stay ahead of the game when buying a new home

Published on Alaska Dispatch News (

Barbara Ramsey, Clair Ramsey

February 23rd, 2014

Buying a home is a similar to playing a game of chess. Thinking ahead -- past the initial moves of acquiring a property to the next step of maintaining it -- pays off. Whether a new or pre-owned home, time and money are needed to win this investment game.


A new home requires cash in the beginning. Expect to spend at least 3 percent of the sales price in landscaping and a minimum of 1 percent in window coverings. Plus, you'll need appliances and more furniture. However, because everything is new, you shouldn't have to worry about remodeling or replacing major components for a while.


A pre-owned home may already have some of these essentials, but depending on age a pre-owned home has other issues. More maintenance is needed. Major components may need replacing and the main rooms probably need updating or remodeling. all of this takes time and money, so what should your strategy be?


First, keep ahead of maintenance. This will save time because the bigger the problem gets, the more energy and money you have to spend to fix it. A parallel is cutting your grass. Cut every week; when grass is short, you finish quickly. Cut every two weeks; the grass is taller, harder to cut and you spend more time and energy.


Time also works against you, as a home's major components start to fail. Check the life expectancies in the chart below. Eventually a roof leaks, the furnace stops working, and appliances break down. To protect against the unexpected, consider these ideas.


Regardless of whether you purchase a new home or pre-owned, begin by saving 1 percent of the purchase price of your home annually. This is a great way to budget for emergencies, when a component unexpectedly reaches the end of its useful life, or when you decide the time has come to update. Below are just a few examples of a home's component life expectancy:


Roof-asphalt shingle, 20 to 35 years


Boiler, 30 years


Gas forced-air furnace, 20 years


Wood decks, 15 years


Asphalt driveways, 10 years


Interior paint, 5 to 10 years


Exterior paint, 7 to 10 years


Water heater, 15 to 20 years 


Washer and dryer, 12 to 14 years


Carpet, 11 years


Kitchen counters/laminate, 10 to 15 years


Kitchen countertops/granite, 20-plus years


Kitchen appliances, 10 to 15 years


Kitchen cabinets, 15 to 20 years


Pumps, well and sump, 10 years


Septic systems, 15 to 25 years


If you want to win the game of home ownership, think ahead and plan your moves. Why is this important? Because how well you maintain your home affects your eventual sales price, which affects how well you are positioned for the next game.


Ready to play?



Barbara and Clair Ramsey are local associate brokers specializing in residential real estate. Their column appears every month in the Alaska Dispatch News. Their email address