The “1% Rule” of Home Maintenance

A house is truly a wondrous thing!

It shelters us, builds and stores memories, keeps us warm and healthy, and well-fed.

It sits there on the land as the elements blast away at it, the punishing UV rays, the wind-driven rain and snow… yet inside it’s a sanctuary.

And it does this year after year, decade after decade.

Or at least, it CAN keep doing this year after year. But it needs something from us. It needs love and care and feeding… otherwise known as “home maintenance.” Sometimes that means full-on replacement of certain components.

The stuff your house is made of has a “design life.” That is, it’s designed to last for a certain length of time, a certain regimen of punishment from use, weather, heat and cold, cycles, etc. Then it’s used up, and ready for rebuild, repair, or replacement.

Some examples of “design life” from the National Association of Home Builder’s study:

  • Water heaters last about 10 years
  • Roofs last about 20-25 years
  • Exterior paint lasts about 7-10 years
  • Furnaces last about 15-20 years
  • Dishwashers last about  9 years
  • Gas ranges last about 15 years
  • Light fixtures and switches last about 10 years
  • Garage door openers last 10 to 15 years
  • Wood decks last about 20-25 years
  • Aluminum rain gutters last about 20 years

The Pacific Northwest can be a hard environment on a house. We get a fair bit of that wind-driven rain I mentioned earlier. Certain areas have lots of trees dropping their mess and casting shade (causing a lack of drying potential).

It’s unavoidable: stuff is going to need attention, cleaning, clearing, occasional repair, and ultimately replacement.

It’s a known, predictable part of home ownership… so the best thing you can do is budget for it.

The 1% Rule

If you have the means, set aside 1% of your home value per year for maintenance and upgrades.

Think about it: If you have a $500K house and you’re able to put aside $5K per year into a “Home Maintenance and Upgrade Account” that you don’t otherwise touch… you’ll be completely ready when that $15,000 roof is due for replacement, or that $7500 upgraded appliance package is calling out to you!

Condo associations do this for their entire complex, building up reserves that are (hopefully) adequate to make these large “capital improvements” without charging “special assessments” to the owners.

Whether you can do 1% a year… or something far less… create a budget and set aside some amount each month or year just for your house. It will make your ownership that much more enjoyable, and when you are ready to sell, that maintenance routine and those upgrades will pay off!