There are many unsubstantiated theories as to why home values are continuing to increase. From those who are worried that lending standards are again becoming too lenient(data shows this is untrue), to those who are concerned that prices are again approaching boom peaks because of “irrational exuberance” (this is also untrue as prices are not at peak levels when they are adjusted for inflation), there seems to be no shortage of opinion.
However, the increase in prices is easily explained by the theory of supply & demand. Whenever there is a limited supply of an item that is in high demand, prices increase.
It is that simple. In real estate, it takes a six-month supply of existing salable inventory to maintain pricing stability. In most housing markets, anything less than six months will cause home values to appreciate and anything more than seven months will cause prices to depreciate (see chart below).
According to the Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the monthly inventory of homes for sale has been below six months for the last five years (see chart below).
If buyer demand continues to outpace the current supply of existing homes for sale, prices will continue to appreciate. Nothing nefarious is taking place. It is simply the theory of supply & demand working as it should.
It’s tempting to disregard the steep price tag and hire a professional contractor for home improvement repairs rather than doing them yourself. Home repairs can seem complex and intimidating to the uninitiated, and fear that your own attempts at fixing that leaky faucet or drafty window will cause further damage may further discourage you from going DIY.
However, having a home maintenance plan can make a huge difference in your bank account. And, fortunately, performing proper home maintenance does not require a lot of specialized know-how or training, nor does it require a lot of time or money.
Simple Home Maintenance Tips
Water leaking from your toilet tank will not only cost you money when it comes to your utility bill, but it can also cause water damage to your bathroom floor and premature wear of your toilet’s internal workings. To find out whether your toilet tank is leaking, add some red food coloring to the water in the tank. Come back in about an hour and see if the water in the bowl is pink. If it is, you have a leak.
If you find that your toilet is leaking from the tank to the bowl, the flapper needs to be replaced. To change your toilet’s flapper, first shut off the water supply to your toilet. To do this, simply turn the water valve located directly behind the toilet. Remove the tank lid and flush the toilet in order to empty the tank. Use a towel or sponge to mop out any excess water left in the tank. Remove the flush chain from the lever, and then slide the old flapper up off the overflow tube. Slide the new flapper in place over the overflow tube, reconnect the chain, and turn the water supply back on.
The main cause of leaky faucets is worn out washers. The washers inside of the faucet handles are rubber and tend to wear out quickly. Replace them by turning off the main water supply, unscrewing the leaky handle that controls the flow of water to the spout, removing the old washer, and dropping in the new one.
3. Washing Machine & Dryer
It is important to regularly inspect your washing machine water supply hoses for leaks. One of the top reasons for insurance claims is for water damage caused by leaky washing machine supply lines. Inspect washing machine water supply lines at least annually and replace them every three years if they are plastic. If you notice that the metal ends of your water supply lines are discolored or rusty, replace them immediately.
Faulty washing machine drain hoses are as important as water supply lines when it comes to keeping water off of your floor and in your drain where it belongs. As with supply lines, regularly inspect the ends of your washing machine drain lines for discoloration or rust, and replace them immediately if you find evidence of leaking.
Additionally, check the snugness of the drain lines by using a crescent wrench or a pair of pliers. You should not be able to tighten the line any further if the line is properly tightened. Plastic lines should be replaced every three years.
When it comes to your dryer, it is important to make sure that you regularly clean your lint screen in order to prevent fires. Not only will a clean lint screen prevent fires, but it will also increase the life of the heating element. Physically remove the lint from the screen between each load of laundry. Also, be sure to remove fabric softener residue by washing the screen with warm water and dish detergent once per week.
4. Water Heater
There is nothing more frustrating than turning on the hot water in your shower and instead receiving cold water. Water heaters, like other appliances, need maintenance to increase longevity and reduce the possibility of damage.
Water has sediment suspended in it, and as the water sits in your water heater, these particles will often settle to the bottom of the tank, causing damage to the floor of your water heater. At least once per year, drain the water from your water heater and clean the inside surface of its floor.
To drain your water heater, first turn off the water supply and power to the water heater. For electric water heaters, turning off the power means that you simply flip the circuit breaker to the “off” position. For gas water heaters, turn the thermostat setting to the pilot position.
Next, connect a water hose to the drain fitting at the bottom of the tank and put the other end in a place, such as your driveway, where the draining hot water won’t cause any damage. A typical garden hose is a direct fit to the drain fitting. Turn on all the hot water faucets in your home and then open the drain valve on the water heater. Turn the water supply back on with the drain valve still open to remove any built up sediment in the bottom of the tank. Then close the drain valve, refill the tank, and turn the power back on.
In order to keep water flowing freely through your pipes, keep the following things in mind:
- Accumulating fats and oils are the main cause for clogs, so never pour fats or other oils down your drains. This includes oils that are not solid at room temperature. If you accidentally spill oils or fats down the drain, run hot water down your drain along with a healthy serving of dishwashing liquid. The soap will emulsify the fat or oil and move it on down the pipe, preventing a clog.
- Get a hair strainer for the bathtub drain. If fats and oils are the main source of clogs in the kitchen, hair is the primary culprit in the bathroom. If you have a strainer, make sure that you remove any accumulated hair from it following each shower. This will reduce the amount of hair that finds its way through the strainer and into your plumbing.
