Look at Maintenance Costs Before Leaping Into Homeownership

The thousands of dollars’ worth of upkeep and repair catch some buyers by surprise.

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ImproveNet.com is one online service that provides a calculator for ballpark estimates on repairs and remodeling, including how much you'll need in materials for a project, from window replacement to closet design. Mylowes.com provides an online tool for repair reminders and wish lists. Consumers might opt to pay for preventative maintenance prepaid plans, such as ServiceMaster's American Home Shield.

During the recent downturn, some home sellers sweetened the deal by providing a warranty on appliances or the roof. The parties signed a contract by which the seller will replace certain home components up until a set point in time—two to three years, for instance.

Maintenance costs shouldn't necessarily deter a renter from becoming a buyer or a starter-home occupant from moving a rung or two on the property ladder, but responsible homeownership is not just about having the best-looking yard on the block.

Keeping the guts of a home in the best possible shape should factor into the pride of homeownership. Your home is a huge asset (possibly the biggest in your portfolio) and investments have maintenance costs—all part of increasing the return.