Published in: Banks | April 30, 2020

Should You Put Off Home Repairs Because of COVID-19?

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Many people are struggling financially right now. But what happens if your home needs repairs amidst the crisis?

A couple in an empty loft apartment planning out home improvements.

Image source: Getty Images

The novel coronavirus has been battering the U.S. economy since March when cases started popping up in droves. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, while others have seen their income take a substantial hit. As such, many people are cutting back on spending in a big way, and are saving their money for essentials only -- things like food, medications, and purchases that really can't be put off. 

But what if your home needs repairs right now? Should you delay them as long as possible? Or find a way to make them happen sooner rather than later?

How serious is that repair?

Let's be clear: There's a big difference between home repairs and home improvements. The former means something is actually wrong with your home, while the latter means there's something you'd like to change. Now probably isn't the time to spend lots of money on upgrades or renovations unless you're in a really secure spot financially. That said, it is a good time for low-cost renovations, like painting, that you can both afford and do safely yourself. After all, most of us are stuck at home for the foreseeable future, so you might as well tackle those updates when there's no place better to be.

Getting back to repairs, the same holds true -- if it's an inexpensive fix you can tackle yourself, you might as well get the job done. But if it's a more extensive repair, you'll need to ask yourself whether the work in question is urgent or not. 

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A leaky roof is definitely an emergency, as is a non-functioning water heater or busted refrigerator. A dishwasher that won't work, less so. Sure, that may be an annoyance, but you can technically get by without one. You can do the washing up by hand but you can't sit back and let water seep into your home. Nor can you freeze your way through your daily shower (or subject your kids to ice-cold baths) or leave yourself with no way to safely store perishable food. 

Any repair that falls under the "emergency" category is something you should find a way to address immediately, even if money is tight. If you don't do so, the damage to your home or health could be even more costly further down the line.

How will you pay for home repairs?

If you're facing a home repair you can't put off right now, think about your options for paying for it. That's assuming your paycheck won't cover it, or you no longer have a paycheck and your unemployment income doesn't leave you with any wiggle room. Those options might include:

  • Your savings account. If you have an emergency fund, this is a perfectly valid reason to tap it. 
  • Your stimulus check. If you're getting a $1,200 payment from the government (more if you have dependent children who qualify), you may be able to use some or all of that money. 
  • Your home equity. You can borrow against your home via a home equity loan or line of credit and use that money for any purpose, repairs included.
  • A personal loan. If your credit score is strong, you may qualify for a personal loan that charges a competitive interest rate. Personal loans can be used for any purpose, so this gives you the flexibility to use that money to fix your home.
  • A 0% introductory APR credit card. Charging expenses on a credit card is a potentially dangerous direction to go in. But if the above options aren't feasible, you can see if you qualify for a credit card with a 0% introductory APR period. The risk, of course, is not being able to pay off your repair by the time that intro period concludes, but if you're desperate, it may be your only choice. 

Many people are having a hard time financially during the COVID-19 crisis, and if you're one of them, you'd be wise to limit your spending to necessities only. But generally speaking, home repairs aren't luxuries; they're necessary to keep your home functional and prevent damage to it. Tempting as it may be to put off repairs right now, you may have no choice but to get them done.

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