One of the first things that throw new homeowners for a loop is the need to set aside funds for ongoing maintenance, especially if the house is relatively new. Indeed, newer homes usually don’t require frequent maintenance, but that’s not necessarily the case once you live inside the house.

Wear-and-tear can quickly begin to take a toll if you have a large family and, maybe, a few pets. When that happens, the cost of repairs can come as a shock, and they always seem to come up when you least expect – or can least afford – an immediate fix.

Still, the need for home maintenance is crystal clear. According to a recent survey by Hippo, 81% of homeowners are liable to have a home maintenance need within the first year of ownership. The figure is just as high for older, existing homes that have been lived in for decades.

An old house has a certain nostalgic quality, but the maintenance and upkeep costs are higher unless the property is maintained thoroughly. The catch is that some homes aren’t taken care of correctly over their life span, so if you’re a first-time homeowner, it’s wise to know the basics of how to estimate maintenance repair costs for the long haul.

The last thing you want is for the first year of living in your home to turn into a nightmare of expensive repairs. Owning a home should be a lifelong dream, so here’s how to make an educated guess on how much to set aside for home repairs. A little bit of preparation up front can save you tons of money down the line if you have something go severely wrong.

Estimating Home Maintenance Costs – 2 Rules of Thumb to Get Started

If you search the web for information on calculating home maintenance costs, you’ll come across several strategies. There are two that stand apart from the rest: the 1% rule and the square-footage rule. You can use both of them as a general starting point.

Don’t assume that either one of those strategies will be accurate down to the penny because they won’t be. The truth is that each perspective can give you an indication of your maintenance cost, but you should always pad your budget to allow for a bit more.

The 1% rule

At a glance, the 1% rule is simple enough to understand. You take the value of a home and calculate 1% of that figure. For example, if your home’s appraised value is $250,000, the 1% rule says you need to set aside at least $2,500 for home maintenance every year. There’s nothing else to it, but keep in mind these pros and cons.


The best part about using the 1% rule is that it’s quick and easy to use in a pinch. If you’re in the market for a home, knowing the 1% rule can give you a ballpark figure on how much it’ll cost to keep up with the house as you walk the property for the first time. If a home’s price tag is $300,000, you can assume that $3,000 a year for repairs. Of course, if the home wasn’t built with top-of-the-line materials, it may cost you more.


The downside of the 1% rule is that it’s almost always on the lower end of the cost spectrum. You should plan to spend anywhere between 1% and 4% of the home’s value to account for unexpected, expensive surprises like broken HVAC units or storm damage.

Related: An ounce of prevention, a pound of cure

The Square Footage Rule

The square footage rule is another easy formula to follow when you need to make a quick estimate for repairs. You set aside $1 per square foot of the home, and you get a figure pretty close to the 1% rule’s number. So, if your home is 2,500 square feet, the rule says that you’ll need a minimum of $2,500 for essential repairs and maintenance.


Like the 1% rule, the square-footage rule is quick and easy to apply. It’s something you can do in a matter of moments, and you won’t have to ask a professional like a general contractor for advice. Instead, if you know the square-footage rule, you can ask questions with confidence during the home-buying process or make it much easier on yourself and find affordable repairs. Still, there’s a downside to consider regarding the square-footage rule.


Overall, the risk is that if you rely too heavily on the square-footage rule, you can severely underestimate home repair costs. The square-footage rule doesn’t consider contextual factors, such as the age of the home and its location or the fluctuating cost of materials. A new home built last year can be precisely the same square footage as a home constructed three decades ago, yet you’ll pay widely different maintenance costs. How do you account for those factors when estimating the cost of ordinary home repairs?

What Else Can Affect the Price of Home Repairs?

No matter how you look at it, the difficulty when estimating how much home repairs should cost boils down to anticipating which factors will make maintenance more expensive and which ones won’t affect it too much. In short, the top three things that can make repairs more costly include the age of the home, the quality of the building materials, and the local climate and weather patterns.

Age of the Home

We already mentioned how a new home tends to cost less to maintain than older homes, but why? What makes a classic home more expensive to own?

