How Homeowners Can Navigate Paying for Home Repairs

Band-aid home repairs

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By Author: Bret Engle

Eventually, it happens to every homeowner: You wake up to puddled water in your laundry room, your roof wears out, or Mother Nature sends damaging storms in your direction. When those incidents occur, having a plan can make the difference between panic and peace of mind.

Hiring Contractors for Repairs

Unless you’re particularly handy, chances are you’ll be paying for a repairman at some point. Whether it’s to bring a furnace back to life, quickly restore an appliance to working condition, or lift a tree off your roof and fix the gaping hole left behind, something is sure to be beyond your skills and abilities. When the time comes and you need to hire a contractor, Nationwide recommends starting with a firm idea of what work you want to be completed, as it’s the best way to ensure the estimates you get will be accurate. Then, look around for qualified candidates, get references, and speak with them individually before committing to anyone.

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Also, if you notice something that needs repairing, don’t let it linger for too long — doing so could cost you a lot more money in the long term. For example, if you notice termites anywhere inside your home, call a pro immediately. Not only are they pests, but they can also do serious harm to the structure of your home, which means you’ll have to shell out even more money. The national average for a termite control expert costs around $250 to $630, but these figures pale in comparison to the amount you could pay if termites do a significant amount of damage.

Tackling Emergencies

Ideally, every homeowner sets aside funds for dealing with emergency repairs. As a rule of thumb, some experts suggest having between 1 percent and 4 percent in a rainy day fund for home repairs. However, life doesn’t always run smoothly. You might be managing your family on a single income, experience a series of unexpected emergencies, or have a life change that impacts your financial situation. Some statistics indicate average homeowners paid almost $3,000 toward home improvements in 2015, with over half that amount going toward repairs. It’s a substantial financial outlay, especially if you are unprepared.

Alternatives to Savings

Sometimes, your home can be fixed through insurance coverage, although your insurance policy won’t cover everything. For instance, water damage can be tricky. Some water damage might be covered, depending on the source of trouble, but damage from flooding normally requires a special flood insurance policy; if a natural disaster occurs, the government might provide assistance. Things like wear and tear or neglect are not normally covered, and insurance policies always have particulars of what they will pay on things which are covered, like whether they will pay for replacements, luxury items, electronics, and so forth.

However, what if your damage isn’t covered by insurance, it’s not a natural disaster, and you don’t have a cushion in your piggy bank? You might be able to borrow funds from family members, use home equity to cover repairs or put expenses on a credit card. If necessary, consider reaching out to local government, area charities, or utility companies for assistance.

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Nip Things in the Bud

Letting home maintenance or minor repairs go can be a recipe for trouble. It usually doesn’t take long for a dripping faucet to turn into a full-blown leak or a missing shingle to lead to crumbling ceilings. By intervening as soon as possible, you can keep expenses at a minimum. Along those same lines, there are many maintenance tasks that will prolong the life of your home and its contents. For example, cleaning your refrigerator coils regularly not only keeps the machine running more efficiently, but it can also extend its lifespan. Keeping gutters emptied helps avoid water overflowing or ice damage to your roof, and changing your furnace filters helps your HVAC system run smoothly, extends its life, and can save on your utility bills.

Home repairs sometimes will catch you off-guard, but with a plan in place, you can tackle them as they come along. Prepare a financial cushion for rainy days and keep up with maintenance tasks. Your good planning and smart choices will make it easier to navigate the occasional surprises that are part of home ownership.