Why it pays to check out home repair costs and contractors before an emergency arises
Home repairs can pop up at any time, but this trick has helped keep my bills lower.
When I bought my home around 12 years ago, I knew that my expenses would far exceed the amount I put into my mortgage every month. In fact, even though I bought new construction, I was well aware that in time, repairs would come to eat up a chunk of my income.
Through the years, I've spent many thousands of dollars on home repairs. But those bills could've been far worse. Here's one savvy thing I did to keep my costs to a minimum.
It's all about being prepared
One big reason why so many homeowners end up spending a small fortune on repairs is that those repairs often come up in emergency situations. When you have a water leak, a problem with your heating system, or another issue that directly affects your ability to function normally in your home, you generally have no choice but to address it immediately. What often happens in that situation is you go with the first contractor who can come out and fix the problem, even if that contractor isn't the most cost-effective. And thus, you spend more money.
To avoid that, my husband and I did some research on home repairs before they came into the mix. We called a bunch of plumbing and heating/cooling companies in our area and got estimates over the phone for different issues, like leaks and system malfunctions, even when those things weren't happening. We also gathered information on how much those different companies charge just to come out and make a service call (usually, there's a baseline fee just for a professional to come to your door, and that's on top of the cost of your actual repairs).
After gathering cost data, we surveyed neighbors and friends in the areas to see if any of them had used the companies we talked to. We wanted to make sure they had good experiences. Once we got at least one positive endorsement in each repair category, we narrowed down our list of companies and stored it on a shared spreadsheet. And now, when home repairs actually strike and can't be put off, we know which contractors will charge us the least amount of money without sacrificing quality when they're called in a pinch.
For example, back when we were researching heating and cooling experts, we found one company that would waive its service call fees altogether for customers on a prepaid maintenance contract. Since we needed our systems maintained annually, signing that contract made sense.
On the other hand, there's really no such thing as a preventative maintenance contract for plumbing. But after having done our research, we know which plumber in our area will charge the least to come out in an emergency, and that's who we'd call should the need arise.
Do your research
If you own a home, you'll need to accept the fact that emergency home repairs will arise at one point or another. And the more prepared you are before that happens, the better.
If you're new to your neighborhood and aren't sure where to start your research, soliciting recommendations from neighbors is a good bet. Also, see if your town has a social media page where residents share that type of information. And of course a basic Google search will lead you to a list of nearby contractors based on your zip code.
There may be no getting around paying for home repairs. But you can do a little legwork ahead of time to pay a little less for them.
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