For starters, there’s the long-term wear and tear to consider. If the house was constructed several decades ago, there’s a reasonable likelihood the structure won’t contain the same materials.

As a quick example, think about how houses in the mid-20th century featured linoleum flooring, colorful wallpaper, and, maybe, a wrought iron bathtub. Imagine how much damage that classic wrought-iron tub with clawed feet can do to flooring over several decades.

It’s fair to say that you won’t find the same flooring available in the 1970s for a simple one-to-one repair job. But that’s not the only thing homeowners overlook when pricing annual repair costs.

Quality of the Building Materials

The quality of the building materials themselves can also affect how much it costs to maintain a home. For example, if you live in a bustling urban area, you can expect to pay more for supplies like replacement doors, paint, and tools.

On the flip side, if you happen to live in an area with a lot of new home construction, there’s a reasonable chance you’ll find more affordable supplies. The catch is that nowadays, it’s not so easy to find any materials quickly, which is why it’s more critical than ever to plan for home maintenance costs. Not only that, but you have to account for weather and climate to get an accurate figure.

Climate and Weather

While it’s not a perfect rule, you can expect to pay more for repairs if you live in a humid environment like Texas. Moisture tends to seep into the home over time as storms damage the exterior structure, but it doesn’t have to be bad weather. If your home has a lot of woodwork, a moist environment may cause more splits and cracks.

The other side of the coin is that homes in a dry, temperate climate won’t need the same repairs because the structure won’t suffer as much natural wear and tear. But if your home lies along the coast, you can expect to pay the most for home maintenance because saltwater can rust metal parts faster than expected.

Related: A Guide to HVAC Maintenance Service

How to Keep Home Maintenance Costs Low Over the Long Haul

Having said that, what’s the best way to keep home maintenance costs low? Honestly, the answer is to get ahead of the problem well before anything breaks down. If you wait for something to break down, it’ll always be more expensive to repair the whole thing instead of an easy replacement or cleaning.

Regular home maintenance can minimize how often – and even how much – you have to spend on those unanticipated maintenance costs that seem to pop up at the worst times if you’re not paying attention. For example, calling someone out on the weekend to fix your AC that suddenly went out when it was 102 degrees outside is an awful situation, especially if you have small children in the home.

The good news is that you can find handyman services to stay on top of home maintenance and perform everything on a schedule. Here’s what to look for in a company so that you can get the best value in return.

What to Look for in a Handyman Repair Service

When you need home repairs fast, you essentially have three options: do it yourself, call a general contractor, or use a home maintenance service. Each has its pros and cons to consider, and that’s the problem. It’s far too easy for first-time homeowners to feel overwhelmed with pricing.

If you don’t know what to expect, it’s much harder to tell whether or not you’re getting a fair shake from a maintenance specialist. If you try the DIY route and make the problem worse, you’re only prolonging the agony and making the fix more expensive than it needs to be.

Not only that, but you can also find repair services online on a subscription basis, which is becoming more popular. With so much going on these days, it’s hard to remember to maintain the home when you’ve already missed a few key milestones. For instance, if your home is more than ten years old, it’s time for a complete “check-up” to minimize repair costs down the line.

The last thing you want is for your electrical wiring to short-circuit because the installation was inadequate. Unfortunately, that happens more often than you’d think if the builders rushed to complete the home on time, so expertise matters. You want a handyman repair service with a deep professional knowledge of home maintenance, including newer properties that may look perfect but have problems on the horizon.

If you live in a rural area and get your water supply from wells, you’ll need to perform maintenance on a strict schedule or risk a costly replacement. Remember that it’s easy to fall in love with a property because homeownership is a lifelong dream for many people. On the other hand, it’s best to take your time to know a property before buying it, so you have a basic idea of what to expect as far as repair costs go.

Indeed, the good news is you can estimate repair costs, but the rules of thumb aren’t perfect. You have to take other factors into account when pricing out maintenance jobs, and that’s where a team of pros comes into the equation. It all comes down to enjoying your home and taking genuine pride in keeping it looking as beautiful as the day you walked in for the first time.

If you’d like to learn more about estimating repair costs for the lifespan of your home, the team at PreFix can answer any questions you have. Contact us today for more details.