20 Easy Ways You Can Be a Better Homeowner in 2020

If you’re like many homeowners, your house is your largest financial investment, so it makes good sense to do everything you can to protect its value. With the right care and maintenance, and a little proactive planning on your part, you can go from being a good homeowner to a great homeowner in no time. Click through to learn 20 easy ways to be a better homeowner in 2020.

Planning Is Key

1/22
Home planning in the new year

Being a better homeowner is about more than just making your mortgage payment on time. It’s about being prepared for the inevitable surprises that go hand in hand with owning a home, and it’s about taking the necessary steps to ensure that your home and your family are safe and secure.

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Set a Budget

2/22
Set a budget for the new year

If you’re tired of living paycheck to paycheck and never having enough money for the things you’d really like—such as that stunning living room set you saw at the furniture store—it’s time to take stock of your spending habits. For help in determining where you’re spending too much and where you can save, check out Kiplinger’s interactive budget worksheet.

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Be Water Wise

3/22
Water use at home

Not only is using more water than you need wasteful, with rising municipal water fees, it’s also expensive. This year, plan to replace broadcast sprinklers with soaker hoses in flower beds and vegetable gardens, switch to a low-water shower head, and consider investing in a rainwater collection tank, such as the VINGLI 50-Gallon Rain Barrel (available on Amazon) that stores rain runoff from your roof so you can use it later to water the garden.

Related: 10 Tips for Planning a Raised Garden Bed

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Check Those Gutters

4/22
Check gutters annual home maintenance

Out of sight is too often out of mind when it comes to remembering to keep your home’s gutters free from leaf litter and other debris. It’s a good idea to check and clean your gutters twice a year—once in the spring and again in autumn after the leaves have fallen. But if you can do it only once, do it in the fall before Old Man Winter arrives so you can head off the ice buildup that can break the gutter system.

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Consider ROI Before Major Renovations

5/22
ROI on major home improvements

Large remodeling projects are pricey. To figure out which renovations are worth the time and money, do a little research to find out which will yield the best return on investment (ROI). For instance, you may never recover the cost of installing an in-ground hot tub, but replacing your garage door could offer a 97 percent ROI. Check out Remodeling Magazine’s Cost Vs. Value before deciding on a remodeling project.

Related: 5 Times a New Garage Door Made All the Difference

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Learn Some DIY Skills

6/22
Improve DIY skills

Not all home projects require professional services, and you can save big bucks on labor by learning how to perform routine maintenance and simple repairs, such as replacing a faucet, painting the house, or refinishing a staircase. As your skills increase, so will the money you save.

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Start a Neighborhood Watch

7/22
Start neighborhood watch group

Looking out for your neighbors and having them keep an eye out for you makes your entire neighborhood safer. A neighborhood watch group should involve as many neighbors as possible, and the group should work with local law enforcement to report suspicious activity. Find out more at National Neighborhood Watch.

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Make 2020 the Year of Energy Efficiency

8/22
Improve energy efficiency at home

You can reduce your home’s carbon footprint and save on your utility bills at the same time. Energy Star, a branch of the Department of Energy (DOE), offers dozens of suggestions for ways to cut energy usage, such as adding more insulation to your attic and caulking around drafty windows.

Related: 14 Secrets of People with Low Energy Bills

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Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal

9/22
Improve curb appeal

Whether or not you plan on selling your house in the near future, you can enhance its value by making it as attractive as possible from the street. Appropriate upgrades could include giving your entry door a fresh coat of paint, installing a sprinkler system to keep the lawn looking its best, or trimming overgrown trees and shrubs to give the yard a clean look.

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Check for Termites

10/22
Check for termites regularly

These subterranean pests can do enormous damage, so the sooner you spot them, the sooner you can call an exterminator to get rid of them. Be alert for telltale signs, such as mud tubes running along interior or exterior foundation walls, small piles of tiny droppings, pinholes in drywall, and wood that sounds hollow when you knock on it.

