February 18, 2016
In a letter to a friend in 1898 Mark Twain wrote:
“Our house was not insentient matter. It had a heart and a soul and eyes to see us with … We never came home from an absence that its face did not light up and speak out its eloquent welcome, and we could not enter it unmoved.”
Much of my inspiration comes from quotes like this. I refer to this one often when designing or rethinking a space. Call me an old romantic, but for me, Twain has hit the nail on the head with his take on the true value of what, for most of us, is our biggest financial asset.
Home ownership is the ‘Great Australian Dream’ however it comes with a cost – not only the purchase price but also the regular maintenance and improvements required to enhance its value and avoid expensive repairs down the track.
The typical maintenance cost for a home varies depending on its sizes and features, but as a general guide you should be looking to spend:
- Owner occupied house: 8% of its value over 10 years
- A rental property (house): 10% of its value over 10 years
- Owner occupied unit: 4% of its value over 10 years (not including Building Strata Levies)
- A rental property unit: 5% of its value over 10 years (not including Building Strata levies).
So if your home is worth $600,000, you can expect to spend about $50,000 over ten years in maintenance – and that’s not including any home improvements (we’ll get to that shortly).
Short term pain for long term gain
You may think that sounds like a lot of money to spend on maintenance, but rest assured that if you don’t look after your home, you could end up spending a lot more in the long run.
A good place to start is with the things that get the most use, such as your hot water tank. If your tank has a five year warranty it should last between four and six years without any maintenance. However, with a bit of TLC – regularly flushing out sediment and replacing the anode rod as necessary – it could last for up to 10 years.
Another area to look out for is the silicone around your bath and shower. Silicone is an amazing sealant but it doesn’t last forever. A good guide would be five to 10 years and when you notice it start to discolour, that’s a sign it’s seen better days. Removing and replacing the silicone is a relatively simple DIY job, or a professional will charge you around $200. The alternative is to do nothing and be lumped with a hefty repair bill in the thousands of dollars because of water damage, mould and odours.
These examples – and there are many more – go to show that when it comes to home maintenance, prevention is far cheaper than cure.
Spend money to make money
Another way to increase the value of your home is to undertake some improvements. With a plan, and some simple DIY, you can reap high dividends for a reasonably small investment.
So where do you start? Home improvement should be about making sure your home reflects your family’s personality and meets their needs. If you have an active family that loves the outdoors, consider maximising your open space with green grass and a garden. If you love to cook and entertain, perhaps consider a decked area that gives the feel of an indoor-outdoor entertaining space. Just make sure you factor in maintenance costs before making any big decisions.
Equally important is to consider what monetary value your DIY project has added to your home. This is not only important when you come to sell, but also from an insurance perspective. In the same way you should update your contents insurance policy when make significant new purchases – some power tools, for example – you also need to update your home insurance policy when you make improvements to your home. You would hate all your hard work to go to waste in the event of a disaster by discovering your insurance policy doesn’t cover the improvements.
To sum up, here are my three top tips for home improvements:
1. Keep on top of your home maintenance – it will save you in the long run
2. Invest in an outdoor DIY project to add value and enjoyment to your home