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We’re sitting on a time bomb…

We’ve owned our house for about 8 years now, but the last owners put in some major renovations about 6 years before we bought it.  That adds up to 14 years, and you know what starts happening when a house gets 15-20 years old? Stuff starts breaking and failing.

Why would I say that? Well, there’s some particulars to our home, but in general there’s a lifetime to certain appliances, etc. such as:

  • Water Heaters: 10-11 years. We have 2 water heaters. One (gas) is about 15 years old and the electric one is about 13. Both are well past their lifespan.
  • Dishwashers: 9-10 years. Ours is about 9 years old now.
  • Carpet: 10 years. We have 3 rooms where we haven’t replaced yet and all are at least 14 years old and have had pets and most likely smokers on them. Two rooms have original hardwood underneath, but we don’t know the quality and I’d rather just replace with the same Pergo floor as the rest of the house.
  • Fridge: about 13 years. Ours is about 9 years, but I’ve already replaced a lot of parts on it myself so I’m not sure how long it will last ultimately. I know it was an expensive fridge when they bought it based on the receipt, but that doesn’t mean it’s reliable.
  • Clothes washer: 10 years. Ours is probably 14 years or older. The knob broke off years ago, but we’ve been resourceful and use pliers to start it up.
  • Clothes dryer: 13 years. We’re actually on our 3rd dryer. The first came with the house and the next two (counting our current one) came for free from our friend.
  • Furnace and Air Conditioner: 15-20 years. Ours is about 16 years old, but it’s a high-efficiency unit. We’ve spent about $1000 over the years on repairs, but it just takes one crack in the heat exchange unit to jack up the cost of repair to the point of replacement.
  • Roof: It varies, but our shingles are 20 year warrantied. I was just up on our roof recently and the roof looks good, but there’s a bit of buckling in one spot (I noticed it a few years ago) and it appears they just put the new layer of shingles over the original on the old part of the house. That could cause problems.
  • Pool Plaster Lining: Ours is supposed to last 15-20 years, but we’re noticing it thinning and lots more “blue stuff” in the cleaner than 8 years ago. We spent $7000 just 2 years ago on brick and tile-work, and I expect to spend another $7000 on replastering the pool in the next 3-4 years (it’s quartz plaster, not the regular stuff that would cost $4-5k).

Tick Tick…

So what kind of bomb are we sitting on? A big financial bomb!

All of our appliances are at the end of their lifespan right about now and we’re just waiting for stuff to fail. I added up over $30,000 if everything hits at once (maybe even over $40k). We have a nice savings account set up for the home and emergencies, but not THAT much. The good thing: it won’t all hit at once and we can start planning repairs and replacements now.

But the question is how much longer do we want to stay in this home? Do we want to stay in this house till we die, upgrade, rent something smaller or move away entirely? There’s more to this question than just dying appliances such as our mortgage rate increasing (it’s variable) and needing to refinance. We have been questioning our careers, traffic, cost of living, proximity to family (or lack of) and much more.

The question is do we stick it out, spend the money on maintenance (that won’t significantly increase house value) and live through the payback period or dump it now and cut any losses? Granted, since we have a pool, we wouldn’t sell during the winter, but we need to do some heavy thinking very soon.

What would you do?

About the author

Clever Dude

9 Comments

  • The first thing that will happen if you put the house on the market is that prospective buyers will ask: how old is (fill in the blank), or when was (fill in the blank) last updated? So, you’re already screwed 🙂

    My house is 30 years old, and we have been in exactly the same spot. And now, because we are looking to sell in the next few years, we have started updating things. No, I KNOW you won’t get all your money back, but if you don’t update, you are unlikely to be able to sell at all, especially in this market.

    The way I look at it is that even if we stay, we would have had to do this, and the new stuff makes our house nicer and more livable. I only wish I hadn’t bought a house with a pool. THAT was the biggest mistake I think I’ve ever made!

