For many families, buying a home is the biggest investment they will ever make. And if you’re going to make an investment in something, you’d be nuts to then throw your money out the window by not properly maintaining that investment. That’s why protecting the investment you’ve made in your home should be a top priority for all families. Keep an eye out for these top five threats, and you’ll be well on your way to protecting your home as an investment. Paying attention to these things before they become problems will free up time and money for other family priorities! (Vacation, anyone?)
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Protecting Your Home As An Investment: 5 Things To Watch Out For
If you take a proactive approach to managing your dwelling, the value of your home as an investment should go up over time. Let things run on autopilot, and sooner or later your home value will reflect this.
As a homeowner, you already know that maintaining a property you own can take a lot of time, energy, and/or money. There is always more you could do, and more projects-to-do than funds available for most of us. But if you want to stay ahead of the curve, these are the five major areas you can’t neglect – and need to actively stay on top of – if you want to maintain your home’s value over time:
1. Water Problems
Let’s face it: at its core, your house is a structure that is supposed to protect you from the elements. Climate-controlled air stays in; wind, rain, snow, etc. are supposed to stay out.
When things don’t work this way, you have two choices:
- Ignore the problem, hoping it will go away. (It won’t.) OR
- Address it ASAP, preferably by calling in professional help.
We’ve had several issues along these lines in the decade we’ve owned our home. First the living-room skylights leaked; we had them replaced. Then the edge of the roof over the living room leaked; we got that fixed. Next we found that there was a leak in the overflow system on BOTH our bathtubs – leading to two patches of water damage on our kitchen ceiling, My husband replaced the gaskets, and I repaired/repainted the ceiling. After that, we noticed that it rained inside our kitchen bay window during intense rainstorms. We eventually had to get the bay window replaced, but that solved the problem.
Each of these issues, we could have ignored – leading to greater structural damage to our house over the long term. We dealt with them instead. Most recently, as many of you know, a leaky water line destroyed our kitchen floor and flooded our basement last spring. There was no way we could avoid dealing with that. And thanks to the insurance settlement, we have the new carpets/flooring that we wanted eventually anyway.
2. An Unsettled House
Many of the “problems” that homeowners obsess over (paint color, carpet color, decor choices) are cosmetic. In contrast, more serious threats to your home’s structural soundness and overall value can sometimes stay hidden for years. Foundation cracks are a perfect example of this. Unless you’re proactively monitoring for them, by the time you realize you have a problem, you may be well on your way to serious damage to your home.
How can you tell if you have a cracked foundation, and what should you watch for? It could be actual cracks in your walls or floors, either inside or outside your home. Or doors and windows that suddenly “stick” and won’t shut properly. Or cabinets that seem to be slowly separating from the walls. (For a more comprehensive overview of what to look for, see this guide.)
If you suspect you may have a crack in your foundation, you need to repair it as soon as possible, so your little problem doesn’t become a big one. Let it go for too long, and the cost to repair the damage will only climb. Moreover, besides compromising the safety of your home, foundation problems are one of those things that, if detected during a property assessment, could wipe a lot of money off your property value.
3. Whether Your Home’s Wiring Is Up-To-Date
If you have an older home, it’s important to make sure that your electrical wiring is up to date for modern needs. (Hints that it’s not include constantly blowing circuits, having old-fashioned fuses in your electrical box, and outlets or switches that don’t seem to work properly or constantly short out.)
Back in my student days, my second apartment was a subdivided portion of an older home. You could sometimes see and hear sparks flying behind the ceiling light fixtures and wall outlets. (Not good!) Waiting until things get this bad is a recipe for a major home fire.
Rather than put your family in danger like this, just call in a qualified professional already and get the system updated. Ask neighbors whom they use for an electrician. Or even better, if you live in an area with a lot of older homes, you may find one or more companies that specialize in rewiring older homes for today’s needs.
Not only will you end up with enough power in the right places to run your 21st century devices (think laptops, tablets, cell phones, etc.). But you’ll also be investing in the peace of mind that comes with keeping your family safe. Plus, should you find yourself needing to sell your home, not taking care of this matter first could make it impossible to sell your home for the full asking price – or at all, for that matter, if local codes prohibit selling a property without these upgrades.
4. Dangers Outside Your Home
No one thinks that their home is at risk of damage from natural sources. Until it happens, of course. This is why homeowners need to stay on top of maintaining the outside of their homes as well. This is especially true as far as things like trees and branches are concerned.
You can’t predict or prevent hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, or flooding from storms. But you CAN act proactively to minimize or mitigate the damage these natural disasters could pose to your property.
If you don’t already have flood insurance, look into getting some. If you live in a dry climate with lots of vegetation, it’s worth taking steps to minimize the chances of wildfire damage to your home. This includes establishing a defensible perimeter around your home.
And even if you’re not at risk for these threats, make sure you stay on top of basic trimming of the trees on your property (as well as neighbors’ trees that overhang your property). A dead branch is a lot easier to deal with by trimming it off, versus having to clean up from a storm that has smashed it through your window or roof. And if you have dead trees on your property, you need to get them removed ASAP. Not doing so puts your home at risk, as well as your neighbors’; if they suffer damage, you’ll be liable.
Case in point: My former roommate Ana lives in Michigan, aka ground-zero for Emerald Ash Borer. After she and her husband bought their home, they became increasingly worried about the dead ash trees standing on their neighbor’s property. Both the neighbors and local utilities officials repeatedly told Ana and Gil not to worry, their home was not at risk. Less than 24 hours after they last heard this, one of the trees fell onto their house, causing tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage on all three levels of their home! Needless to say, they weren’t happy about the months it took to get everything fixed again.
5. Lack Of Upkeep
Finally, don’t forget the problems that can amount from a general lack of upkeep!
- Get that leaky faucet or toilet fixed, so you don’t run up your water bill (and run the risk of mold from excess dampness or water damage to flooring).
- If your paint starts to peel in an older home, get in a pro right away to determine if water damage is the cause, and mitigate any risks from lead paint.
- Cracked or broken windows can be an invitation to burglars, as can overgrown shrubbery and broken exterior lights.
- And as someone who’s had several broken bones, trust me: it’s better to replace that broken bulb over the stairs, than risk someone falling and breaking something in the dark!
Putting off dealing with any of these critical home-maintenance issues is asking for trouble. All are fixable; many don’t even require much time or money if you catch them early. Waiting until the problem becomes worse will only make the ultimate repairs more costly and time-consuming, while putting your family and your property value at greater risk.
So treat your home as an investment you value, and stay on top of these issues as they come up. You won’t regret it, and your property value will thank you.
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