Maintenance Free Does Not Exist

In the world, I have found that everything is in a state of deterioration. Human bodies are in a state of deterioration, relationships are in a state of deterioration, cars are in a state of deterioration and houses are in a state of deterioration. All of them require effort and work in order to not deteriorate further. My body requires exercise, a healthy diet, regular doctor and dentist appointments, as well as rest and relaxation. My relationships deserve active listening, quality time, words of affirmation, gifts of service and meaningful touch. My car requires gas and oil just to run, air in the tires, regular servicing. And a house requires painting, gutters kept clean, trash and debris removed, HVAC and other systems regularly serviced. Even vacant land requires mowing, trash removal and erosion control.

It is commonly accepted that a new car’s value drops significantly the second it is driven off the car lot! So it amazes me when a home owner assumes that once they have bought a home, that they are done – that from then on they can live there happily ever after. Part of this misconception I believe is that advertisers frequently represent products as being “maintenance free”. How can that honestly be?

For example, the gutter companies that sell the shields or guards that go over the gutters lead one to believe that the home owner will never have to get up on the roof again. But even the gutter cover requires maintenance, if it gets clogged with debris, the entire system will jam up and not let water to flow freely. Our office had a roofing contractor explain issues to watch for in roof maintenance and the question came up, is it better to have gutter guards or not. The short answer is that yes they can help keep the larger debris out, but that still doesn’t mean they never require maintenance again.

Another product that often claims that it is “maintenance free” is synthetic decking manufacturers. One of these companies, Trex, advertised in 1996 that the product maintains its natural beauty and color “all by itself”. It is true that synthetic decking does not split or splinter, rot or warp, but it does tend to grow mold, mildew and other substances. To remove the mold substance it requires frequent cleaning, so thus it is not maintenance free.

My husband and I last year purchased a townhouse that is about 10 years old, much newer than our previous single-family home that was built in 1959. We were hopeful that would mean that the time associated with maintenance as well as our expenses would go down, and they both have. But that doesn’t mean that our home is maintenance free. In the first 6 months of ownership we had to replace the dishwasher, one of the HVAC units and several of the slate shingles.

I recommend that a property owner budget on an annual basis between 1%-3% of the value of the property towards maintenance and updating. So for a $1 million property, a homeowner should budget on an annual basis for maintenance, systems and features upgrades between $10,000-$30,000.

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