Twelve Strategies to Lower Your Home Maintenance

Would you like to cut your overall homeownership and home maintenance costs substantially? If so, here are 12 ways to do it that can help you minimize these costs and keep more of your hard-earned cash. 1. MyCentriq: The best home management app available—get it now! Many homeowners, especially first-time buyers, have no idea about how to properly manage a home. MyCentriq is a home management app that provides you with everything that you need to troubleshoot, operate, and maintain your home right at your fingertips. Merely take pictures of the serial numbers on all your appliances and Centriq shows you exactly how to fix, use, and maintain it. Centriq provides homeowners with user manuals, reminders about services, where to locate parts, warranty storage, plus how-to and troubleshooting videos. At $59.95 per year for the Expert Program, this tool will be a continued money-saver year-in and year out. Benefits include access to:

  • Warranties for each of your appliances.
  • The best places to buy parts including for much older appliances.
  • Update on safety recalls on any items you have added to the app to track.
  • Life expectancy of you appliances and systems.

2. Do you qualify for a reduction in property taxes? Has your property declined in value? If so, you may be eligible for a tax reduction in your property taxes. There are several ways to make this determination:

  • Contact a competent realtor to have them do a Comparable Market Analysis (CMA)
  • Hire an appraiser to determine the value (this is usually $500 or more).
  • Visit realtor.com and search your property address to see their estimates of your home values. Realtor.com uses up to five different valuation tools to make this determination, many of which evaluate hundreds of factors that determine your home value.
  • Visit Zillow.com and locate the “Zestimate,” for your property.

A simple rule of thumb is that if your realtor and the automated valuation tools come up with similar prices, that’s a good indication of your property’s value. The next step is how to obtain a property tax reduction. While you could argue this yourself, in most cases it pays to hire a company that provides this service for you. Generally, these companies charge 25 percent of the amount they save you. 3. Are you taking advantage of all your potential real estate deductions? Many homeowners miss taking deductions that can help them on their taxes. If any of the following apply to you, check with your tax professional to see if you are eligible to claim any of the following deductions.

  • Have you claimed the homestead exemption for property taxes? If not, do so immediately.
  • Do you work from home? If so, you may be able to deduct a proportion of your utility bills, property taxes, maintenance, cleaning, etc.
  • Did you refinance or purchase your primary residence in the last year? If so, you are probably eligible to deduct the points you paid to obtain the loan. 
  • Did you remodel your property? Be sure to track ALL expenses related to the remodel since you can normally add these costs to your basis. Increasing your basis reduces how much you pay in taxes when you sell.
  • If you remodeled your home including installing solar, replacing windows, appliances, or other systems with more energy efficient ones, your home may qualify for a tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost of the project, up to $1,500. See your tax professional to see which of these deductions may apply in your case.

 4. Conduct an energy audit While you could conduct your own energy audit, obtaining a professional energy assessment will provide more in-depth results. The energy audit includes an examination of your utility bills to determine usage patterns plus a room-by-room examination of the residence often using infrared cameras, furnace efficiency meters, surface thermometers, a blower door test, and/or a thermographic scan. At a minimum, you should regularly check for air leaks around windows and doors. If you’re not handy with a caulk gun, you can hire a handyperson to seal windows or doors where air is leaking in. Even a small opening can add a considerable amount to your overall heating bill. We highly recommend that you do an energy audit because it can save you between 5-30 percent on your heating and cooling bills. With today’s high energy costs, this can be a very substantial savings. 5. Cut your water bills You can save water and money by installing a rain gauge that turns off your sprinkler system when it rains. Second, if you live in a dry climate and would like to install drought resistant trees and shrubs, here’s a list of 40 of best trees and shrubs for Xeriscape gardens. 6. Install insulation and/or a radiant roof barrier. Is your attic an oven? If so, a radiant barrier can reduce both your heating and cooling bills. Without a radiant barrier in the attic, the temperature can be 30 to 40 degrees warmer than the inside of the house. Better yet, this type of improvement usually qualifies for an energy rebate. Here’s an excellent article on how radiant barriers work to save you money. 7. Save even more money on cooling bills This next tip may surprise you. Did you know that running your ceiling fans (or installing them if you don’t have them) forces the cool air down during the summer. Second, be sure to close of the AC vents in any rooms you don’t use. 8. Eliminate “vampire loads” Many consumer electronics continue to draw power even when they are switched off. This is known as “vampire load.” Vampire loads add about $200 in yearly costs for the average homeowner. All this wasted energy could power up to 11,000,000 homes. The way to eliminate “vampire loads” is to install an “Advanced Power Strip.” Energy Sage recommends the 7-Outlet Tier 1 APS by TrickleStar and it’s available on Amazon. 9. Is it time to dump your old, energy-guzzling appliances? Many homeowners have old appliances that still work well and see no need to replace them. Here’s some examples you may want to rethink that idea. For example, an Energy Star front-loading washer uses 17 gallons per load vs. 60 gallons for old top-loading washers. Energy Star dishwashers use 10 percent less energy and 20 percent less water. When an appliance does need to be replaced, purchase “Energy Star” appliances, not only for the efficiency, but also for the rebates that can reduce the price significantly. Visit the Energy Star Web site to locate the most efficient appliances and to discover which ones currently qualify for rebates in your area. You can also search your local utility providers to see if they’re offering rebates on any appliance you may be buying. 10. Minimize repair costs with a home warranty When the appliances and the major systems in a home are more than five years old, a home warranty policy can be a smart investment, especially if one of those systems goes out. A typical policy is less than $500 per year. On the other hand, the cost of replacing a water heater can run close to $1,000. Replacing a heating or cooling system can run into the thousands. 11. Are you ignoring minor repairs that lead to major costs? The leaky faucet or the toilet that runs can end up costing you hundreds of extra dollars a year, especially if you’re in an area where water rationing may be an issue. That little bit of dry rot on a door or window can result in a major repair if it’s not handled when the issue is first spotted. Be proactive about treating small issues before they become expensive problems. Great resources for repair people include Angi.com, HomeAdvisor.com, and Thumbtack 12. Going out of town? Use “vacation mode” Many refrigerators have a “vacation mode” setting. This setting allows the refrigerator to use less energy when the door is not being opened and closed throughout the day. Other ways to save money when you are at of town is to turn down the settings on the water heater, unplug the TVs, computers, and other major appliances (or connect them to an Advanced Power Strip), turn off the water softener and/or hot water circulation system until you return.  With interest rates and inflation still high, implement as many of the 12 tips above to start reducing your energy costs as soon as possible. When you see the saving, you’ll be glad that you did!