The playwright Oscar Wilde must have been fond of the idiom “nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing,” because he used it in back-to-back works; first in “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” and then a variation in “Lady Windermere’s Fan.” Today, corrupted forms of Wilde’s phrase are wrongly attributed or misquoted – but the point is well made. More psychologist then poet, Wilde seemed to characterize a core consumer behavioral trait of seeking short term gain vs long term value.
Consumers in the 19th century were much like consumers today, such that they sought out to get a bargain; often times overlooking the costs from which it comes by. And what may have been in Wilde’s time a conflation of price and value, is still common today – especially for home owners. While many home owners pride themselves on their frugality in home maintenance, they don’t realize the consequences of their poor choices when it comes time to sell their home.
Today’s home owner’s frugality comes honestly as a result of the great recession. A McKinsey Global Institute consumer sentiment survey from a year and half ago sums it up in the title: “America the frugal: US Consumer Sentiment Survey” (Martinez, Motiwala, and Sher; mckinsey.com; December 2014). Martinez, Motiwala, and Sher wrote in their economic analysis that “…Multiple years of austerity have left consumers with altered views about spending. Almost 40 percent say they will probably never go back to their prerecession approach to buying…”
While looking to spend less on maintenance and home repairs, home owners often ignore the effects of their thriftiness on the long term maintenance costs of their home. Trying to spend less often means becoming reactive to maintenance issues, instead of proactive. Reactive maintenance typically means that the plumbing, electrical, or roof issue the owner is repairing, may have been an ongoing problem that may have also affected other systems of the home. However, proactive maintenance is an ongoing process that can prevent minor problems from becoming costly major issues.
John Riha invoked Ben Franklin’s “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” when writing about home maintenance and house values (How Much Value Does Regular Maintenance Add to Your Home?; houselogic.com). He repeats a common theme that regular preventative maintenance doesn’t only save you money down the line, but can add to a home’s sale price. Riha quotes University of Connecticut and Syracuse University studies that implies the value of a regularly maintained home may increase by 1% a year!
Riha recommends a “proactive maintenance strategy” to help stay on top of necessary repairs and system replacements. He suggests saving 1% to 3% of a home’s cost for regular maintenance. To help keep it “interesting,” he suggests repairing and updating one room per year. If you are unsure where to begin, a home inspection may help identify areas of immediate concern; as well as develop a regular maintenance schedule. Also, keeping records of ongoing repairs and upgrades will cement in a home buyer’s mind the amount of care you had for your home.
Home owners who think themselves as savvy consumers by being frugal with home maintenance sometimes proclaim their knowledge of the price of everything; but in reality, diminish the value of their home. Regular home maintenance can not only keep you comfortable and safe through the year, it may help you sell your home faster and for more!
Dan Krell is a Realtor® with RE/MAX All Pro in Rockville, MD. You can access more information at www.DanKrell.com.