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Change Your Light Bulbs

11/22
Change light bulbs for energy efficient versions

If you’ve been holding on to those last few cartons of incandescent bulbs, throw them out and replace all the old bulbs in your ceiling lights and lamps with more efficient models. According to Energy.gov, switching to either CFLs or LEDs will save you the most on lighting costs.

Related: 10 LED Holiday Lights to Brighten Your Holiday Nights

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Safety First

12/22
Check batteries in smoke detectors

You already know that you should replace the batteries in your smoke detectors twice a year, but you may not know that there are additional steps you could be taking to protect your property and your family. Check out these suggestions from the National Safety Council for making your home a safer place to live.

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Make Repairs Promptly

13/22
Make home repairs at first sign of trouble

Small problems can turn into home repair nightmares if ignored. For example, if a small drip from a water line isn’t repaired, it can lead to structural damage and mold growth. Make it a habit to address problems as soon as you notice them, and in the long run, you’ll save time and money.

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Have the HVAC Unit Serviced

14/22
Service HVAC system annually

Your home’s heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system is the most expensive appliance in your house, and if it breaks down, not only could you be stuck with expensive repair bills, you could be without heat or air conditioning when you need it most. Having an HVAC technician service the unit annually costs around $100, but it will extend the life of the unit and make it operate more efficiently.

Related: 7 Signs Your HVAC System Is Wasting Energy—And What to Do About It

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Make a Home Inventory

15/22
Take home inventory for emergency

No one likes to think about a home burglary or fire, but if one of these calamities strikes your house, you’ll need to be able to prove the value of your loss in order for your insurance company to fairly compensate you. Set aside a weekend, and make a complete inventory of all the possessions in your home. Be sure to update it whenever you make major purchases like a pricey TV, jewelry, or furniture.

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Start an Emergency Fund

16/22
Start emergency fund

No matter how diligent you are, you could run into unforeseen problems—for instance, an injury that keeps you from working—that could make it difficult for you to pay the bills. The standard rule is to build an emergency fund that will cover at least three months of your household expenses. With a little money socked way, when a problem arises, you may not have to turn to credit cards or take out a loan.

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Keep Good House Records

17/22
Keep house records

According to the IRS, the first $250,000 of financial gain on a house you sell is tax-free, but you’ll need to establish what you paid for the house and track all the money you’ve invested in repairs, renovations, and other costs in order to show the actual profit. Keep mortgage records, contractor invoices, and receipts for materials you’ve purchased to ensure you get the biggest allowable tax break.

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Set a Chore Schedule

18/22
Create chore chart at home

Many homeowners start out the new year with a goal of keeping their homes more organized, but by the time March rolls around, cobwebs are hanging from the corners and piles of laundry a strewn about. The key to an organized home is to establish a chore schedule that has each member of the family doing one or two chores per day. That way, no one is doing too much on any one day and no one will get burned out.

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Light Up the Night

19/22
Exterior lighting for safety

Adequate exterior lighting not only deters potential burglars, but it also adds a touch of after-dusk decoration to your yard and helps visitors navigate their way to your front door. Install motion-detecting floodlights on garages and near entryways, and use solar path lights to illuminate walkways and patios.

Related: Outdoor Lighting: 12 Products to Light Your Way

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Register Products and Appliances

20/22
Register appliances for warranty

Most appliances, power tools, and expensive electronics come with some sort of warranty, and the manufacturer will usually ask you to register an item online or by mail. Once you've registered the item—even if you lose your proof of purchase—it will be covered for warranty work, and the manufacturer will know how to contact you if there’s a recall.

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Start an HOA

21/22
Start HOA for neighborhood

A few established rules and restrictions can be helpful in the quest to maintain neighborhood property values. If your area doesn’t have a homeowners association (HOA), consider getting your neighbors together to establish one that will protect everyone’s quality of life. Check out Realtor.com to help decide if an HOA is right for your community.

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Be Better

22/22
how to be a better homeowner

Be proactive with your home care and maintenance, and your house will thank you.

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