If you spend a lot of time watching those home renovation shows on TV, you might think you need to be constantly updating and improving your house. To some extent, that’s true: your house needs to be up-to-date, modern and in good repair. But how often do you really need to be replacing your hot water heater or your kitchen appliances? Here are some general rules of thumb:

  • Start with the inspection report you received when you bought the house.  Did the inspector indicate that you would need a new roof in five years? A new furnace in 10? Keep a log of your major appliances’ age so you can estimate when they’ll need replacing. Some estimated life spans:
    • Roof: 20-25 years
    • Heating systems: 15-20 years
    • Range/ovens: 11-15 years
    • Water heaters: 8- 13 years

Then get estimates on what replacements will cost and start saving.

  • Consider ongoing non-emergency maintenance, too. Do you live in New England? Price a snow blower and get bids from plow services.
  • Resist the siren call of the home equity loan to take care of everything. That just defeats your efforts to pay off the mortgage early.
  • Separate out what you want from what you need. A $50,000 kitchen remodel is nice, but you’ll recoup only 76% of the project cost your home’s resale, according to Remodeling magazine.
  • If you can afford to redo, go for it. Just don’t confuse your necessary repairs (new oil furnace—about $4,000) with your discretionary upgrades (Viking range—$6,000 and up).

Home repairs and updates are a necessary part of homeownership, but be smart about it.