    • @gharkness, you’re certainly correct. When we walked in the home and got the inspection done, everything was relatively new (only 5-6 years old for the water heaters, 10 or so for the furnace), but it’s been 8 years and we have to remember things age and break down. We’ll be doing some home renovations that will trickle down into other replacements I think. For instance, our chimney has been leaking, and we don’t need it (no fireplace), so we’re going to get it torn out, get the gas water heater vented differently and cover up the old roof. At the same time, I expect to replace the gas water heater AND start gutting the room that it’s in. It’s just one thing after another once you start something.

  • My husband sells home improvement for a national company, and one of the common unexpected expenses is when the customer has had what is called “over-roofing” done. It will cost more for a reputable company to re-do your roof, because there is more for them to pull off. A good company will pull it all, not over-roof on existing. He’s seen some cases where there is more than 2 roofs on a home. Having said that though – not all reputable companies are created equal, and the one for which my husband works is highly over-priced. A good reputation shouldn’t cost that much. What you do is get your “free quote” from a reputable company, and pay attention very carefully when they build the value of their product for what they call “price conditioning.” Then go with a company that’s not as expensive that has all the right answers, based on info you received from the first company. In any case, good luck with all your replacements. Oh, and btw, the company that my husband works for gives gift cards based on the price of the home improvement contract, so if you do go that route, you can purchase appliances for “free” while getting your roof or HVAC repaired/replaced. That’s one way to find more value.

  • This is exactly what freaks me out with home ownership! I’d want to run out the door ASAP, haha… but I know it’s not that easy (or else I would have done it 2 years ago :))

    Very very smart of you to keep in mind though, I prefer wiping it from memory and letting it rudely surprise me when ___ breaks.

  • I know this is going to come across as a type of cop-out, but home warranties can really help in this situation. If you are expecting things to fail all at the time time, home warranties can be a Godsend. The best part about it is that you can get (some of) them whenever you want, not just when you purchased the house.

    This worked out great for me because after about a year in my current house I started doing the same math as you are doing now. I was also seeing signs of potential failure from various appliances. I went ahead and purchased a 1 year warranty from American Home Shield for around $300 (I think). Several months later the computer module in my range/oven combo went out (Who knew there was a computer in a stove?) to the tune of $1600. AHS repaired it for me for $50. Later, my refrigerator started not getting cold enough. It took several visits from a repairman, but another $50 later it was fixed. And then the icing on the cake,.. When our dishwasher went out, AHS just replaced it for us with a comparable model.

    Now,.. I understand that not all home warranty services are alike, but AHS was TOTALLY worth it. And before anyone asks,.. no, I do not work for them. I just sing their praises from past experience. I will recommend though, that you read all the fine print, because if you don’t with these things, it can really ruin your experience when you don’t get something you were expecting. Of course home warranties won’t solve the problem of appliances that are simply out of date, but they can save you a bundle if you are expecting failure.

  • I agree with the above — do you have a home warranty available? We bought a house in Sept. 2011 and the sellers included a warranty, and we did file a claim for it. I don’t know if we will renew, but it’s worth considering.

    Our house was built in 2000 and it’s only a matter of time.

  • I would not worry. I have been a homeowner for 35 years and my experience is that some items last much longer than the figures you quoted. (For example, we are on only our 2nd washer/dryer, bought 12 years ago, and still going strong.) And with a little DIY skill, some of the items (e.g. water heater, dishwasher) can be relatively inexpensive to replace.

  • I’m in the same boat with our home expenses, though I love this house and don’t ever plan to move. We bought this house nearly new, so we’ve been spoiled for a decade or so – but now some of those big appliances are starting to go. We are tackling this by putting money aside for those inevitable emergencies, and looking for those screaming deals on new appliances. They’re out there…you just have to be watchful.

    Like Warren says, we also save by doing the installation ourselves. I’ve extended the life of a few of our appliances, in fact, by doing repairs myself. Youtube makes it easy to do some of these things yourself… just do a search for “replace heating element in [your dryer model]”, for example, and there’s bound to be someone showing you how to do it.

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