Being a homeowner can be a wonderful experience. Positives, such as having a place to create memories and building home equity, can be richly rewarding.
Homeownership, though, also comes with its share of headaches. My wife and I bought a new home in 2019, and unlike our last one -- which was new construction -- this one has needed a lot of work. The previous owner didn't keep up with maintenance (I'm looking at you cracked, water-stained spot on my office ceiling) or the latest trends (hello 1995, with your gold fixtures and orange-hued stained doors and trim). Because of these issues, and some things I overlooked during our home search, I've come to loathe this place.
However, with the new year offering a chance for new beginnings, I've resolved to spend 2020 making my home more enjoyable and more valuable. Here are five ways I plan to accomplish those goals, which are good resolutions for all homeowners to consider -- even if you already have your dream home.
1. Catch up on home maintenance projects
I've spent the first several months in my new home fixing things that the previous owner never got around to doing. So far that's included putting on a new roof, replacing windows, and installing a new water heater, and there's still lots more to do. While deferring these projects saved the previous owner time and money, they could end up costing me more if I, too, keep putting them off. That's why I want to get 100% caught up on our home maintenance projects by this summer. That's a smart resolution for any homeowner since every dollar in deferred maintenance can end up costing four times as much in future repairs.
2. Remove pain points around your home
Unless you live in your dream home, there are likely some things about it that drive you crazy. For us, it's the loose and squeaking faucets in the master bath and the home's outdated features. Because of that, we've resolved to get the house to our liking by year-end. Removing pain points, which can include smaller maintenance projects such as fixing an eyesore as well as bigger ones like addressing a lack of openness or functionality, can help make your current home feel less like a nightmare.
3. Add features to make your home more enjoyable
Because moving is expensive and stressful, it's often a better option to make improvements to your existing home instead of buying a new one. We've started doing this in our new place by updating the kitchen, which included adding a peninsula so my wife, who loves to cook, has her dream workspace. Since I like being outdoors, I want to make our backyard a great spot to hang out this year. Adding features so that you love your current home can make it more valuable, as well. It also makes it less likely that you'll put yourself through the hassle and expense of listing it to buy a new one, since closing costs alone for selling the average home in the U.S. range between $17,000 and $22,000.
4. Boost home equity by increasing monthly mortgage payments
One thing my wife and I have done in the past is to increase our monthly mortgage principal payment by $50 each year. Doing so helped us more than cushion the blow of rising property taxes and insurance rates. It has also helped us build up a little bit of additional equity and grow more comfortable with paying a higher mortgage payment. The extra money added up over the five years we owned our last home, giving us more money to put down on our current one as well as making it easier to afford the higher monthly payments.
This strategy worked out so well that I want to start doing it again in 2020. It's a potentially rewarding resolution for any homeowner since paying an additional $50 a month on a 30-year mortgage with a $250,000 balance can save more than $10,000 in interest costs -- while also shaving a whole year off the payoff date.
5. Make your home more energy efficient
The average homeowner spends about $3,500 per year on home energy costs. There are several ways to cut down on this expense, such as adding a programmable thermostat, installing energy-efficient windows, and replacing light bulbs with LEDs. We've already done some of these projects in our new place, including installing a new Nest Learning Thermostat and replacing all the front windows. But there are lots of ways we can make some smaller investments to save more money on our energy bills in the coming years, such as re-caulking around the windows and adding more insulation. With climate change concerns rising, homeowners should see what they can do to become more energy efficient in the coming year.
Resolve to invest some time and energy into your home this year
As every homeowner soon learns, even the dreamiest of homes has its share of headaches. Instead of letting these issues turn homeownership into a nightmare, we can resolve to take action in the coming year to make our homes more energy-efficient, more valuable, safer, and more enjoyable. While many of these moves have some upfront costs, the investment should pay off over the long-run.