What Are Maintenance Expenses?

Maintenance Expenses Explained in 5 Minutes or Less

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Definition
Maintenance expenses are the costs of taking care of your home and keeping the property functional.

Maintenance expenses are the costs of taking care of your home and keeping the property functional. When you’re considering buying a home, you’ll need to budget for these expenses on top of other costs such as property taxes, homeowners association fees, and home insurance.  

Let’s take a look at the different types of maintenance expenses, how they might change based on various factors, and how to budget for these costs. 

Definition and Examples of Maintenance Expenses 

Maintenance expenses are a regular part of owning a home. These are the costs you’ll pay to care for your home and maintain your property. Your maintenance expenses will vary based on several factors, including:

  • Your home’s location
  • The age of your home and any additional structures, like a garage or fence
  • Whether or not you occupy the property
  • Whether you rent the property to a tenant
  • How well the home was taken care of before you bought it

Common home maintenance expenses include:

  • Pest control
  • Lawn care
  • Pool cleaning
  • Appliance and HVAC system service and maintenance
  • Plumbing issues
  • Gutter cleaning
  • Cosmetic upkeep, such as painting or replacing cracked floor tiles
  • Replacement lightbulbs and furnace filters

If you own a building with multiple units, you might also need to cover additional maintenance expenses, such as landscaping and elevator maintenance. If your building has common areas such as a laundry room, hallway, or parking garage, you may need to pay for their housekeeping and maintenance.

  • Alternate names: Maintenance costs

How Do Maintenance Expenses Work?

A variety of factors affect which maintenance expenses you’ll face as a homeowner. For example, a homeowner in humid Florida will need to be on the lookout for mold and mildew to catch problems before they cause major damage. Conversely, homeowners in Minnesota may need to budget for snow removal from their properties or for chimney cleaning before using their wood fireplaces each winter.

Routine maintenance will help keep your home and its systems in good working order, and may help prevent bigger-ticket or emergency repair expenses. As your home ages, you’ll likely need to repair or replace major items such as your air-conditioning system, refrigerator, hot water heater, or furnace. 

Note

While many maintenance expenses are regular and can be spread out over time, sometimes you’ll face emergency repair expenses. For example, a pipe might freeze and burst, or a furnace might suddenly stop working. These emergency costs are separate from routine maintenance costs.

What Maintenance Expenses Mean for You

Your home won’t take care of itself, and its many components won’t last forever. The wear and tear of daily life will add up over the years. However, budgeting for maintenance expenses will help you be prepared for both routine care and eventual replacement costs.

Note

To save money, you may be able to handle some maintenance tasks yourself, such as lawn care or painting. However, maintenance of more complex aspects of your home, such as the roof or HVAC system, is best left to professionals. 

A good rule of thumb for home maintenance is to put at least 1% of your home’s value each year into a savings account—and up to 3% if your home is older or located in a wet or humid area. For example, if your property is worth $400,000, you’d budget at least $4,000 each year for ongoing maintenance costs. That works out to $333 per month, which might seem like a lot—and that’s why it’s essential to include maintenance expenses in your budget. 

You can also opt to budget based on the size of your property. The square-footage rule suggests saving $1 per square foot of your home toward annual maintenance. This means that if you have a 1,200-square-foot house, you’ll want to save $1,200 each year, or $100 per month.

Note

These options are only guidelines, and don’t consider aspects like the cost of labor in your area or potential high-quality finishes in your home. Adjust your budget as needed based on factors like your home’s age, cost of repairs in your region, and durability of your home’s materials.

Some homeowners may consider buying a home warranty, which might cover servicing and repairs for your appliances, HVAC system, and roof. Before choosing a plan, read the fine print and investigate potential maintenance costs in your area to see whether the costs will work out in your favor.

Key Takeaways

  • Maintenance expenses are part of owning a property and include lawn care, cosmetic updates, and maintenance of your home’s heating and cooling systems.
  • How much you should budget for maintenance expenses depends on factors such as your home’s location, age, type, previous upkeep, and whether it’s a rental property.
  • It’s important to set aside money each month to prepare for maintenance expenses. One rule of thumb recommends saving at least 1% of your home’s value each year so you’re prepared for any maintenance costs. 
  • Home maintenance expenses are separate from the costs of emergency repairs.
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Sources
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Family Insurance. “How Much Should You Budget for Home Maintenance?” Accessed Jan. 6, 2022.

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