Your new home has been inspected and the report shows a few minor repairs are needed. Congratulations: your home is almost perfect! On top of the nearly repair-free perfection, the seller has included a home warranty. But don't start the low-maintenance home celebration yet. Some of the minor repairs many new homes need may cost hundreds to thousands of dollars to fix. (To find out about what you need to know about home inspections, read Do You Need A Home Inspection?)
Here we look at some of the most common and costly repairs and upkeep items that new homes need to undergo, and what you can do to cut the costs.

1. Fencing
Maybe a few bricks have fallen out in a portion of your brick fence or there are a few warped planks. Seems like no big deal, right? In many cases, the repair could cost could be as little as $100. However, it could also be a sign of a bigger problem that requires a much more expensive fix, possibly even a brand new fence, which will run you in the thousands of dollars.

For a thorough evaluation of your fence's condition, have three fence companies with at least an 'A' rating with the Better Business Bureau come out to give estimates based on both repairs and fence replacement. If you do have a brick or stone fence needing immediate replacement, replacing it with a wood fence might be a good option in terms of cutting down the cost. (For information on how to use the Better Business Bureau website read Do You Need A Home Inspection?)

2. Air Filters
The air filters your old apartment used may have cost $1 to replace, but high-quality odd-sized air filters that many new homes require could cost $12 - and you often have to buy them by the dozen. Two dozen $12 filters adds up to almost $300 unexpected dollars! (Thinking about selling your home? Check out Staging Your Home For a Quick Sale.)

To get the best deal on air filters follow these tips.

  • Shop around for the best deal on the internet. Compare at least three places. Never pick the first one when comparison shopping before checking out other prices.
  • Take accurate measurements of all your vents. Specify to any air filter company how you took your measurements. For instance, let them know if you removed the vent cover and measured on the inside of the vent or you measured on the outside of the vent. Or, you can find out the size by searching for the model number of your air conditioner on the internet.
  • Check the Better Business Bureau online for which contractors have 'A' ratings. (For more information about the Better Business Bureau, refer to The Better Business Bureau's Tool Belt For Saving Cash.)

3. Shower Floors
After showering in your new tile-floored shower for a couple of weeks, you notice you have water building up in one corner. In many cases, this may mean your shower needs to be regraded to ensure that water drains properly. The proper angle is for the floor to slop about 0.25" per foot toward the drain. To try to cut the costs of this project, you can

  • See if the floor can be graded without being entirely replaced.
  • Get several quotes.
  • Ask to borrow samples from the tile store to make sure it matches your shower before paying anyone to install the tile.

4. Tub Drain Stoppers
Replacing a tub drain stopper seems like it would be a $10 fix, but this may not be the case if you have a built-in drain stopper. You can make your tub functional with a plastic stopper; these are available at most home improvement stores. If you are still in the negotiating stage in terms of buying your home, mention the missing or broken drain stop to your realtor - you may be able to have the builder repair it before you move in. (Don't pay too much for a home that needs repairs, read 10 Tips For Getting A Fair Price On A Home.)

5. Air Conditioner Maintenance
While your air conditioner is covered under your new home warranty, it won't be if it's not maintained. So, be sure to pay the hundred or so dollars for a company to maintain it each year, particularly if you live in a hot area. This way, you won't have to pay thousands to repair or replace it. Call your utility company to see if it offers reimbursement for air conditioner maintenance. If it doesn't, you could get the money back in electricity saved from having an air conditioner that functions properly.

If you haven't bought your home yet, don't assume any repair is minor without getting repair estimates first. If you've already moved in, you can minimize repair expenses by getting as much information as possible about how to repair problems in your home and getting several estimates. Having a new home doesn't mean that things won't break - or that some things aren't already broken. But if you start out with a sound strategy on how you'll handle such repairs, you'll be better prepared.

(For further reading checkout Do You Need A Home Inspection?, 6 Ways To Save On Your Utility Bill and Top Tips For First-Time Home Buyers.)

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