Being a homeowner is expensive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s also fabulous. I personally love being a homeowner! But, it’s important to understand why homeownership is so much more expensive than renting. Most people think it’s just the down payment, closing costs, and redecorating that eats up all your cash as a homeowner … but that’s really just the start.
As I quickly realized once I got the keys to my townhouse two years ago, it’s actually the cost of maintaining your home that’s the biggest drain on your finances. Unfortunately, not enough people talk about what those maintenance costs are or how much you should be tucking away in a special savings account in anticipation.
That’s why I want to share some of the big-ticket items that you’ll eventually need to replace as a homeowner. This way you can make a checklist, price things out, and start saving now so you’ll be ready.
Personally, my motto is don’t replace major appliances until they stop working completely and can no longer be repaired. You may have this vision of having stainless steel everything in your kitchen, but it just doesn’t make financial sense to replace appliances for purely cosmetic reasons. Just be patient, those appliances will die eventually.
And the first major kitchen appliance to die will probably be your refrigerator. The average life span of a refrigerator is nine – 15 years. That may seem like a long time, but take a look at how old your current fridge is and you may only have a few years left.
Average Life Expectancy: nine – 15 years
Potential Cost: $500 – $4,000
After your fridge, the next major appliance to go is one you use just as often—your dishwasher.
Since dishwashers are used so regularly, throughout their life span they may also need repairs and replacement parts to continue working. However, if the repairs cost you more than 50 percent of the replacement cost, then it’s best to buy a new one entirely.
Average Life Expectancy: nine – 13 years
Potential Cost: $500 – $1,200
3. Washing machine
Your washing machine is essential, and when it stops working you need to replace it ASAP. I should know! Once I moved into my townhouse and tried doing my first load of laundry, I quickly realized my washing machine was out of commission. It made sense since the townhouse was 12 years old and the unit was original to the home. I just wish the previous homeowners had given me the heads up.
Average Life Expectancy: 10 – 14 years
Potential Cost: $250 – $2,000
Since dryers aren’t used as frequently as washing machines, that means they have a longer life expectancy. However, if you have a combination washer/dryer unit in which both are attached to one another, you’ll have to replace the whole thing once the washing machine dies. That’s one reason why you may want to get separate units in the future.
Average Life Expectancy: 10 – 15 years
Potential Cost: $200 – $1,750
Even if the carpet looks well-maintained, it doesn’t last forever. Especially if the previous owners had pets. Carpet may look clean, but it can hold onto a ton of allergens and even pet urine. This could cause some major health issues like asthma and allergies. If you find yourself sneezing a lot or have trouble breathing, the culprit could be your carpet. To avoid this, it’s best to install new carpet about every 10 years or replace it with wood or laminate flooring instead.
Average Life Expectancy: eight – 10 years
Potential Cost: $1 – $30 per square foot
6. Water heater
Unless you like cold showers, you really don’t want to be unprepared if your water heater breaks down. You may not realize how often you use hot water (taking showers, washing your hands, running your dishwasher, using your washing machine), but it really is essential to daily life. Luckily, most water heaters have a fairly long life span depending on what type of water heater you have (electric, gas, tankless).
Average Life Expectancy: 11 – 20 years
Potential Cost: $335 – $4,500
Just like you need your water heated, you also need to heat your entire home if you want to avoid freezing during those winter months. Thankfully, furnaces can last a long time, ranging from 15 – 20 years. Still, you usually have to do a few repairs during that time to lengthen its life span, and when it does finally die be prepared for a hefty bill.
Average Life Expectancy: 15 – 20 years
Potential Cost: $1,925 – $6,480
Last but not least, without a working roof over your head, it doesn’t matter if everything I listed above is brand new in your home. Your roof is the most important, and most expensive, big-ticket item you need to start saving for immediately. If you live in a house, it’s on you to pay for a new roof. If you live in a townhouse or condo (like myself), that cost will be taken out of your monthly HOA fees.
Average Life Expectancy: 20 – 50 years
Retail Cost Range: $3.50 and $5.50 per square foot