balance plus interest.
One way to avoid deferred-interest surprises is with a personal loan. Securing a low interest rate and a fixed monthly payment can mean no surprises, less hassle, and maybe even enough to hire an expert for the heavy lifting.
Ready to bring back or improve the value of your home? With SoFi’s Home Improvement Loans, qualifying borrows can get approved for up to $100,000.
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