Home Repairs: Why They Matter
New York City’s housing stock is getting older. Most of the city’s housing was built more than 50 years ago. In some neighborhoods, like East New York, many homes were constructed in the 1920s or earlier. For homeowners, maintaining these older structures and making much-needed repairs can strain family budgets. And, in some cases, foregoing repairs can lead to foreclosure, especially with seniors who have taken out reverse mortgages on their homes. Here are some practical things to know.
Don’t Let Major Repairs Go Unaddressed
When something happens to your home, whether it’s a leak in the roof, a broken pipe, or a furnace failure, it is important to be financially prepared. While it may be convenient to charge these unexpected expenses on your credit card, use funds that would be used to pay off other bills, or take a chance on lenders of last resort, these means of payment are not beneficial in the long term. While these options may allow you to pay for the emergency repairs, they will also leave you paying more in interest and possibly risking your credit score. However, doing nothing about these emergency repairs can also be detrimental to your home. Damage can only get worse if left untreated, and could further increase associated costs.
Build Up A Fund For Emergency Repairs
Emergency repairs represent some of the most substantial expenses that you will incur as a homeowner. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, in 2015, homeowners spent an average of $2,970 on home improvements, with more than half towards repairs or replacements. Unfortunately, repairs are unpredictable and you should be prepared for any emergency. It is important to build up a fund that you can access when you need to make an emergency repair and replenish your funds once they are used. This will ensure you and your family are safe for the long term.
There are several online tools that allow homeowners to not only keep track of their home maintenance tasks, like changing their air conditioner filter, but also help them budget and track their spending in order to save for repairs and renovations.
Find Out If There Is Financial Help Available
Apart from creating a savings funds to use in situations of urgency, there are alternative options available for homeowners. Turn to your insurance policy to see if emergency repairs are covered. If these expenses are not covered under your insurance policy, contact an agency like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and ask if they have any available programs to cover emergency repairs that create unsafe or unsanitary living conditions. There are also programs that offer funding to homeowners for repairs and improvements through loans listed on the New York City Housing Preservation & Development Homeowner Repair Loan page. You can find other available options to help you afford home repairs here.
Prevent Destructive Flooding
Increasing numbers of communities are at risk of flooding each year, and even just a few inches of flood water can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage to your home. Some mitigation options are more costly; others require more effort to adopt; and some provide greater benefits than others.
There are many ways to prevent destructive flooding, and it is important for you to consider the trade-offs between choosing different flood prevention strategies. Installing flood vents in your home can decrease the risk of flood damage by allowing flood water to flow through and drain. Floodproofing the interior of building systems calls for the installation of passive or active mechanical devices to prevent water from entering is another way to keep your home’s mechanical systems safe in the case of a flood. Other mitigation strategies include: replacing carpet with tiles, installing backwater preventers, and installing a sump pump.
Learn more about flooding and flood insurance at FloodHelpNY.org
Understand The Terms Of Your Reverse Mortgage
If you are looking to qualify for a reverse mortgage, there are certain repairs that you may need to make to your home. These repairs include, but are not limited to: any foundation or structural issues, termite damage, leaky roofs, mold, and other safety concerns. If your home does not meet U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development minimum health and safety standards for a home, those repairs must be done first in order to make you eligible for a reverse mortgage. Typically, these repairs are completed through “Repair Set-Asides.” A repair set-aside is a sum of money that can only be used to make the appropriate repairs to the property. Once the repairs are completed, the funds are made available to the borrower. If you do not keep up with home repairs and improvements once you have received a reverse mortgage, you could lose your home. Consider saving a portion of your reverse mortgage to use if, and when, you need to make repairs and improvements. Don’t wait until your small repairs turn into serious maintenance issues. Take action as soon as you can!
Make Your Home Lead-Free
Consumer use of lead-containing paint was banned in 1978, but if your home was built earlier than that there is a good chance that it has lead-based paint. Homeowners should recognize the hazard associated with lead from paint, including lead-contaminated dust. To determine if you and your family are at risk for lead poisoning, fill out this checklist created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead Awareness Program. Other steps you can take toward lead mitigation include: making sure children do not have access to peeling pain or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint; keeping children and pregnant women away from homes undergoing lead-prompted renovations or homes built before 1978 that are undergoing renovations; and regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe window components to prevent lead-contaminated dust.