Deferred maintenance refers to delaying repairs in a home due to budget or time constraints. A busy homeowner may only have so much free time in their day, and that loose floorboard or broken shingle is all too easy to push to the bottom of the to-do list. One delayed job turns into 10 and before anyone knows it, the house is starting to fall apart at the seams - not a good thing if the homeowner is thinking of selling the home. So before a homeowner dismisses the importance of their maintenance, they should consider the real costs of deferred maintenance.
Keep a List
Listing everything can make it easy to see where the problems are. As homeowners tour the property, they should look for safety hazards first before moving on to structural problems and, finally, cosmetic flaws. Here are a few common issues that are fairly easy to spot:
- Cracks in the wall: Large horizontal or stair-shaped cracks typically indicate foundation damage.
- Loose fixtures: From railings to shower bars, loose fixtures can cause severe injury if they go ignored.
- Damaged roof: The roof doesn't have to be leaking to require repair.
- Clogged filters: If the vents in your home are blocked, they can create a fire hazard for all residents.
Homeowners don't have to be DIY experts to understand how their home is changing over time. It just takes time and effort to walk the property and really look at the corners of the home and the state of the land. Take photos and compare the same area from month to month to see if the problems are getting any worse. Being aware and writing it down can turn maintenance from an easy-to-ignore chore into a real priority.
Do the Math
Unless homeowners are planning to sell their home immediately, deferred maintenance tends to cost far more than addressing the problem immediately. Some experts put the average costs of deferred maintenance as four times as high the cost of the initial repair. So even if a homeowner is putting off maintenance until they get a promotion in their job, they'll still end up parting with more money than they ever meant to spend. When a problem pops up in the home, it isn't likely to get better with time. If one shingle is rotting through, deferred maintenance means the rot has more time to spread to the rest of the roof. The tiny chip in the floor tiling can ultimately destroy the floor's structural integrity over time.
Learn to Maintain
The reality is that not every homeowner will have the funds to fix their foundation or rebuild their garage. If total repairs aren't an option, homeowners can look for temporary solutions that can help stave off further damage.
Duct tape on a window or epoxy on the roof can buy a homeowner a few months if they can't tackle the problem to completion. Turn off a water line to a problem portion of the home, fill in tile chips with a sealant, or tighten up the screws of the railing. These efforts not only teach homeowners about their property, but it also puts them close enough to spot any new complications that may arise.
As homeowners perform these remediation steps, they should keep careful track of the problem and the solution. Take photos of receipts and write down the steps taken for each repair. This can be done on paper and stored in files, or homeowners can use technology to document it all. New apps like Home Maintenance can be downloaded onto a phone and used to log a homeowner's progress.
Deferred maintenance may lead to structural problems that ultimately devalue the home. If homeowners ignore the problems for too long, they may be forced to sell their home as-is. In this case, homeowners are acknowledging that the home is severely damaged and may even be unsafe. This label is essentially an advertisement for bargain-hunters, and a major reason for traditional buyers to avoid the home. In addition, deferred maintenance isn't just bad for the homeowner, it's bad for the entire block. One bad house on a good block may not drag down property values, but it can have a negative ripple effect on other homeowners.
Most Morningside new home buyers want to see that a property was cared for over the years. If the seller can provide a full list of maintenance and repairs that they completed over time, it says a lot about the pride they took in the home while they lived there. Remediation starts with noticing more about the home, documenting the trouble, and taking preliminary action even when full repairs aren't a realistic option.