Responsibilities of owning a home

Being a responsible homeowner

When you own a home, you take on a number of financial responsibilities that you don’t have when you rent. The most important is staying current with your mortgage payments, which means paying what’s due in full and on time.

Overview

Late, or delinquent, payments hurt your credit history and therefore your credit score. In contrast, paying on time helps you build a strong credit history and can help increase your credit score, which can provide access to other loans in the future.

You are also responsible for maintaining the condition of your property, something which you can expect to cost 1% to 3% of your home’s value each year. If you take care of things before they become problems, you’re more likely to avoid major expenses that can result from negligence.

Some deferred maintenance items become emergency issues. You should have the funds saved and available for repairs such as:

  • Leaky roof
  • Frozen pipes
  • Broken furnace
  • Broken hot water heater

You’ll also want to keep up with more routine items, including:

  • Scheduling annual cleaning and maintenance of heating and cooling systems
  • Doing seasonal yard clean-up
  • Installing fire and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Checking fire extinguishers

You might also consider remodeling or making other improvements to your property to increase its value. However, you should be aware that some renovations increase your home’s value more than others. Updating kitchens and bathrooms, for example, tend to pay off in a higher sales price if you decide to sell. In contrast, you may not recoup the cost of renovations like converting a garage to a family room or adding a sunroom.

You’re also responsible for maintaining adequate homeowners insurance on your property so that any covered losses will be insured, thus protecting your wealth and investment in your home. As you did when shopping for a mortgage loan, you may also wish to compare insurance policies to be sure you purchase a policy that will meet your needs at a price you can afford. If you live in a potential flood zone, you’ll also want to investigate flood insurance, which you must purchase separately from your general policy.


Managing your Mortgage

  • Make sure your mortgage payment arrives on time each month
  • Consider arranging a direct debit from your checking account or using automatic bill pay to help avoid late or forgotten payments
  • Stay alert to the factors that could raise your monthly housing payments or expenses, such as increases in property taxes and homeowners insurance rates
  • If you have an ARM, be sure you know exactly when and by how much your mortgage payment may increase at each adjustment. Plan for possible increases ahead of time to make sure you can continue to make your full payments on time.