How To Handle Home Maintenance on a Budget


As a single mother of three, I decided it would be best to use the FHA loan program to purchase a drastically reduced foreclosure and get instant equity, plus a mortgage payment less than my former rent.

That left a little wiggle room for maintenance and the potential to renovate over time. Here are some ways I’ve found to make it work.

4 ways to deal with home maintenance on the cheap

1. Get an Inspection Before You Buy

Plumbing, electrical, roofing, HVAC, and appliance repairs and replacements are some of the most expensive and unpredictable situations that often occur. That is why when purchasing a home, the optional $500-or-so inspection may be a sound investment. (Editor’s note: Clark likes inspectors that are certified by the American Society of Home Inspectors.)

The results of the inspection may help you decide whether or not to purchase a home, negotiate necessary repairs into the sale contract, or negotiate a reduction in the sale price.

Prepare a list of questions you would like to ask the inspector, and do not be afraid to get dirty as you follow through for visual comprehension. Be especially sure to locate the breaker box and all plumbing valves so you have a working knowledge of them. Be sure too that everything passes inspection and is up to code.

While things will break in a home, you want to be sure you get a home where the bones are good, as they say in the real estate industry.

2. Make Sure You Have Adequate Insurance

Homeowner’s insurance is another important investment, and it’s generally included within an FHA mortgage payment. Be sure to review the policy carefully, verifying specific coverage and exclusions. Additional coverage may need to be purchased, such as flood insurance, even if you’re not in a flood zone.

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3. Be More Open-Minded and Less Materialistic

Imagine a home with boxed-window air conditioning units instead of central air, an indoor/outdoor grill and portable electric hot plates in place of a stove, and linoleum flooring instead of hardwoods. The home is just as functional either way, and it sure beats homelessness, right?

Dirt cheap household items may be found online, at flea markets, thrift stores, through bartering services, etc. In addition, many low-income workers often receive significant tax refunds which may be invested in the home, among other things, every year.

4. Do It Yourself..Or Use Your Connections

Subscribe to home improvement magazines and newsletters, and study free online videos. (Editor’s note: Learn how one staffer saved $132 on home repairs just by watching a YouTube video!)

Practice repairs on items that will not take away from the functionality of your home, and you’ll be surprised how much time and money can be saved. All it takes is your sweat equity. One thing is for sure: The local home improvement store will become your best friend!

If you’re working for minimum wage, chances are your employer’s maintenance person is too, or even your landlord’s maintenance person. Become well-acquainted with these people, so when the honey-do list is full, you may be able to have professional services at a low cost.

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About the author: Jennifer Kindle is the author of How To Buy a House on Minimum Wage, an Amazon ebook. She is a low-income single mom who refuses to let poverty win.

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