After years of calling your landlord when the shower drain clogs or the oven stops working, you may be surprised by just how much maintenance and upkeep your new home requires.
Of course, you know instinctively that as a homeowner, now you’re the one responsible for fixing things when they break. But no one tells you just how many other little tasks you need to do to keep your house in tip-top shape — things like testing the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, raking leaves, cleaning the gutters, replacing the furnace filter, checking for leaks, winterizing the sprinkler system, re-caulking the shower, and changing the refrigerator water filter.
If all of these tasks are starting to make your head spin, it’s time to get organized. Whip out your favorite notebook, open up Excel, download an app, or print an online template so that you can create a maintenance log for your house.
What is a home maintenance log? It’s a simple, organizational tool (with a format of your choosing) that helps you keep tabs on all the little recurring maintenance needs of your home so you don’t let anything slip through the cracks. Fortunately, most home maintenance tasks are seasonal or they follow a predictable schedule, which makes it easy for you to keep on top of upkeep and, ideally, prevent more costly emergency issues from happening in the first place.
“A log is a great tool for homeowners — especially first-time homeowners — to record their repairs, issues, money, and progress,” says Camille Canales, a real estate agent in Chicago. “We think of it as something like the captain’s log on a ship: all important events are recorded and accessible for when they might need to be consulted.”
A home maintenance log can also be super handy when you decide to sell your home. It’s an unexpected gift to your buyers, one that may boost their confidence in the home and help them decide to buy it.
“It’s an added perk that ensures security and assurance for the prospective buyer,” Canales says.
Home maintenance logs are typically formatted by time or seasonality — you may have sections for spring, summer, fall, and winter, for example, or it may be organized by month. But they can also be formatted based on where the task is located in your home: interior vs. exterior, for example, or bathrooms vs. garage vs. utility closet.
How you formulate your log really depends on what works best for your brain — what makes the most intuitive sense to you? What organizational format will set you up for success? You may even use a couple different formats together. Ideally, the log is both a forward-looking forecast to help you save and prepare for upcoming repairs or replacements (if you know hot water heaters typically last between eight and 12 years, for example, you won’t be caught off-guard when yours needs to be swapped), but also a backward-looking record of tasks you’ve already completed.
Be as detailed as possible.
It’s called a log for a reason. Write down every single detail about the specific maintenance task you performed: the date, cost, where you got the supplies, how it went, links to any YouTube videos you referenced, questions you asked your dad, model or part number, paint color and brand, etc. This way, you have a super useful roadmap for the next time this maintenance task rolls around — no reinventing the wheel here.
Don’t forget names and numbers.
This one’s important. Don’t forget to list the names and contact information of any contractors or specialists you researched — even those you didn’t end up working with. If you got quotes from three contractors, write down all of that information so you can easily refer back to it. Keep estimates, invoices, and receipts together with your log, too.
“The most useful logs I have seen as a real estate broker are broken into two parts: a chronological log of receipts and a spreadsheet with the date, service, or repair overview and service provider,” says Julie Busby, a real estate agent in Chicago.
Use technology (or don’t).
Your logbook can be as high-tech or as simple and analog as you want. Maybe you prefer to jot down maintenance tasks in a notebook you keep on your workbench in the garage. Maybe you add notes to a Google Doc and set recurring reminders on your Google Calendar. Maybe you prefer spreadsheets. There are also tons of home maintenance checklists online — and your real estate agent may even give you one when you close on your home.
“I love an old-fashioned three-ring binder for this project,” Busby says. “Easily punch holes in receipts so they are nicely organized. Then print out a simple spreadsheet with columns for the date, repair overview, and service provider and write in each entry. Sometimes simple is best.”