Owning your own home is expensive—but there are many hidden costs that can make it way more expensive than you even know.
You might think that homeownership is one of the cheapest things on the planet. Got some extra cash burning a hole in your pocket? Just buy a house or two! Managed to pick up some extra hours at work? Why not pick up a bag of houses on the way home? Won $5 from a scratch-off ticket? Looks like you’re in house city, now! (House City, by the way, is a city made entirely of houses. It’s also known as “a city.”)
Sadly, homeownership is not cheap. Houses cost tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions and hundred millions of dollars. For most people, if they’re ever going to own a home at all, they’re going to need to take out a mortgage. You’ll have to pay part of that mortgage off every month as you gradually build equity in the home. And since the home is serving as collateral, if you don’t make those payments, you’ll lose the house.
But while the mortgage might be the most expensive part of owning a home, it’s far from the only cost. Indeed, there are many hidden costs associated with owning a home.
Here they are, uncovered!
Costs can start adding up even before you move in. The actual process of buying a house can be a costly endeavor in and of itself, and if you aren’t prepared you might find yourself with a mortgage to pay and an empty bank account.
“Some of the major themes or financial mistakes that many buyers make involve underestimating transactional costs and the continuing non-physical costs of owning a home,” warned Mark Cianciulli, real estate agent and co-founder of The CREM Group.
“There are a lot of fees and costs associated with the purchase of real estate, such as: the cost of a title policy, escrow fees, notary fees, loan origination fee, a processing fee, appraisal cost, property inspection costs, recording fees, cost for credit report, printing fees, and many more if you can believe it.”
Be sure to have enough money set aside, and then some, to pay all the necessary fees come closing time.
Although renting a home will not build equity, there are some costs you don’t have to worry about that you will have to worry about with home ownership. One of those costs comes courtesy of old Uncle Sam and his state-based equivalents. Maybe… Cousin Illinois?
“Be prepared to pay property taxes and keep in mind that they rarely, if ever, decrease,” advised the experts at Hippo Insurance. “Homeowners often pay them every month along with their mortgage payments.
“If your loan is backed by the Federal Housing Administration, you’re required to have an escrow or impound account. If you don’t have to make property tax payments through an escrow account, they may be due at the end of the year. In some counties, you might pay them in installments.”
You don’t want to think about your house being damaged. But you do want to be prepared for that eventuality. And that’s why you’ll be buying insurance.
“If you own a home, another cost you should include in your budget is insurance,” urged the Hippo experts. “The average annual homeowners insurance premium costs $1,120, according to the most recent data provided by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. But the amount you pay may be higher or lower based on where you live and the kind of policy you choose.
“Homeowners insurance typically covers personal possessions, liability for injuries that take place on your property, the structure of your house, and additional costs associated with living elsewhere if your home is severely damaged. If you live in an area prone to natural disasters, you might need a supplemental policy like flood insurance.”
Another upside of renting is that you don’t have to pay for your own repairs. Another downside of owning a home is that you do have to pay for your own repairs.
“Your home is a collection of equipment, materials, appliances, fixtures, finishes, and landscaping,” explained John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada. “All of these ‘fixed assets’ have a natural useful life. As your home ages, these things will need to get replaced or significantly fixed. An example is your garage door springs. Your springs help open and close the doors, and they will last for only so many openings and closings before they break and need a replacement.”
You should also consider being proactive in your maintenance, as it’ll be more cost effective in the long run.
“Many of the fixed assets above can be preserved with proper and regular preventative maintenance tasks which can help avoid the more expensive fix-it and repair costs,” advised Bodrozic. “These costs can be material costs such as buying new air filters, to hiring a service to clean your gutters. If homeowners perform some of these maintenance tasks themselves versus hiring someone, they can save on those costs.”
You won’t necessarily want to attempt every maintenance task on your own. There are ones you’ll almost certainly want to hire someone for.
One of those tasks is maintaining a septic system.
“We have seen deals fall apart for originally enthusiastic clients, who upon completing their inspections and learning about what having a system of this sort means, ultimately backed out,” recounted Alison Bernstein of The Suburban Jungle.
“They became concerned about the price for a potential replacement, materials, maintenance, etc. There is also the hidden cost of the effort to have to potentially relocate it should you decide to execute some construction work, and there may even be a need for a board of health approval.”
Want a lawn? That can get pricey.
“Especially for those coming from urban hubs, there is little knowledge of the true cost of landscaping,” warned Bernstein. “Plants die and need to be replaced, weeds happen, lawns must be mowed and treated, hedges need to be cut back, etc. Some years will be more costly than others, but this can become a significant expense.”
You would probably prefer your house not be infested. Sadly this too costs money.
“Pests are a real concern for many homeowners,” explained the Hippo experts. “Over time, all sorts of critters—like termites, ants, spiders, and rodents—might invade your home. Depending on how serious the problem is, you might need to fumigate your house.
“If you’re interested in buying a home, make sure you hire an inspector to check for bugs and termites that could cause structural damage. While lenders don’t always require homebuyers to pay for pest inspections, it’s important to have one done. You don’t want to close on a house only to find out later that there’s an issue. Termite inspections generally cost between $75 and $150, according to Angie’s List.”
If it isn’t clear yet, owning a home can be quite expensive. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad goal, it just means you should be prepared and have a clear-eyed understanding of the costs.
“We actually did a study on the true cost of ownership a few months ago, and what we found is that it costs a shocking amount to maintain a home,” warned Luke Babich, CSO of Clever. “Our study found that the average American homeowner spends over $13,000 a year on their home: maintenance and repairs cost $2,676 per year on average, property tax costs another $2,600, and homeowners insurance another $1,228.
“Our study doesn’t include other costs related to homeownership: Common expenses also include landscaping maintenance, pest control, utility bills, and homeowners association fees. These expenses can add a pretty penny to the cost of owning a house.”
We can’t tell you if homeownership is the right choice for you right now. We can only give you the tools to evaluate your own situation.
Luke Babich is the Co-Founder and CSO of Clever (@ListWithClever), the free online service that connects you with top Real Estate Agents who can help you save on commission. Luke is also an active real estate investor with 22 units in St. Louis and a licensed Real Estate Agent in the State of Missouri.
Alison Bernstein is the President and Founder of The Suburban Jungle (@suburbanjunglegroup), a real estate firm exclusively focused on buyers leaving the city for the suburbs. Recognizing how different neighboring towns can be from one another and how little families learn about a community during the home search, Alison launched Suburban Jungle, helping buyers navigate suburbia, and understand the ins and outs of towns before making their decision. Prior to this launch, Alison worked in the industry for more than 15 years, including senior-level roles in sales, leasing, investment banking and corporate strategic work spanning three of the nation’s leading real estate organizations. When she’s not helping families in their suburban explorations, Alison enjoys traveling, skiing and tennis as well as spending time at home with her husband and four young children… and huge dog.
Mark Cianciulli is a highly focused Realtor and the co-founder of The CREM Group (@theCREMgroup), a boutique faction of professional Realtors specializing in LA’s Eastside neighborhoods, Hollywood/West-Hollywood, Long Beach and surrounding communities. Mark has a uniquely diverse background in real estate: he has worked as a licensed CPA and real estate attorney, property manager, and real estate investor. Mark puts all his real estate experience at his clients’ disposal when representing their interests as a Realtor. Mark believes in delivering the highest level of service to his clients through employing attention to detail to every facet of the transaction, tirelessly working to achieve each and every wish of his clients, and being available to his clients regardless the time of day.
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