Updated: Feb 2
To stay in the home you know and love through your twilight years is a widely shared desire. It’s easy to appreciate. For many, it’s owned outright, you know where everything is, you feel safe there, your friends live near, and it simply feels like home in a way that no other place ever could. Maintaining your home as you get older becomes an increasingly difficult and often dangerous task.
As we’re aging, our home is aging as well. From the roof to the foundation, every passing year means each component gets closer to failure or obsolescence and from time to time, we will need contractors, repair people, handymen, plumbers, and electricians to keep things operating safely and properly. Unfortunately, our ability to competently manage these companies and service people lessens with our physical health and mental acuity. Being able to discern whether or not a component needs replacement or repair and how much that should cost becomes trickier and trickier. A simple internet search for elderly people getting ripped off by contractors pulls up hundreds of articles. Sadly, these articles appear only after the offence has been committed. Today, I read a sad article about a couple who paid a contractor over $50,000 for some home repairs and got nothing in return. Others, have had items stolen from their home by repair people they trusted.
Many older homeowners have the benefit of relying on their adult children to help them manage these needs and protect them from making expensive mistakes. Others either don’t have any children close enough or competent enough to be effective. Some simply don’t have anyone at all. Too many find themselves vulnerable and exposed. When that hot water heater gives out, they find themselves at the mercy of whoever answers their call.
One way to minimize these risks is to get ahead of them. Prepare your home for the future while you still have the energy and the where-with-all to manage repairs and upgrades effectively. If you’re in your late sixties or seventies and in reasonable health, one of the smartest things you can do is prepare your home to last the next 20 years, minimizing the need for repairs and replacements in the future. It’s impossible to know exactly when your furnace will give out, but we do know that it’s unlikely that a 14-year-old furnace will be operating safely or at all 10 years from now. Many of the systems and components in our homes have predictable life spans. Being realistic about the useful lives of these things will serve you well.
So how does one get ahead of predictable repairs and replacements? How can you tell which components are likely to last and which are not? Well, you could invite contractors and various technicians to evaluate your home, but keep in mind that most of these people have a product or service to sell and that may influence what advice they offer.
No, what’s better and safer is to get a professional and objective opinion
on the condition of your property from someone who’s only objective is to give you the truth. A professional, certified home inspector can offer a full evaluation, produce a written report and offer sound advice and insight for a reasonable fee. You can trust them because most home inspector trade associations prohibit its members from performing any repairs on the homes they inspect and/or profit from referring such repair people. A full home inspection typically costs between $400 and $600 for a single-family home and even less for a condo or townhome. Some even offer a repair estimate report that is based on averages in your area; this provides you a baseline for how much things should cost in materials and labor.
If you or someone you love is getting up there in age and is planning on staying in their home, I highly recommend a full home inspection by a certified home inspector. Getting out in front of repairs, upgrades and replacements can protect everyone and help ensure that you or your loved ones never end up the victim of predatory practices that run rampant in the home repair and improvement industry.