There are many costs associated with owning a home, and first-time home buyers often do not fully understand or budget for these costs. A home is likely the most expensive thing you will ever own, and repairs can be astronomically expensive. Even small maintenance items add up over time and can strain your budget. This guide will focus on four hidden costs to homeownership that homeowners need to budget for.
When buying a home for the first time, many people forget about closing costs. Fortunately, as the buyer, you are not responsible for paying a commission to your real estate agent. However, there are fees associated with closing, and they can be substantial and varied. These fees include title fees, taxes, real estate attorney fees, inspections and survey fees, among others. There may also be additional documentation required, such as when your home is part of a homeowners association. This is all in addition to the purchase price of the home and any modifications or updates you want to have done. You can generally expect to pay two to five percent of the home’s purchase price in closing costs, and will need to budget for this expense.
Property taxes vary widely based on where you live. They are usually assessed by a local municipality, such as a county, and some areas have much higher property tax rates than others. It is also possible for a property to be taxed by multiple jurisdictions, such as when your property straddles the border between two counties. Before you buy a home anywhere, it is important to calculate what your property tax burden will be. Factor this number into the amount of home you can afford when looking to buy. Always stay updated on changes to legislation, which can strongly impact property taxes. Also remember that because the property tax amount is based on the value of your home, it can and does vary from year to year. In most cases, property taxes are due once a year, the date on which varies from state to state.
Homeowners insurance is much more expensive than renter’s insurance, and much more complicated. For example, buying an older home might actually increase your insurance costs because of older systems such as plumbing and heating which are more likely to catastrophically malfunction. You also need to consider special coverage if you live in an area that is prone to natural disasters not covered by normal homeowners insurance policies, such as a floor zone or an area prone to earthquakes. This isn’t insurance you can go without because the risks of getting caught without it are far too high.
Updates can increase the value of your home as well as add features you want and will use. Updates can be as simple as painting or as complex as major renovations. It is important to come up with a plan for how you want your house to look and what costs will be associated with these updates. Look at average prices, such as swimming pool prices, to determine how much you might need to budget for each update and the associated maintenance and installation costs. To save money, you can do multiple updates over a length of time rather than all at once. You can also wait for good deals to come around so the updates will cost less overall. For example, decks, sunrooms and patios are not as popular in the winter, so contractors often offer discounts to encourage people to buy. This benefits contractors because it means they don’t have to lay off workers in the off season.
Homeownership is often an expensive undertaking and a major financial investment. Homeowners and homebuyers need to ask questions and fully understand all fees, taxes and maintenance costs they might be responsible for once they purchase a property. If you properly budget for these costs, however, they will not catch you unaware.