5 home projects to tackle before you retire

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Retirement planning is all about preparing for the future. One piece of that planning puzzle should be addressing key maintenance projects around your home so that when you do retire, you'll be less likely to face a pricey surprise, like needing a new water heater. After all, 82 percent of homeowners ages 55 and older report dipping into personal savings to pay for home projects, according to a 2016 Houzz survey. What's more, staying on top of upkeep means your home can secure a higher selling price, should you decide to downsize or relocate down the road. And many home improvements pay off in the form of lower utility bills.

"If you don't do regular maintenance, then it's the roll of the dice as to when something is going to go wrong," says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a service-based franchise company.

To avert a costly crisis, put these five home repairs and maintenance checks on your pre-retirement checklist:

  1. Systems Checkup
    Your home's HVAC (heating and cooling) system and hot water heater should get yearly checkups. Doing so can extend their lifespans and lower your energy bills. For example, about 18 percent of your home's energy use is tied to heating your water, so an efficiently running hot water heater is a money saver. Yes, these maintenance checks might cost between $200 and $500, depending on where you live, but replacement costs can be double that—or more. Have a pro check the HVAC mechanics and inspect the outside fan for rust, damage, or debris.
  2. Exterior Paint
    A fresh coat of paint does more than impact your home's curb appeal for prospective buyers: It can prevent pests from doing damage and guard against water damage, mold, and temperature extremes. One gallon of paint covers up to 400 square feet.
  3. Well-Sealed Windows
    Caulking that has cracked or separated around windows allows drafts and leaks. You can purchase a tube of caulk at a home improvement store and do this maintenance yourself. That said, if you live in an older home with older windows—and you believe you will continue to live in your home after retirement, which 43 percent of people approaching retirement do—consider replacing your windows. It is a higher-ticket project (replacing a standard-size vinyl window runs between $450 and $600, according to Angie's List), but energy-efficient windows can save more than $100 each year on your energy bills.
  4. Weather Stripping Around Doors
    This needs to be replaced every four to five years. If you can see light coming in around the doors or feel a draft, it's time for new weather stripping.
  5.  Kitchen and Laundry Appliances
    Older appliances use a lot of energy, says Sassano. Plus, if you think you'll be selling your home soon after you retire, it might make sense to update your appliances to a popular finish, such as stainless steel, and to include modern features, like drying sensors. They're not necessarily deal breakers, but they will make your home more attractive to new buyers.