Your home is a great source of joy. It brings you warmth and safety and allows you to express yourself. For most of us it is also one of our most significant investments and ongoing costs. By paying attention to short-term maintenance costs and planning for the long-term potential to remain in your home, you will enjoy your home even more.
Here are a few tips for how to save money every day, safeguard your home’s value and prepare to age in place.
Do It Right: The Cost to Maintain
Most people have a mortgage, but there are also other ongoing costs associated with owning your home that you may not think about as much as your mortgage payment. These costs include such things as insurance, utility costs, and maintenance. Reducing these costs will save you money every month and be almost as good as refinancing that mortgage at a lower interest rate.
- Schedule an energy audit: Investing in an energy audit can save you money. Many fixes can pay off in as little as two years. Others will take longer but once the investment is paid off it is money in the bank every month thereafter.
- Purchase quality fixtures and appliances: You have probably heard the expression “builder grade.” That simply means the lowest cost option. Builders are motivated to use builder grade fixtures and appliances because it lowers the cost per square foot of a home. Price per square foot is the primary measure that most homebuyers use to evaluate a home purchase. This is a bad way to calculate value. To get the cost per square foot down, quality is compromised. A quality fixture or appliance will last longer, work better, and reduce operating costs. Quality options, not price per square foot, is where the real value in a home is found.
- Consider your climate: The approach to building is, or should be, largely dictated by the environment your home is in. There have been many costly mistakes made by well-meaning builders who applied building techniques meant for a cold, dry climate to a hot, humid climate. Here in College Station and Bryan, Texas, for example, we avoid using wood on the exterior of our homes. It just does not endure well, nor does it hold paint well. Luckily, there are great alternatives such as fiber content that work very well for our climate.
Make It Last: Aging in Place
Most people do not see the prospect of aging in place as a factor influencing the value of their home asset. But it is. The longer a person can stay out of assisted living, the better their quality of life and the more savings they will retain either for unexpected expenses or to leave to heirs. Here are a few aspects of aging in place to consider in a new home or a home remolding project:
- Avoid or remove stairs and steps: One of the first things that we notice as we age is how much more difficult stairs become. If you can find a single-story home with very few or no steps, you will be better prepared to age in place.
- Create the framework for an accessible bathroom: Bathing difficulties often necessitate a move to assisted living. Even if a person is not in a wheelchair, a roll-in shower without a curb is much easier to navigate. Also, placing blocking in the walls of showers and baths can make grab bars easier to install later. With a little planning, using the facilities as we age can be made much safer.
- Prepare to install wider doors: Narrow doors, especially in bathrooms, are a barrier to wheelchairs and walkers and an impediment to aging in place. Wherever possible, request framing for large doors, even if a smaller door is preferred. The small door can be removed later and, with a slight modification, a larger door can be installed.
- Improve the lighting: As most of us over 45 years old know, our vision degrades as we age. Luckily, there is a lot that we can do with light to improve our ability to age in place. The average 50-year-old needs twice as much light as the average 30-year-old. Light is an important factor in aging. Unfortunately, it is a factor that few designers take into consideration. Request that your remodeling company conduct a lighting study for each room they remodel. Contrast is also a big factor in assisting aging vision and is particularly important in kitchen remodels. When counter tops are of a hue that contrasts with the flooring, orientation and vision are greatly aided.
Your home is more than just where you eat and sleep. It is also a significant investment. With just a little care, that investment can be wisely managed and maximized and bring you joy for a lifetime.