This is how much homeowners are spending to replace a roof or furnace and fix a toilet

Something you often hear about home ownership is that it’s a forced savings plan. What you never hear is that owning a home is a forced spending plan as well.

While you’re building equity by making regular mortgage payments, you’re also paying for repairs and maintenance. But how much, exactly? Home repair costs are the great unknown of home ownership.

To bring some clarity to the cost of home maintenance, I asked readers of the Carrick on Money e-mail newsletter to fill out a questionnaire about the cost of repairs they’ve done and additional details such as the size and location of their home and whether they did the work themselves or hired a pro.

A little more than 500 people replied, enough to get a sense of how much it costs to replace a roof, a furnace or a driveway, and the price of more basic jobs like fixing a leaky toilet. The point of information like this is to offer a sharper picture of what it costs to own a home and to provide some context for the quotes you get from contractors and tradespeople. Subscribers of my newsletter will get a link to the full survey results next week. You can sign up here.

When you’re looking for a first home, the affordability narrative revolves around the monthly cost of mortgage payments, property taxes, heating and your other debts. The only acknowledgment of maintenance costs can be found in the inclusion of condo fees in the ratios that lenders use to see if you can afford a mortgage.

Repair costs can be massive when you own a home, and they’re unavoidable. Live in a house for decades and you will almost certainly replace a roof, furnace and more. Here’s a sample of the costs reported by newsletter readers:

New roof

The upper end for roof replacements was around $30,000 for a flat roof. Individual costs included $9,200 for an Edmonton resident with a 2,000-square-foot home who used midgrade asphalt shingles, $14,000 for a similar size home near Kingston, Ont., using 30-year shingles, $15,000 for new shingles and gutters on a 2,800-square-foot home in Quebec City, and $20,000 for replacement shingles and boards on a 1,600-square-foot home in Toronto’s Scarborough suburb.

Roof repair and maintenance

A Victoria resident paid $414.75 for a walk-around inspection of a roof on a 1,500-square-foot home, while an Ottawa resident paid $4,500 to replace a section of roof on a 2,000-square-foot home.

New furnace

A new furnace cost $5,100 for an 1,800-square foot home in Toronto, $10,000 for a high-efficiency furnace in a 1,600-square-foot home in Winnipeg that required holes to be drilled in the foundation for intake vents, $15,000 for a new furnace and air conditioner for a 1,900-square-foot home in St. Catharines, Ont.

Leaky toilets and other plumbing jobs

It cost one reader $200 to replace a wax gasket under a toilet in a house located in Markham, Ont., and another paid $300 to fix a toilet that wouldn’t flush in a Toronto home.

There’s a rough rule in personal finance that you should expect to pay an average annual 1 per cent of the value of your home in maintenance and repairs, but it’s hard to make practical use of this estimate. There will be years as a homeowner where nothing of importance goes wrong and stretches where your home goes behind your back and declares Murphy’s law.

See if this approach to home maintenance costs works for you: Try to pay small costs of a few hundred dollars out of your regular finances and have a plan for larger costs. This is what emergency funds are for, but say you don’t have one. Could you use your annual bonus, tax refund, vacation savings or money in your tax-free savings account?

The goal is to try to avoid using debt, which is prohibitively expensive today. That said, sudden big expenses like a basement flood might require you to use your home equity line of credit. That’s life.

Anticipating costs is important, too. Go up on your roof and look at the shingles and visit your basement after a rainstorm to look for seepage. If you know a big repair is coming, you can prioritize it over other expenses.

That’s another thing they don’t tell you about home ownership. Your house will frequently eat your tax refund or bonus.

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