Homeowner Maintenance and the Benefits of Renting
One of the most common reasons people choose to rent rather than become a homeowner is maintenance. While many are attracted to the idea of privacy, freedom, and space, they find themselves daunted by the idea of taking charge of their home’s upkeep.
First, I can tell you, it’s always good to have a plan in place for those big “what-ifs”. What if the A/C goes out? What if a pipe bursts? What if the stove quits? When you own the home, you can’t call up the company maintenance man and rest on the lease agreement to cover it—you are your own landlord now!
Remember the Warranty
Your first line of defense, especially when buying a new mobile home, is your warranty. Last week we talked about the details of a one year service warranty, and how this covered any structural or utility dysfunction that might occur in the first year from the date of your manufactured home’s installation. This, along with the one year manufacturer’s warranty on appliances plus the 10 year parts and labor warranty on the air conditioning unit, should go a long way to ease new homeowners into the responsibility of maintenance.
The next defense is your home insurance. I know the legal talk of an insurance contract really deters people from reading through it, so if that’s true for you, take some time to speak with the insurance agency about the specifics of the coverage you are purchasing. Ask about things like floods, hail, tree damage, leaks, and fires. Most big items will be covered in the policy due to lender requirements, but more information is always better than less. Ask, don’t assume. Insurance, by definition, should not be a risk. Remember, you’ve been making those monthly insurance payments just for such a time when you might need it.
Now, unlike the malfunction of your water heater or a hurricane, this part of home-ownership is one hundred and fifty percent within your control. It’s called: Preventative Maintenance. Just as you would care for your car with oil changes and brake pads (I hope!) your home has its own routine check-up needs as well. For some of you this may seem obvious, but for many people, especially first time homeowners, they are unaware of things that should be routinely inspected or replaced to prevent costly future damage. Such as: changing HVAC filters, testing smoke alarms, resealing windows and doors, and inspecting faucets, sinks, and toilets for leaks.
This article has a great checklist for any and everything you might need to maintain on your home. There is nothing quite so satisfying as solving a problem before it happens, knowing you saved yourself and family the stress of major repairs.
Build an Emergency Fund
And even with all of these lines of defense set up to guard your home investment, the nature of life means something will happen you couldn’t have seen coming. This is why we encourage every potential home buyer we work with to have a savings account set aside specifically for emergencies, one separate from vacations and other large purchases. Having a savings of even $1,000 will mean if a problem arises you can’t take care of yourself, you will already have the funds to pay a professional. A small issue can steadily get worse without a small emergency fund to squash the problem right when it rears its ugly head.
Many people will think, “I already live paycheck to paycheck, how can I possibly save for this?” This is a reality many of us find ourselves in, but I think if we get really honest about the extras we manage to find funds for, we could scrounge together a hundred dollars each month and have this kind of emergency fund built in less than a year. Believe me, I can fully relate to this struggle of ever having anything leftover at the end of the month. Maybe it really is impossible, or maybe it is a matter of resetting priorities for your long term security.
Should I Rent or Own?
In my humble opinion, the benefits of owning my home far outweigh the costs of maintaining it. For one, I am able to improve it as I desire and reap the equity resulting from those improvements, not to mention not asking permission from anyone first! Even more, an average renter will be losing, with no hope of return, between $8,000 and $12,000 per year. In nearly all cases, the mortgage payment for a comparable rental unit will be a couple hundred dollars less per month.
For some renters, it’s a necessary situation as they work to build their credit and save for a down payment on their future home, and for others the cost is a trade-off they are willing to make to insure no responsibility for the inevitable repairs in the adventures of home-ownership.
While it’s important to consider the maintenance aspect of owning a home, it is always a good idea to build up your emergency fund for unexpected circumstances. Whether you are looking into a mobile home or site built home, don’t forget to put safeguards in place to protect one of your most valuable investments.