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Lesson 9.2

Handling Maintenance

Mandatory Maintenance

Nothing lasts without proper care. Cars need routine oil changes, computers need periodic updates and homes need regular maintenance.

Set up a regular schedule for the following home maintenance tasks:

  • Air filter: Every 1-6 months
  • Test smoke/carbon monoxide/security alarms: Monthly
  • Remove debris from gutters: Every 6 months
  • Test water quality: Every 6 months
  • Prune trees and replace mulch: Every spring
  • Clean dryer ducts: Annually

Optional Improvements

Regular maintenance keeps your home in working order and is in the best interest of all homeowners. Depending on the property and other factors, somewhere further down the priority list may be a batch of optional improvement projects like room remodels or cosmetic updates, including:

  • Bathroom remodel
  • Finishing a basement
  • Updating kitchen cabinets
  • Replacing floors
  • Adding decorative features

These elective endeavors can enhance both the value and character of your home. And while these projects can seem urgent, the typical budget won’t allow for a whole-house remodel within a short period of time.

So before embarking on a rash of cosmetic changes, carefully estimate both the cost and value of your updates. Will marble flooring pay off at resale? Are new cabinets urgently needed, or would a fresh coat of paint suffice?

Weigh cost against value, and when in doubt, give your real estate agent a call. Agents can steer you toward projects that will produce a good return at resale.

Simple DIY Projects

Maintenance issues will pop up from time to time. You typically have a choice of how to handle these problems. Will you rely on your DIY skills or hire a professional to help?

Here’s some advice that can help you make that decision: With a good Internet connection, you can learn how to do nearly any type of home repair. Do-it-yourself videos abound online. But that doesn’t mean that you should tackle every problem yourself.

If a project requires the purchase of thousand-dollar tools, it’s probably not a good DIY job. On the other hand, if you have most of the equipment to do the job and the risk of serious damage or injury is low, you might take a shot.

Here’s a list of DIY projects that are typically simple and inexpensive:

  • Installing new faucets or fixtures
  • Painting
  • Replacing outlet covers or light switches
  • Installing window coverings
  • Fixing a leaky faucet
  • Patching drywall holes

Everyone has different levels of home improvement experience. For some homeowners, even simple DIY projects might be better off in the hands of a professional contractor.

How to Find a Contractor

Home improvement projects can be tough. Many kinds of repairs require specialized tools and expertise that the average homeowner doesn’t possess.

It’s usually a good idea to let a professional tackle these types of projects:

  • Roofing
  • Major landscaping projects
  • Major plumbing projects
  • Electrical upgrades
  • HVAC (Heating, ventilation and air conditioning)
  • Foundation or structural repair

Within any service profession, there are great and not-so-great options, contractors included.

When searching out the best contractor for your project, consider the following resources:

  • Get recommendations. Don’t stop with recommendations from your family and friends. Talk to people within the construction trade. Have a great plumber? Ask him to recommend an electrician. Professional reputations are quickly made, and the best way to investigate those reputations is to check with others in the industry.
  • Check with professional organizations. Membership in an industry organization isn’t a requirement for skilled contractors, but it’s not a bad sign. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry has its own certification process for contractors and can make referrals to homeowners.
  • Licensure is a good sign. Some states require contractors to be bonded and licensed. Check with your state’s Division of Labor to find applicable requirements and make sure your contractor is up to par.
  • Get estimates from at least three contractors. Costs can vary widely across professionals, so make sure you get at least three different quotes. By talking to several contractors, you’ll figure out the professional qualities you prefer. Is it more important to have the job done quickly or at the lowest cost? Would you prefer a contractor who works alone or with several other employees? Hash out your priorities by chatting with several different contractors.

Questions to Ask a Contractor

Before hiring a contractor, make sure you’ve found the right person for the job. Use the following questions to gather information and flesh out any potential problems:

  • What is your estimate for this project?
  • How much could that estimate change before the project is finished?
  • When can you start on our project?
  • How long will it take you to get finished?
  • What hours will you be working in my home?

Having the freedom to modify a home can be extremely liberating. The possibilities are endless for a creative homeowner.

But on your way to home perfection, don’t lose sight of an important distinction: mandatory maintenance v. optional improvements.

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