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Maintenance and Other Costs

As a homeowner, you must make your mortgage and property-tax payments. If you don't, you'll eventually lose your home. Homes also require maintenance over the years. You must do some kinds of maintenance (repairs, for example) at a certain time. Painting and other elective improvements can take place at your discretion. Maintenance is difficult to budget for. You never know precisely when you may need to fix an electrical problem, patch a leaking roof, or replace the washer and dryer -- until the problem rears its ugly head.

As a rule of thumb, expect to spend about 1 percent of the purchase price of your home each year on maintenance. Although some years you may spend less, other years you may spend more. When your home's roof goes, for example, replacing it may cost you several years' worth of your budgeted maintenance expenses. With some types of housing, such as condominiums, you actually pay monthly dues into a homeowners association, which takes care of the maintenance for the complex. In that case, you're only responsible for maintaining the interior of your unit. Check with the association in buildings where you might buy a unit to see what the dues are running and whether any new assessments are planned for future repairs.

In addition to necessary maintenance, you should also be aware of what you may spend on nonessential home improvements.