Put off maintenance and you’ll pay more
All homes need maintenance – even new ones – and homeowners need to budget for this so that small problems don’t get out of hand and become big ones.
Some home maintenance and repair projects are easy, of course, and require your time rather than much money, such as clearing a blocked kitchen drain, cutting back a tree that threatens to break a window or de-rusting and repainting a garden gate.
Others are definitely bigger, however, and you may well be tempted to put them off either because you don’t have the expertise to tackle them yourself or because you fear that calling in an expert would be too expensive.
But this will usually just lead to even bigger problems and more expensive fixes, not to mention possible increases in your insurance premiums, so as a homeowner, your best course is to open a maintenance savings fund as soon as possible, and more importantly, to create a maintenance schedule for your property.
This should enable you to find and address most common maintenance issues yourself, before they develop into major problems that will deplete your savings. Here are some examples of tasks to put on the list – and what the results could be if you ignore them:
Check your roof regularly. Especially if you’ve had strong winds, hail or heavy rain lately. Check for loose tiles and flashing, loose roof nails, damaged waterproofing and blocked gutters and downpipes. All of these problems are relatively easy and inexpensive to fix, but if left unattended, can quickly evolve into holes in the roof, major leaks and very costly damage to roof timbers and ceilings and dreaded damp as a result of water getting into wall cavities.
Don’t forget about the plumbing. Just because most of it is out of sight in the ceiling void or walls does not mean it should be out of mind. Fix any dripping taps or running toilets immediately to keep your water bills down. Lag all exposed pipes to stop heat loss and prevent winter freezing that can cause pipes to break. Check your geyser regularly for any leaks or corrosion. And if a pipe suddenly starts banging or gurgling, or you notice a patch of damp that might indicate a leak, call in professional help immediately. A broken water pipe can cause thousands of rands worth of damage to your home and could even cause part of a wall to collapse if left unattended – which would undoubtedly cost far more to fix than a plumber’s callout fee.
Take electricity seriously. Even if you have an electrical certificate of compliance for your home, you should have the whole electrical installation checked by a professional about every two years – or sooner if you are having any problems such as lights or switches only working intermittently. Rodents can get at your wiring at any time, wear-and-tear can cause overheating and short circuits, and overloading or water in the system can cause the power to keep tripping, and it is more than worth it to have an electrician find and fix such problems if it prevents a fire in your home or someone getting a serious electrical shock.
Remember, even if your home owner’s insurance (HOC) policy did cover most of the serious problems mentioned above, you would still have to pay the excess and most probably higher premiums going forward. There is also a risk that you might not be covered if the insurance company decided that the damage resulted from a lack of basic maintenance.
In short, putting in a little work or money on the front end means you stand a good chance of avoiding major expense down the road. Better still, it will pay off when you want to sell your house, because you are not likely to have to make a lot of costly repairs all at once, or drop your asking price to account for what the buyer will need to do.