When people hear the phrase “home management,” the focus tends to be on maintenance, remodeling or other things they either do themselves or hire a contractor to do for them. But the home is your largest asset and biggest expense, which means “digital home management” becomes paramount to personal finance management.
Digital home management is creating, aggregating and analyzing digital information about all the different elements that make up your physical home. It includes all the photos, videos, documents, receipts, data and reports about everything in your home. Once you consolidate all your digital information, it becomes much easier to manage this asset and its expenses, and ultimately save money and improve the value.
Here are four areas of digital home management that are important for homeowners.
1. Home finances
Your home has a constantly fluctuating estimated market value, mortgage balance and home equity. In addition, your home has regular annual expenses such as mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, utilities and more. Tracking all this information digitally is important and included in the five key financial aspects to managing your home.
2. Home inventory
Your home and its contents need to be protected with a home insurance policy. Every insurance company recommends you have a home inventory. The easiest way to create this is a video of every room inside the home and areas outside the home. Individual digital photos provide greater accuracy of personal property and the fixed assets of the home.
The value of a digital home inventory is sharing it with your insurance company to make sure you are properly insured, as most homeowners are underinsured. If a house fire or natural disaster destroys the home, a home inventory helps make sure you get properly reimbursed. Many estate planning attorneys also recommend a home inventory for the distribution of your personal property at end of life.
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3. Home maintenance schedule
When you buy a home, it never comes with a digital recurring maintenance schedule of tasks to do. Homeowners have to figure this out on their own, which is a bigger challenge for first-time home buyers. Not performing preventive maintenance has significant financial risk.
Building materials and equipment wear out sooner than expected, which means increased and unexpected repair costs. The home operates less efficiently, which means energy and utility costs are higher than necessary. In addition, poorly maintained homes lose more of their value, which decreases the price when you decide to sell.
The key action is to build a digital preventive maintenance schedule for your home. This provides reminders to perform many of these simple tasks to keep operating costs low and maintain or increase the value of the home.
4. Home remodel projects
Homeowners need to have a detailed plan and budget that meets the design goals with the financial strategy on how to pay for the renovations. Without this, homeowners end up over budget, have a remodel they don’t like and have a contentious relationship with a contractor.
First, itemize all the different home improvement projects you want. Then, for each project, itemize all the materials, equipment, appliances and fixtures required. Most important is to do brand and product research for each item to determine different price ranges. Analyze the products you like vs. what you can afford and consider whether you are paying with cash, credit or even a home equity loan.
Keeping track of costs, receipts, documents, warranties, digital photos and more of your remodels is important for two reasons. First, the tax basis, which includes the home purchase price plus all your remodel investments, is needed when you file your taxes when you sell the home. The second is to update the dwelling coverage with your insurance company. Update your inventory and maintenance schedule to maintain the new building materials and use this digital project history as part of your marketing strategy when you decide to sell your home.
Most homeowners’ data about their home is in paper format. The first step is to transform paper information into digital PDF formats with a scanner or AI tool. You then can choose one of the following three approaches to a digital home management strategy:
- Generic apps: Spreadsheets, online cloud storage, calendar apps, browser bookmarks, digital photos and videos, and scans of paper documents can all be used to get the data about your home in a digital format.
- Corporate apps: Banks, insurance companies and real estate brokers each may offer a subset of specific apps for homeowners to manage their digital data.
- Digital home management apps: There are new personal finance apps specific to managing various aspects of the home. Some of these apps focus on specific areas such as inventory and maintenance, while others have a broader view of all aspects of managing the data about the home.
The key takeaway is to realize that digital home management is really bringing together all the financial and physical data about your home and organizing it in a way to help you make better decisions. Choose whichever approach is best for your preferences to become a more organized homeowner.
The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.
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