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In the nearly 10 years I have owned my home, my partner and I have repaired siding once, replaced windows, installed a new HVAC system, and replaced the roof. Over time, these have all added up. Had I had done my homework, I would have known these two items are essential, costly, and would likely have to be replaced within the first 10 years of homeownership.  If I had planned to save just a little bit each month, the sticker shock of it all would have been easier to digest.

Now I wish I would have negotiated a lower price of the home because of its seven-year-old roof (at best they get 10 years in Kansas) and an original HVAC system from the late ’70s.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of a home of your own that first-time homebuyers easily glaze over problem areas that may result in a money pit. Here’s a quick guide on spotting potential home renovations before you buy, and knowing how to save for the unexpected after you get the keys to your new home.

Do your homework

When you first buy a home, you have two important items to look into that will help you determine the health of the home (i.e., diagnose potential health risks) and its contents.

The first is a real estate disclosure form in which the current seller (existing homeowner) will need to disclose the age of the roof, windows, siding, HVAC, appliances, fans, garage door, etc. The contents of these forms give you a better understanding of the history of how the home was cared for. Disclosure forms can be obtained from the listing agent at any time. You do not need to make an offer to obtain a copy of the disclosure form.  

Second, you will likely need to employ a qualified home inspector to evaluate the home before closing. Share the disclosure form with your inspector and be sure to ask them to find out the lifespan of the various items listed on the form.

Don’t give up on your dream home

If the combined outcomes of the disclosure form and the inspection aren’t positive, don’t give up—you still have two options before abandoning a home you’ve fallen in love with.

The first is to negotiate the replacement or repair of any items that warrant caution, paid by the seller. The second is to negotiate a one- to two-year home warranty, once again, paid by the seller. Typically, these warranties will cover major repairs, such as a roof, windows, HVAC and appliances. You will have the opportunity to extend the warranty yourself. The cost of home warranties can range between $300 and $600 annually depending on coverage.

I negotiated a home warranty for the first year of ownership, and then I paid for the warranty for the next four years (a total of five years of coverage). This may or may not have been the best use of money…nothing broke. I wish I would have set aside the $600 annually instead for future repairs (more to come on this!). Of course, my hot water heater broke the year after I discontinued the warranty—and then I had no savings.

#NoRegrets with Savings

The most valuable thing you can do after moving into a home is set a budget. You will want to plan for your mortgage, property tax, homeowner’s insurance, utilities, homeowner’s association fees (if applicable), and the most overlooked items—routine maintenance and major home repairs (clogged sink, leaky shower head, broken door knob, hole in the wall).

Major home repairs can be a leading reason first-time homeowners regret buying a home. They. Are. Costly. According to a 2017 homebuyer reality report by NerdWallet, “nearly half (49 percent) of homeowners said they’d do something differently if they had to go through the home-buying process again.” (I can vouch for that.)

How much are we talking?

To get an idea of how much you may need to shell out in repairs, HomeAdvisor.com lists the following national average in their TrueCost Guide (the data is based on actual project costs as reported by HomeAdvisor members):

  • Installation of five to 10 windows: $5,017. Most homeowners will spend between $2,580 and $7,457.
  • Engineered wood installation: $3,000-$5,000. Existing wood siding will also come with additional maintenance, such as cleaning, staining, and painting costing an average of $2,000-$5,000 in total.
  • Cost of heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC) unit: $3,200-$4,500 depending on the brand and before labor for installation. Labor can range between $50 and $100 per hour.
  • Roof installation: $5,105 – $9,768, depending on type of shingle and square footage.

To help you plan for the cost of these repairs, homeowners should set aside 1-2 percent of the total value of their home annually for big-ticket items. So, if you’re considering buying a home valued at $175,000, you should save $1,750 to $3,500 annually ($146 to $292 a month) for unforeseen repairs.