Maintaining Your House After Divorce

Good news. I kept the house after the divorce. Bad news. Maintenance costs are eating me alive.

Since my divorce I estimate I've put around $20,000 of maintenance costs into my house in cash. Notice I said maintenance, not improvements or redecorating. In the past 24 months I've replaced a worn out stove, refrigerator, washer, and dryer. I've had the ceilings fixed (cracks and water damage) and had the walls painted after 15 years of aging. A plumber has fixed old dripping faucets, and a handyman rescreened the porch and replaced rotting doors. I've had 4 dying, rotting trees removed (at $500 per tree), a driveway regraded so that rain pours away from the garage, and broken gutters mended. Tomorrow some men will come to replace my leaking roof. I estimate this will set me back around $5,000. I say estimate because the men always find something else that needs to be mended or done.

Future maintenance costs will include unclogging a drain pipe, fixing the phone line inside my house, and mending the water damage in my bedroom ceiling. Home improvement costs, such as tearing down walls of tiny rooms to create one large living space, adding built in shelves, and installing crown molding, have cost an additional $6,000.

In the six years since the house became mine, I have replaced almost all the 1950's electrical wiring and plugs, added sensor lights around my house, added kitchen lights in dark corners, added back up heating elements and a whole house fan, and created a practically maintenance free yard with fence and flower beds and large flagstoned areas. Realtors assure me that I will get my investment back in spades, but this is only after I sell my house!

I don't know how much the total renovations cost me - I think around $35,000. I paid cash because I cannot afford to pay interest on loans. I stash 25% of my earnings away in order to pay for taxes and upkeep. Having never seen the money, I don't miss it. I manage to do this on a salary that equals my niece's starting salary (she is 25 years old), and that represents 1/4 of the combined income I once enjoyed with my husband.

My next expenses? A new car to replace my '99 Ford Taurus (I want a Honda next) and a new whole house heat pump. It's time to start saving again! On top of the continual maintenance costs, I must save up for real estate and personal property taxes, not to mention insurance policies.

Whew. No wonder my wardrobe is skimpy and I no longer host great big parties. I can hardly afford my house! Look, I am not complaining. This is the reality of the situation. Just remember that as you divide your assets and fight for hearth and home, that you must account for these inevitable expenses. If you don't, your house will eat you alive.

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