Costly to delay repairs

This Issue This is a part of the Maintenance feature

By - , Build 160

The cost of maintaining a home can be high, but delaying essential work means it will cost much more in the long term. There’s evidence many properties aren’t being kept up to scratch.

House Repairs
House Repairs
Figure 1: Rising cost for delayed maintenance.

HOUSES must be regularly maintained to preserve their physical condition and, for houses built since 1997, to be Code compliant.

Average 0.5–2% of house value

For detached housing, the annual maintenance expenditure should average between 0.5% and 2% of the value of the house, excluding land value. The actual amount depends greatly on the age of the house and the types of materials, particularly the type of claddings. Metal roofing and timber weatherboard in older houses will require more exterior maintenance than, for example, brick veneer walls and concrete tile roofs in newer houses.

Houses need $13,000 of maintenance

The 2015/16 BRANZ House Condition Survey (see pages 46–48) found the average cost of required maintenance was about $13,000 per house. The amount is slightly higher for rentals and lower for owner-occupied housing.

The calculation looked at the repair cost to bring each of 26 components to as-new condition. The unit cost varies by component and condition.

Not enough maintenance being done

The $13,000 amount represents about 3% of a typical house and land sale value, according to the Real Estate Institute data for median sales prices. It suggests maintenance backlogs are occurring for many houses, because we know that average expenditures on maintenance and repairs are lower than this.

Approximately half the cost is to reinstate the exterior envelope to maintain weathertightness. Much of the rest is less urgent as the repairs are mainly cosmetic and mainly to fittings.

Figure 1: Rising cost for delayed maintenance.

Condition can deteriorate quickly

What happens when houses are not adequately maintained? Obviously, deterioration continues within the problem area, and often damage spreads to adjacent parts of the building. In short, the situation will get worse and sometimes quite quickly.

The BRANZ House Condition Survey uses five condition ratings: 1 = serious, 2 = poor, 3 = average, 4 = good, 5 = excellent.

How quickly does each condition deteriorate to the next state without maintenance? Discussions with BRANZ durability scientists indicate deterioration depends on types of material, environmental conditions and occupants’ use of the building.

The analysis used approximations of:

  • condition 2 to condition 1 takes 2 years
  • condition 3 to 2 takes 5 years
  • condition 4 to 3 takes 10 years
  • condition 5 to 4 takes 10 years.

These are maximum times for all components in a house and assume painted surfaces with timber or metal substrates, plasterboard interiors and common fixtures.

Delays increase costs

Using these changed conditions in our calculations produces Figure 1 for a typical house. It shows how the amount of required maintenance rises with delayed maintenance. We calculated the cost at zero, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years and 15 years delayed maintenance.

A straight line has been drawn through the points and indicates an increase of about $2,300 per year of delayed maintenance. This is an increase of about 18% on the current amount of required maintenance ($13,000) and is a sizeable amount.

It reinforces the message to owners that repairs should be done promptly whenever deterioration becomes apparent and that a good return is available when money is spent on avoiding increased maintenance.

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Articles are correct at the time of publication but may have since become outdated.

House Repairs
House Repairs
Figure 1: Rising cost for delayed maintenance.