Breaking these 5 bad habits of homeownership

Hank Bailey
Hank Bailey
Published on March 21, 2019

“Deferred maintenance.” It’s a term that is not only “cringe worthy,” but one that real estate professionals hear frequently. It describes a home that has been neglected and raises red flags concerning its condition.

Putting off routine home maintenance can not only lead to big, ugly, expensive problems down the line, it causes a significant loss of your home’s value when it comes time to sell.

Let’s take a look at five of the most common problems and all of them can be prevented by changing bad habits.

Kitchen drain abuse

Although it’s easy to assume that the garbage disposal can grind up just about anything you throw at it, use some extreme caution. Everything that you put down there will end up in the plumbing drain pipes. Some of it will exit while other substances can sit, accumulate, and cause a great-big headache of a clog.

Grease and oil poured down the drain are the most common culprits. A good rule of thumb, that many plumbers recommend, is pouring the grease into an can or something similar. Let it sit until it cools and then discard the container into the trash.

Did you know that garbage disposals aren’t able to properly grind up certain fruit and vegetable peels, such as apples and potatoes for example. Peel them over a trash container instead.

Starchy foods too, such as rice and pasta, will swell with the addition of water and coffee grinds should never be poured down the drain. These are all great things for your compost pile instead!

Neglecting your home’s gutters

Whether it’s your fear of heights or because the gutters are easy to forget, yet your home’s gutters need your periodic attention. When leaves and twigs build up, this blocks the free flow of water away from your house. Rain water will back up and this can damage both the exterior of your home.

“If you let gutter cleaning go by the wayside, it can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars,” Jeff Lambert with The Gutter Man in Houston tells

Cleaning the gutters doesn’t extend to just what’s attached to the roof line either. Make sure you don’t forget to clean out the downspout as well. Lowe’s has a handy video that will walk you through the process of cleaning out those downspouts effectively and with relative ease!

Gutters should be cleaned out about every three months, according to most home inspector’s I’ve spoken to over the years.

Not replacing the AC filter

This is a biggie.  Allowing your HVAC filters to become clogged can end up costing you a fortune.

“A system that has a dirty filter can suffer from pressure drop, which can lead to reduced air flow, or ‘blow-out,’ resulting in no air infiltration at all,” according to Nick Gromicko and Kate Tarasenko with the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.

Today I just got a list of home inspection concerns back on a listing I have under contract right now and in due diligence. Within the inspection report and where related to the HVAC it noted;

  • Emergency / supplemental electric strips are currently not working in emergency mode
  • HVAC filter is currently the wrong size
  • Unit is extremely dirty and has dust / grime build up at vents and inside air handler – need to have HVAC service /cleaned , strips repaired and correct filter installed.
  • $500 to replace strips and service
  • Duct cleaning $285.00 includes cleaning dryer vent.

Referring back to Nick Gromicko and Kate Tarasenko with the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, when the air filter is not changed out periodically this causes the system to have to work harder and “any mechanical component that has to work harder to run efficiently puts undue stress on the whole system, which can lead to premature failure, resulting in repair or replacement.”

Here’s some additional incentive to help you remember to change the HVAC filter every 1-3 months. The average cost, nationwide, of a new air conditioning system is just under $5,500 (according to or you can pick up a new air filter today for less than $10 at Home Depot or Lowe’s and have it replaced in minutes when you get home!

What hot water heater?

Don’t know why, but one of the most common home warranty phone calls I hear about from homeowners is that the hot water heater either quit working or sprung a leak shortly after they moved into their home just after closing.

The purchase and installation of a new water heater averages around $1,050.  With a little maintenance, you can extend the life of this very important appliance. Check out this fun video walk-through of water heater maintenance at

Ignoring plumbing leaks

According to the EPA, homeowners can save 10% on their water bills just by fixing leaks.

Remember that leaky plumbing allows moisture to seep into floors and walls. If ignored for a long enough period of time, this may cause damage that can cost thousands to repair.

Some leaks are easy to put your finger on (a dripping bathtub faucet for instance). Others may take a bit of sleuthing, i.e. a home inspection, to uncover.

It’s always good advice, but plan on get a plumber to do a routine inspection of your home’s plumbing system at least annually. Check the toilets for worn flappers, making sure they are not loose either at their base, and check under the sink for signs of plumbing valve leakage.

To determine if your home has any hidden leaks, the EPA recommends you check your home water usage “during a colder month, such as January or February. If a family of four exceeds 12,000 gallons per month, there are serious leaks.”

Another handy way of detecting any hidden leaks is to take down the reading on your water meter, don’t use any water for a couple of hours, and then check the meter reading again. If there’s a change, you probably have a leak.

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