While you may be confident when it comes to managing your finances, taking the leap into homeownership likely will come with its own set of concerns. Thinking about how you're going to afford what may happen in the future is something that can cause a lot of anxiety — but it doesn't have to! You just need to have a plan and be prepared.
To help you get a handle on the most common issues women face during the home buying journey, we conducted a study alongside Rocket Mortgage®. According to that study, nearly half of the women we surveyed listed affording future repairs or renovations as a main concern, and millennial women are more than 30 percent more likely than the general population to rate themselves as beginners when it comes to the costs of home maintenance.
We're here to help get you into a better position — we tapped Executive Vice President of Purchase at Rocket Mortgage Katie Barish to help you understand what you need in order to be financially prepared for whatever comes your way down the road.
When You First Move In
There will probably be a difference between the repairs and small renovations that you want to do when you first move into a new home, and the bigger rennos you may want to embark on in the future. So let's tackle move-in projects first.
Barish said that before you actually purchase your new place, you should get an inspection from a licensed home inspector. They will help you identify potential issues up front so you can budget and plan appropriately. Once you move in, she said that these five areas will most likely be where you put your energy in the early days: paint, flooring, appliances, light fixtures, and window treatments.
"Painting comes up a lot, but it really is one of the most common things you'll do first to refresh the space and make it your own," Barish said. "It can transform the look and feel of the whole house."
"Light fixtures are generally a fairly easy replacement and can have a big impact on the look and feel of a space," she said. If you're DIY-ing this, make sure you first take a look at the electrical behind the sockets — if it's a very old house, you may want to hire an electrician to avoid any potential larger (costly) problems. Pro tip: sell your old light fixtures on an online marketplace and use the money toward new ones.
"New flooring is a little more involved than something like paint but is another fairly common project," she explained. You may want to rip up old carpet or get it professionally cleaned, refinish wood floors, or install new laminate or carpet.
"You may find that your appliances are mismatched or dated, or simply don't meet your needs," Barish said. "Appliances are a way to refresh a kitchen, but be cautious with the budget — this will be on the higher end!"
From blinds to curtains, how much you'll pay really depends on how custom you get. You could buy at the hardware store or home decor shop, or decide to splurge and get the treatments custom made. Things like opting for affordable curtain rods or doing a mix of custom and store-bought can be ways to save here.
After Living in Your Home For Several Years
Before talking about big renovations, let's hit on those smaller repairs that are bound to pop up after a few years of living in a home. Barish noted, "The good news is that the most common repairs are generally going to fall into the category of small to mid size. However, if you let things go, the small repair can turn into something bigger over time."
Faucet repair and minor leaks
"Leaks will happen," Barish said. Faucets have gaskets that can rot over time, metal pipe fittings will erode, and PVC pipes can loosen. Most of the time these are easy fixes that range from tightening the fitting (free!) to replacing a faucet or having a plumber replace a section of piping under the sink. These repairs may cost a few hundred dollars if you have a plumber come in to complete them.
Beyond painting the walls inside your home, Barish said it's critical that exterior wooden surfaces be painted or sealed on a regular basis (every two to seven years depending on the material and usage) to keep rot and mildew from becoming an issue.
Appliance and HVAC
"Appliances require mechanical upkeep, and if you are buying a home that isn't a new build, you could be walking into some repairs based on the age of the major systems," she said. The bigger the system, the bigger the cost. For example: a furnace will last 15 to 20 years with proper upkeep. "If yours is in that 15-year-old range, you may be facing a cost of $5,000 to $10,000 to replace if it stops working," Barish said. The same goes for things like your washer, dryer, or stove. Often you can get seven to 10 years out of an appliance, but may need to have some repairs done to maximize its life.
When to Consider Refinancing
For a larger remodel, you may want to think about refinancing your mortgage. "A cash out refinance can be a really good option for financing higher-cost projects like a kitchen or bathroom remodel, a new covered patio, or an addition," Barish said.
This process leverages the equity in your home (the difference between what you owe and what the home is worth) by paying off the old mortgage and replacing it with a new one that includes the additional cash you are looking for. There may be restrictions around how much of the equity you are able to access, so consult with your mortgage loan originator to identify the best option to meet your needs.
When thinking about refinancing your mortgage, the keys are having a clear understanding of what your financial goals are, and making sure that the final structure of the loan matches up with those goals. "For example, if you are simply looking to reduce the amount of interest you pay over time but know that you won't be in the home or mortgage longer than a few years, you'll want to make sure you break even on the costs in a shorter time frame," Barish said. "If things are tight and you just need to save as much money as possible monthly, you may be comfortable with it taking more time to break even. Knowing your goals and being able to explain your situation to your lender will help you determine if the loan makes sense."
Tips For Managing Future Costs
Barish said it always helps to be realistic about your needs versus your wants, and to budget around these things. "You may want matching appliances in your kitchen, but are the ones you have now in safe working order?" she said. "Remember: a home is a long-term investment, so you have time! Make sure your money is first taking care of things that could cause issues long-term in the home."
Next, she said to remember that you don't always need new — sometimes a simple refresh will do the trick. "You may hate your kitchen cupboards, but if the layout works for your needs, consider painting or refacing instead of a tear-out-and-replace," Barish explained.
There may also be options for finding materials at a discounted cost. Need a new door? You may be able to find something at a flea market, or an online marketplace in your area. "Speaking of doors," she said, "sanding and staining interior doors is an easy way to level up the look without the expense."
Finally, get a second (or third!) opinion for larger projects. "It can be really overwhelming when you're talking about tens of thousands of dollars in remodel and renovation costs," Barish said. "That's exactly why you need a few quotes. Your goal is to find good quality for a reasonable price — not necessarily the cheapest."
She also said you should do your due diligence when it comes to hiring contractors. Do they include a project manager to keep the project on budget and on time? Does the contractor offer guarantees on the work and have insurance? What is the resolution process if something goes wrong? Don't be afraid to ask frank questions, and be on the lookout for people who recommend shortcuts to speed up the process or reduce costs — these shortcuts can end up costing you in the long run.