1. Find problems early
Every two or three years, have your house examined by a certified home inspector (see ashi.org or nahi.org), says Steve Berges, a builder and author of 101 Cost-Effective Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home. This person inspects the roof and basement for leaks and structural damage, checks the foundation for termites and moisture, and tests heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems. An inspection costs about $400, but could save you thousands later.
2. Upgrade regularly
Replace your roof about every 15 years (depending on type), paint the exterior every 5 years and review the gutter system every 6 months. “Tighten the screws connecting the gutters to the fascia board against the house and examine the boards for cracks and rot,” Berges recommends.
3. Watch for water
Moisture usually enters a home through cracks in the roof and foundation. “During a heavy rain, go in your attic with a flashlight to check for leaks,” Berges says. If the basement is wet, the first step is hiring a certified waterproofing specialist (nawsrc.org) to seal the cracks.
4. Change the scenery
Cut back shrubs that touch the house. They trap moisture and let bugs inside. Consider hiring a certified arborist (try www.isa-arbor.com) for tree pruning. Doing it yourself could weaken trees, increasing the risk that limbs will fall on your roof during a storm.