Autumn is your last chance to review, repair and remediate home issues that may break the bank account after winter arrives. Here are some expensive mistakes some homeowners make every fall – don’t be one of them. Set aside time (and a little cash) to clean up your household act.
Here’s a rundown of fall financial home follies:
1. Neglecting gutters. Both gutters and downspouts should be cleaned of last year’s debris (if you haven’t done it yet) and this year’s autumn leaves, before the snow and rains arrive. Gutters clogged by leaves can lead to water invading your roof and exterior walls. Downspouts should lead away from the house, as water that isn’t diverted can become a source of cracked driveways and ruined foundations (foundation repair could cost up to $11,200). In cold climates, gutters and downspouts can lead to ice dams, which can cause costly water damage to a home’s interior. As well, loose gutters can tear free due to the weight of snow and ice.
2. Overlooking windows. Homeowners in the know check out door and window frames for damage or leaky air gaps, while taking down window screens and putting up storm windows, which can cut heating costs. Heat gain and heat loss through windows take up 25%–30% of residential heating and cooling energy use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Consider adding weather stripping, double-paned or Energy Star-approved windows, caulking, or heavy curtains to prevent heated air from escaping, and increasing energy costs and decreasing comfort. Caulking should be done before freezing temperatures set in, says Tom Kraeutler, host of syndicated radio show The Money Pit.
3. Ignoring the chimney. Before kindling a cozy autumn fire, have your chimney examined and repaired, if necessary—or you may deal with home-destroying fires, chimney collapses or carbon monoxide poisoning, according to Tom Kraeutler. However, hiring the wrong chimney sweep can also be an autumn financial disaster, he points out, so research reviews and reputations.
4. Not reviewing the roof. Smart homeowners ensure the flashing (which covers gaps near chimneys and on roofs) is solid and won’t permit water intrusion. As well, are roof shingles missing? Now is the time to check — not after your upstairs bedroom becomes a waterlogged mess, or a leaky roof ruins your drywall. According to Homeadvisor.com, the cost of repairing water damage could run up to $8,000, while roof repairs only top out at $4,000 in extreme cases.
5. Skipping sealing. Autumn is the perfect time to seal your driveway and repair it – before freezing temps hit, after which sealants may not work well. Winter will bring additional exposure from de-icing agents like salt, which are “corrosive on your driveway,” Kraeutler says, and could lead to further cracking and deterioration. He points out that driveway sealing is often a DIY job.
6. Hesitating on the HVAC. Preventative maintenance or energy-efficient upgrades will lower your heating bills, spare you expensive emergency calls, and increase your heating system’s lifespan. If you’re considering selling your house in fall or winter, you’ll want to show off a functional heating system to buyers.
7. Procrastinating on purchases. Sure, you can pretend winter isn’t going to happen – if you live in sunny Southern California – but most of us need shovels, salt for deicing the sidewalk (and avoiding costly lawsuits) ice scrapers, and possibly even a snowblower. If you have a snowblower, check out these tips from Consumer Reports on how to make it winter-ready, before the first snow.
8. Putting off sale prep ’til spring. According to Consumer Reports, a host of issues can kill an upcoming home sale, including cracks in the foundation and hidden water damage. Don’t let problems start or worsen in the next six months – instead, address potential concerns proactively now, while there’s time.
9. Falling for fall scams. Your financial security may be at risk if you open your wallet for a scam targeting homeowners, such as lending “deals” a contractor might offer for making autumn upgrades. If you need to pay for home maintenance, remodeling or repairs, consider instead leveraging the equity in your home with a Cash-Out Refinance.
By avoiding these autumn money mistakes, you’ll save money, so you’ll have more dough for the upcoming holidays, or perhaps even for a trip in the new year.