- Skip the Drano. Though the acids it contains can help unclog a drain, they also cause significant damage to your plumbing, including premature leaking. This can lead to costly repairs later on. If your bathtub or toilet is completely clogged, use a small drain snake – which you can purchase at any hardware outlet – to pull the offending clog to the surface. If your kitchen sink is clogged, try plunging it before trying to snake the drain. If you cannot remove the clog using a drain snake, call a professional.
6. Air Conditioning
Air conditioners are among the most overlooked appliances when it comes to performing regular home maintenance. However, they can be one of the most costly appliances to repair.
Regularly inspect the condensation hose to make sure that water can flow freely from the line. If there is standing water where your condensation line drains, create a drainage path using a small garden trowel and line the path with gravel to keep mold and algae from forming, which can be a serious health hazard when the spores are drawn into the appliance and blown into your home.
Additionally, keep the screen around your air conditioner free from debris to keep air flowing easily. This will prevent your air conditioner from using more power than necessary to keep your house cool and keep the internal parts from wearing out too quickly.
Some climate control systems have in-duct humidifiers that help keep air moist and healthy during the winter when artificial heat systems are in use. But when these systems aren’t working properly, they become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria, which can cause serious air quality issues.
At the end of each winter season, it is important to drain the unit and close the water valve to keep water from stagnating in the system. Also, cleaning the reservoir with a mixture of water and white vinegar helps to keep mineral deposits to a minimum.
8. Air Filters
Change the air filter in your central heat and air unit often, especially during peak usage months. Thirty days is the absolute longest you should ever leave an air filter in place; two weeks is maximum for high-usage months.
Using cheap fiberglass filters is actually preferred as opposed to more expensive HEPA filters for two reasons: First, replacing the more expensive filters often isn’t cost-effective. Second, the fiberglass filters actually allow for more air to flow into your climate-controlled unit, reducing the amount of energy needed to effectively heat or cool your home.
You can easily give your house a facelift by repainting the interior. However, repainting the entire interior of your house can be costly and difficult to accomplish. You can save both time and money by strategically touching up your paint job every so often. The first thing you need is a spot-on color match. The only way to get this is to save paint from your current paint job for future touch-ups. If you have leftover paint, simply roll the paint over the dirty spots on your walls. When the paint dries, it will dry perfectly, leaving you with a wall that looks as though you just painted it.
If you don’t have any leftover paint, you can still touch up your walls, though your efforts will be more labor intensive than spot painting. Take a sample of your color to your local hardware outlet and have your paint tinted to match. When you are ready to touch up your walls, paint the dirty wall from corner to corner, being careful to keep the new paint off any surface you aren’t looking to touch up. If there is a shade difference, you won’t notice it, even if the wall you are painting butts up against another wall.
If you are trying to cover up nicotine-stained walls, you will need to apply a stain blocker to the walls before applying paint. Nicotine will prevent your paint from adhering properly to the wall surface and will cause bubbles. Additionally, if stale smoke or other odor is an issue, add a few drops of vanilla to your paint. This will help combat odors that have seeped into your drywall.
The main component of your refrigerator that should get your attention is the door seals. Keeping your door seals tight will reduce the amount of energy it takes to keep your food cool or frozen, but will also keep your refrigerator working efficiently, preventing premature wear on internal parts.
To test the door seals, close the door on a dollar bill and attempt to pull it out with the door closed. If you cannot easily pull the dollar bill out from the door, your seals are in good shape. However, if the bill slides out without much resistance, it’s time to replace the seals. You can purchase new seals from any home repair outlet store.
Also, if you have a refrigerator that has coils along the back, periodically vacuum these coils to remove dirt and dust build up. These coils contain the coolant the refrigerator uses to keep the internal temperature cold. If they become dirty, they won’t work efficiently and your refrigerator may stop cooling altogether.
As a general tip, keeping your refrigerator full uses less energy than trying to cool when it’s empty. Therefore, keep as many items in your refrigerator as possible to help reduce energy costs.
11. Drafty Windows
Drafty windows are a major culprit of high energy bills in the summer and winter months. Periodically check the condition of the caulk line that holds your windows in place. If the caulk appears to be dry, cracked, or otherwise weathered, remove the old caulk with a box cutter or other sharp knife and run a new bead of caulk along the seam.
For added utility bill savings, you can further insulate your window by applying an insulating window film over the glass. These methods cost much less than the price of replacing your windows and implementing green energy technologies in your home.
While gutters may go practically unnoticed when you look at your house, they are the main line of defense between your foundation and siding and the elements. Gutters are designed to capture water and debris runoff from your roof and divert it away from your foundation, and one of the main causes of water accumulation in basements is a lack of gutter maintenance and proper water diversion.
Clean your gutters at least once per year by physically removing debris from the channels and rinsing them thoroughly by using a garden hose. Avoid installing gutter guards – not only do these not adequately prevent debris from entering your gutters, they also make it extremely difficult (if not impossible) to properly clean your gutter system.
Also, be sure to regularly check that your gutters are properly affixed to your fascia boards, and replace any sections that appear to be damaged or leaking.
Periodically check your roof for damage. Damaged, discolored, or gravel-less shingles should be quickly replaced to prevent the need to replace your roof, water-damaged trusses, or drywall when you finally discover a leak. During the inspection of your roof, pay special attention to shingles that surround skylights, vents, and chimneys, as these areas are the most leak-prone.
Keeping your home properly maintained will not only save you money by increasing the longevity of your appliances and existing structures, but it will also help you become more energy-efficient and save money on your utility bills. These tips merely scratch the surface of the things you can do around your home to keep everything running in tiptop shape.