Millennial Homeowners Surprised by Maintenance Costs

By: Bill Eller

Millennial homeowners make up 40 percent of new home buyers, moving into the market at a later age than prior generations. However, homeownership has been more stressful, expensive and disappointing than Millennials anticipated.

In a survey, 43 percent of Millennial homeowners were surprised by the costs of home maintenance and 51 percent express at least occasional regret at buying their home, primarily citing mortgage (41 percent) and maintenance (33 percent) costs.

Homeowners spend, on average, more than $2,600 annually on home maintenance and repairs. However, one in four homeowners have less than $500 saved for home repairs. Some of the most common repairs include replacing a water heater (41 percent), plumbing work (40 percent), HVAC repairs (36 percent) and electrical (28 percent). The average cost of these projects ranged from $300 to more than $550.

Given these unexpected costs, it’s understandable that nearly 30 percent of Millennial homeowners professed stress over the problems inherent in homeownership. The unfamiliarity with the travails of homeownership isn’t surprising, because nearly 80 percent of respondents said they were first-time homebuyers.

Adding to the financial strain, Millennials are also more likely to purchase a “fixer-upper,” with 67 percent stating that they would make an offer on a home in need of major repairs. These fixer-uppers are popular because the shortage in the housing market means these homes more frequently fall into their price range, but they may need more extensive infrastructure repairs. Items such as a sewer or water line repair happen less frequently, with 9 percent of homeowners reporting needing to have their service lines addressed, but they are many times more expensive, with the average cost coming in at $2,556.

Since Millennials are new to homeownership, they don’t have a lot of handyman experience. More than 40 percent of Millennials expressed embarrassment over their lack of home maintenance knowledge. One-third were uncomfortable with the prospect of changing a light bulb, and nearly half are not confident they could reset a tripped circuit breaker, while one-third don’t think they could unclog a toilet or sink and more than 60 percent couldn’t restart a stopped furnace.

When it comes to tools, one in five Millennials don’t know the difference between a flathead screwdriver and a Philips-head screwdriver and are less likely to be able to identify common household tools such as C-clamps and hacksaws. In fact many Millennial homeowners don’t own common tools – nearly a third said they didn’t own a hammer.

More than 60 percent of Millennials point to a desire for more family time as a reason for less investment in DIY prowess and acknowledged that home systems are becoming more complex, requiring expert, trained contractors to repair. This lack of knowledge may also be because Millennials simply aren’t interested – more than 40 percent said they would rather spend the day at the dentist than do home maintenance projects.

A licensed, bonded and local contractor is always the safest bet – not only do they have the necessary skills and knowledge to do the repair correctly, but they will perform work to local code requirements and file for all the appropriate permits. This is important, because any work not permitted or done to code may not be safe and need to be re-done, costing homeowners more time and money in the long run. Licensed contractors also have insurance, which protects homeowners against any personal injury or property damage that may occur during the repair or renovation.

The NLC Service Line Warranty Program can provide both expert contractors and a shield from the stress of a financial shock to Millennial homeowners in your community. The Program has partnered with hundreds of municipalities to educate residents about their service line responsibilities at no cost to partners.

Through these partnerships, the Program offers optional emergency home repair plans including water and sewer service lines, interior plumbing and drains, interior electric, water heaters and HVAC systems. We boast an award-winning, U.S.-based call center that has live operators 24/7/365 and a nationwide network of thoroughly vetted, licensed and insured contractors.

To find out how we can bring your residents – Millennial homeowners and otherwise – peace of mind, contact us.