The costs of buying a home include easily identifiable expenses such as the purchase price, interest charges and closing costs. However, the costs of maintaining the home are more difficult to assess, because they require you to make predictions about future events. The rule of thumb is to budget 1-3% of the home’s purchase price per year for maintenance and repairs, depending on the age of the house.

This estimate works fine for regular maintenance and the occasional unexpected repair, but it won’t cover a major expense such as a new roof or foundation repair. However, you can use the equity in your home to finance major repairs that are not covered by your regular budget. A homeowner’s maintenance checklist can help you take a proactive approach to repairs, budgeting for them in advance and making them less of a surprise. During the month of December, you can complete your monthly, winter and annual tasks.

Winter maintenance

It can be particularly difficult to perform house maintenance when the weather turns cold. However, there are a few chores that you should do to make your life easier during winter.

Checking for drafts is one of the most effective winter maintenance chores you can do for your house, because cold air infiltrating around doors and windows can increase your heating bill. You can easily detect drafts by lighting a stick of incense and moving it around your doors and windows. A draft will cause the smoke to swirl rather than moving straight up. Many drafts can be eliminated by caulking cracks. You should also switch your ceiling fans to move cool air up during the winter, displacing warm air down for more efficient heating.

Ice dams are another feature to look for in the winter, especially when the temperature remains below freezing for prolonged periods. They form on the bottom of a roof, allowing water to melt behind them and collect on the roof. This condition can cause the water to eventually penetrate the roof, requiring professional repair.

Some houses have a sump pump in the basement, which should be examined in the winter to ensure that the water in the crock isn’t frozen. At the same time, you can check the sump pump’s backup battery to be sure it’s working. Winter also is a good time to check the basement for leaks caused by repeated freezing and thawing of water in the walls.

Cover your outdoor air-conditioning units with a tarp or specialized cover when they aren’t in use. This precaution will protect them from getting damaged by falling ice and snow.

Close your foundation vents to prevent cold air from seeping in. Open them in the spring to increase ventilation in your crawl space.

Monthly Maintenance

You should perform a few simple tasks every month to delay the need for costly repairs on your house. These tasks are easy to do and require only basic tools.

Look for water around plumbing fixtures. Repair leaks in toilets, sinks and bathtubs immediately to prevent more costly damage from accumulated water. You may be able to fix minor leaks by touching up your caulking and grout, but major problems may require professional repair.

Check the filters on your HVAC system. Some filters are disposable and should be replaced periodically, typically every one-six months. You can clean non-disposable filters, usually with mild soap and water.

Check the filter on your kitchen vent hood, and clean or replace it as needed. The ideal frequency of this check is highly dependent on your cooking frequency and the amount of grease you use.

Perform a visual inspection of the outside of your house and any other buildings on your property, such as a stand-alone garage. Look for damage to the foundation, drainpipes, gutters and vents.

Test your carbon-monoxide and smoke detectors. Replace their batteries every six months when you change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time.

Annual maintenance

Some annual maintenance tasks need to be performed after a complete change of seasons, while the timing of other chores is more flexible.

Clean the exhaust for your clothes dryer to remove lint, which can reduce the dryer's efficiency and create a fire hazard. Many house fires are caused by accumulated lint in a dryer.

Inspect the interior and exterior of your home for signs of termites. It’s critical to exterminate them as quickly as possible to prevent costly damage to trim and other wooden building elements.

If you have a septic tank, it should be inspected every year. However, your septic tank typically won’t need to be emptied more often than once every two or three years.

Drain the water from your hot water heater. Sediment in the water will settle to the bottom of the tank, which can damage the heating element and tank itself.

Lubricate the springs on your garage door to make it easier to open.

Financing

A major repair may require you to borrow against the equity in your house by taking out a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit (HELOC). Both loans use your equity in your home as collateral, although they provide funding differently. A home equity loan pays you a lump sum, whereas a HELOC gives you a line of credit for the amount of the loan. You can then draw on this line of credit for a specified period of time known as the draw period. With Figure’s HELOC, you receive the loan amount minus the origination fee up front, but you can still make additional draws as you pay off the amount that you’ve borrowed.*

Summary

A checklist will help ensure that you perform each home maintenance task at the appropriate time and frequency. It will also help you schedule major repairs or renovations that will improve the resale value of your house. The equity in your home can provide a source of financing for these projects in the event that your regular home maintenance budget won’t cover them.

*The Figure Home Equity Line is an open-end product where the full loan amount (minus the origination fee) will be 100% drawn at the time of origination. The initial amount funded at origination will be based on a fixed rate; however, this product contains an additional draw feature. As the borrower repays the balance on the line, the borrower may make additional draws during the draw period. If the borrower elects to make an additional draw, the interest rate for that draw will be set as of the date of the draw and will be based on an Index, which is the Prime Rate published in the Wall Street Journal for the calendar month preceding the date of the additional draw, plus a fixed margin. Accordingly, the fixed rate for any additional draw may be higher than the fixed rate for the initial draw.