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Why You Shouldn’t Put Off Major Home Repairs (and How to Prioritize Them)

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Photo: Chad Robertson Media (Shutterstock)

Chad Robertson MediaPaying for major home repairs, such as a leaky roof or broken water heater, definitely isn’t the exciting part of homeownership. If you’re going to spend money, you’d probably much prefer to do something fun, like upgrading your outdoor space or remodeling your kitchen.

Unfortunately, the projects that are the least sexy are also often those that are most critical to do—and fast—yet many homeowners have let them fall by the wayside due to financial issues. According to a recent poll, 43% of homeowners have delayed home improvement or maintenance due to inflation. With residential construction costs up 19%, homeowners are seeing higher costs for some planned (and unplanned) projects.

While it makes sense to hold off on big, expensive projects, doing so could actually cost you more in the long run. For example, calling in a pro to fix a water leak early on will probably be less expensive than repairing and replacing things damaged by flooding or mold.

So, you definitely shouldn’t put off major repairs in favor of cosmetic upgrades, and if you have limited funds, you may need to prioritize those repairs over other, unrelated spending. Depending on the repair, you could break down the project into smaller tasks you can tackle over time. You could also look into resources like home equity loans or home equity lines of credit for urgent issues if you don’t have the cash.

How to prioritize home repair projects

This is probably obvious, but structural issues and problems with critical systems like electricity, gas, and plumbing that could cause major damage should be your top priority. These are often emergencies, and they usually require professional help.

Here are a few signs you shouldn’t ignore:

  • Buzzing outlets
  • Frequent breaker tripping
  • Flickering power (such as lights or appliances)
  • Gas or burning smells
  • Water leaks (stains, wet spots, warping)
  • Mold
  • Missing shingles and damaged gutters
  • Pests

Issues with your foundation and framing, as well as leaking windows and doors, also generally necessitate quick (and costly) repairs.

Let’s say you don’t have any major repairs to make (that you know of) and you want to invest in upgrades or cosmetic changes. Use caution if you don’t have some cash in an emergency fund or a way to finance surprise repairs. It’d be a bummer to spend all of your money on a bathroom remodel only to find out your roof needs replacing. When prioritizing upgrades, you’ll want to consider both your current quality of life, as well as the potential return on investment if you plan to sell.

Finally, prevention may offer protection when it comes to home maintenance. Use a checklist and add to-dos and service appointments to your calendar so you catch issues early.