Owning a house, like running a business, goes a lot smoother if you have someone in charge of operations. Though your home may not have a COO (or at least not a paid one…) keeping track of any work, maintenance, or improvements going on inside and outside your house not only makes for fewer questions when you need to reference something, but also makes for an impressed buyer when the time comes to sell.
Sandi Pressley, a top-selling real estate agent in Albuquerque, New Mexico, compares home maintenance records to car maintenance records. When you a buy a car, you want to know if it was taken care of—when it received a tune-up last, that it got regular oil changes or new tires when needed, for example. Not only does the buyer want this, but they’re also really impressed with the diligent record keeping. “Imagine that impact for a more expensive purchase,” she says.
Pressley argues something as simple as an organized three-ring binder approach to keeping records can increase a seller’s net sale price. “He who has the paper wins,” she says.
Which Types of Home Maintenance Records Should You Keep Track Of?
Manuals and Warranties
Whenever you get a new home appliance, you likely throw the manual in a drawer or in a file on your desk thinking you won’t need it anytime soon. But when you’re trying to figure out how to set the oven to self-clean mode or your washing machine gives you an obscure error message, wouldn’t it be nice if you knew where all those booklets were?
Collect the following manuals and warranties:
- Water heater
- Microwave (if built-in)
- Vacuum (if central vac)
- HVAC System
Many manuals are available online if you did not save paper copies. In this case, create a file on your computer and download manuals for easy access when you need them.
When was the last time you had your HVAC system serviced? How old is your roof? Has your home ever been tested for asbestos?
Preventive maintenance is a lot more effective and far less expensive than waiting for something to go wrong and then putting a bandaid on it. Stay on top of the little tasks that can preserve your big-ticket home infrastructure like the HVAC and plumbing with our handy home maintenance schedule (which you can add straight to your Google Calendar for reminders!) and keep a log of dates and services performed on your home.
Contractor contact information and renovation material details
Who was the landscape architect who designed your backyard? Who fixed your plumbing that one time your whole bathroom flooded? What is the color code (brand and scheen) for the paint in your kitchen?
Collect the names and contact information for any contractors who have done work on your home. Keep track of details on anything you or a future buyer might need to reorder—like paint, carpet, or tile, for example.
Home warranty plan
Appliance warranties follow whoever owns the house, but home warranty plans don’t necessarily. Roof warranties are often transferrable, though be sure you have this in writing. Sellers may benefit from inexpensive “seller’s home warranties” which cover the home just for the duration of the sale and handoff, says Pressley. No matter what the situation, have a copy handy for easy reference.
Blueprints and layouts
If Frank Lloyd Wright designed your house, your buyer is going to want to know about it! Even if your home was built by a developer and is less architecturally jaw-dropping than a FLW, save whatever plans, neighborhood maps, or schematics you have. These likely won’t fit in a binder, but are good additions to the home records so keep it all in the same place.
Say your homeowners’ association (HOA) only allows your neighborhood to paint their homes in a certain color palette. Or you get fined if you leave your trash cans out one day past trash day. New owners will want this information, plus they’ll need to know how much they’ll have to pay in HOA dues each month. So be sure to have your HOA documents handy—it’s icing on the cake if you can also include HOA contact information and any notes about monthly or yearly dues.
Home improvements and remodeling records
If you gutted your kitchen and put in entirely new appliances, people will see it. But it’ll be less obvious if you abated asbestos, installed new insulation and raised the ceilings. Though less flashy (and a lot more grown up) projects like replacing and improving attic insulation have a super high return on investment—107% ROI, according to the 2017 Cost vs Value Report. That kitchen upgrade comes in at about 59% ROI.
Receipts and invoices
To have any recourse or accountability, homeowners must be able to prove work was completed by a specific company and paid for by you. The only way to do this is with proof of purchase. Keep track of receipts and invoices for materials and services.
Take the opportunity to tell a potential buyer what you’ve done with the house over the years. It’s the first “welcome home” message they’ll receive. Share cleaning and maintenance routines and any special tips. Also, tell them about the neighborhood. Let buyers know the teenager on the corner offers lawn mowing services, and the old lady across the street is the sweetest dog walker in the city. Tell the buyer about trash day, about the mail carrier and about where your favorite walkable spots are.
How to properly organize your home maintenance records for safekeeping
Keeping track of home maintenance records is not a project exclusively for the type A personalities who get excited about school supply shopping. It’s for everyone—creative, analytical, type A, B, C, and even the Pinterest haters.
Option 1: Create a physical binder
Load up on a few supplies. Visit an office supply store and purchase a three-inch, three-ring binder, a three-hole punch and tabbed dividers. Or add these items to your cart on Amazon and thank the UPS driver!
This section should include information about the irrigation system layout and flushes, hot water heater flushes, pipe repairs, etc. If your stove or heater is gas-powered, include any maintenance or permit information about these systems, too.
This section should include panel upgrades and re-wiring work. Electrical work often requires a licensed contractor to install it. Include permit information. Also include the dates all the smoke detectors were installed and last checked.
Here include the dates and what was done for tune-ups and repairs.
In this section, include manuals and warranties for any appliances you’re selling with the house.
Colors and Styles
If you painted the whole house Benjamin Moore Super White, keep the name (or number) and sheen in the binder. Trying to match floor tiles and carpet brands is a nightmare if the only way you can compare is visually. Your buyers will also appreciate if you leave some touch-up paint in the hall closet when you move.
Here, include what chemicals you use to treat it, what pump repairs you’ve completed, and any resurfacing work you’ve done in the past.
Floors and Counters
Include information about grout sealing and granite sealing. When was it sealed and with what? Since many flooring and countertop materials look alike, make sure to include information about how to care for and clean it. Caring for and cleaning granite is different than caring for and cleaning travertine, for example.
Within each category, you can use page protectors to store business cards for key repair people, photos of repairs, manuals and warranties, and any other pertinent information that you know a new homeowner would appreciate.
Pressley suggests keeping everything chronologically. And she makes a table of contents so whoever is looking through the book can easily locate whatever they’re searching for.
Option 2: Create a digital folder
Organize maintenance records digitally by creating folders on your computer. Scan any pertinent information using apps like Scanbot or CamScanner. Don’t worry about scanning every page of your manuals, as they can usually be found in PDF formats online. Manuals Online offers a digital manual directory or you can look up the paperwork via individual product websites using the appliance model number. Create a Google or Word document linking to each appliance manual or download them and put them into the folders.
Save digital files to a flash drive, and label the drive “Home Records.” New homeowners can just insert the drive, and instantly have all of the home records at their fingertips. A bonus of digital records is the handy search functionality.
Option 3: Fill in the blanks
If you don’t get excited about trips to the office supply store, consider tracking your records with a fill-in-the-blank book like this one, available on Amazon. Spend a day sifting through your files and sorting through your emails to find contact and payment information.
Home record organization made easy!
Now get to it! Organize those home maintenance records. If you’re not the organizing type, find a good agent who can help you. Pressley says she regularly helps her less organized clients gather documents and records and then puts them together in a book for them.
Though the process may take some time on the front end, you’ll make up the time (and money) on the back end. Your buyers will be impressed with how you cared for the house and you’ll be able to answer any questions as they come up.