Typical life cycles for the common components of your home

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Normal maintenance
When we get down to basics, a house is made up of the structure, roof, exterior envelope and the “systems” of the house. The “systems” are things like heating, plumbing, electrical and cooling.

All components and systems eventually wear out. Fortunately, though, they usually don’t all wear out at the same time. Different components have different life cycles. Houses tend to settle into what you might call a “normal maintenance pattern.”

Remember the 1% rule
We recommend the 1% rule when budgeting home maintenance costs. As the term implies, the 1% rule suggests that homeowners budget at least 1% of their home’s value for normal maintenance. Considering the expected lifespan of all of your home’s components, the average annual cost of maintenance usually works out to about 1% of the total value (not the purchase price) of your home. With newer homes, you should spend less and, some years, you might spend a lot less. If you keep your home long enough, though, some of your home’s major components will eventually reach the end of their useful service life. Over time, you should find that the 1% rule is a fairly reasonable estimation.

Some skeptics would argue that a more accurate way to determine maintenance costs would be to calculate the replacement cost of each component in your home, determine its life expectancy, estimate the date of its projected failure, and budget accordingly. The problem with this (aside from the additional math) is that we can’t always predict when systems will fail. For example, we often inspect homes with components that are fully functional well beyond their expected service life. Similarly, it’s not uncommon to find newer homes with major components that failed years before they “should” have.

Whatever budgeting method you choose, it’s important to follow a regular home maintenance plan to help prevent bigger (and more costly) problems in the future. Click here to view our home maintenance checklist.

The bottom line
As a home buyer, you should arrive at a home inspection with realistic expectations. If you are buying a 12- 15-year-old home, you may need a new roof covering, or even a furnace or air conditioner. If you are buying a 60-year-old home, you may have to update the plumbing, electrical, etc. If you keep in mind that each property will have its own unique maintenance issues, and if you plan your budget accordingly, these issues alone shouldn’t dissuade you from buying the home you really want.