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The Hidden Costs of Buying and Owning a Home

The hidden costs of buying and owning a home often reveal themselves as lawn maintenance fees and property taxes. Read this guide before buying and owning a home as we list ways to reduce the hidden costs of owning a home, including how to find tax credits and when to do a home inspection.

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Eric Stauffer is a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. His priority is to help educate individuals and families about the different types of insurance they need, and assist them in finding the best...

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UPDATED: Jul 29, 2020

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A two-story single family home with a driveway and small front lawn
Homeownership is a staple of the American Dream and a life goal for many people. The freedom, stability, and financial savings that come from owning your own home are often considered preferable to renting, both in the short- and long-term.

In fact, according to a 2018 survey, 83 percent of Americans claim to prefer homeownership to renting, and 75 percent say that buying a house is a priority for them.

Of course, purchasing a home is easier said than done. You must spend time-saving up enough money to make a down payment, plan out your monthly mortgage expenses, and spend years paying it off — and that’s just accounting for the bare minimum cost of purchase.

Some prospective homeowners may not realize this, but homeownership has many expenses beyond the down payment and mortgage.

Between property taxes, finding the right home insurance policy, and regular maintenance, there are a plethora of hidden costs associated with buying and owning a home that can catch an unsuspecting buyer off guard. Potential and first-time homeowners, here are some less-than-apparent expenses you need to know about:

Hidden Costs of Owning a Home

Buying a house is a big investment, but it’s easy to get blind-sighted by hidden costs if you aren’t prepared. You may not be able to avoid all of these additional expenses, but, by being aware of them, you won’t be surprised when they arise.

Add-Ons

Whether right after purchasing it or later on in life, it’s not uncommon for homeowners to remodel or add-on to their houses. People often do this to make their homes more liveable or to accommodate lifestyle changes, such as having a child.

These expansions and updates can cost a lot of money, though, as the average national cost of adding a room onto a house is $43,506.

This is tens of thousands of dollars in addition to what you have already paid to buy your home. If you’re considering an investment in your home, especially if it’s a large investment, you need to make sure that your home improvement project will be worth it.

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If you’re at all interested in updating your home, be sure to factor the general cost of any possible upgrades into the price of the house when you buy it. While you can’t get an exact price until you discuss the project with a contractor, using a construction calculator can give you a helpful approximation.

Lawn Care

If your home has a lawn, you will have to spend some time and money on its upkeep. If you live in a neighborhood with a Homeowners Association (HOA), however, you should expect to spend even more time and money to keep your lawn presentable.

Not only will you be subject to monthly or annual HOA fees, but you will also have to follow their rules and regulations. You may be required to mow your lawn frequently so the grass doesn’t grow too long.

You may also be required to make your yard look aesthetically pleasing. On the surface, this may seem like a minor cost, but lawn care can get expensive over time, especially if you hire someone to help you out.

Maintenance

Unfortunately, homes don’t last forever, and different parts of your house will need to be maintained in order to keep things functional and to preserve the home’s value.

Some repairs may be minor, but others, like new appliances, can be quite costly. How much you have to spend simply depends on what will need maintenance while you own the home.

If you have to make a lot of repairs, or if you have two or three major issues to fix, your maintenance costs can stack up quickly. You cannot control when different parts of your home will need maintenance, but, as a homeowner, it’s important to be ready for unexpected and potentially expensive repairs.

Mortgage Interest

Naturally, you know the cost of your monthly mortgage payment, but you must also take the interest you will pay on your mortgage into account. After all, the interest you pay is basically the price of taking out a loan, and you have to consider it when calculating the total cost of your mortgage.

Depending on the terms of your mortgage, this can greatly increase the cost of purchasing a home, especially since mortgage interest rates are currently high. It can also take a while to truly see a difference in your initial balance because of the accruing interest, especially for first-time homeowners.

Property Tax

Renting does have a distinct advantage over homeownership in one arena: property taxes. When you rent a home or apartment, the landlord typically handles the twice-yearly property tax payment. If you’re a first-time homeowner, this can be a surprising new expense that you might not have known about.

Property tax rates vary by state and locale and are also determined by the value of your property itself. Property taxes can be costly, but they are an absolute necessity if you own a home. Depending on where you live, there may be property tax exemptions that you can take advantage of.

Time

One of the biggest costs of owning a home can’t be measured in dollars but in time.

Your time is precious, and, unlike money, you cannot earn more of it once it’s been spent. The time you spend taking care of your home can detract from time spent with loved ones or on your hobbies.

However, not properly caring for your house can decrease its value and affect the quality of your life. Unless you can afford to pay someone to take care of every issue that comes up, you can expect to spend your own time fixing things around your home.

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So Is Buying a Home a Good Investment?

Homes are often spoken of as a good investment, but it might not be the best decision for everyone. For instance, some millennials are opting out of homeownership; this is in part due to lifestyle choices, but also because, for many, it simply doesn’t make financial sense.

If you don’t want the responsibility of a home, or if it would be too large of a financial burden, buying a home probably isn’t the right choice — or a good investment — for you.

However, if you are able to care for and even improve the property without putting too large of a strain on your finances, buying a house can be a great investment. It all depends on what you want for your life.

How to Mitigate Hidden Costs of Homeownership

As a homeowner, you aren’t destined to drain your resources by taking care of your property. While there are additional expenses to consider beyond a down payment and mortgage, there are also a few ways that you might be able to reduce those hidden costs:

  • Conduct a thorough home inspection before purchasing a home that was previously lived in. This will help you verify if there are any major repairs or updates that need to be made. If there are, you may be able to negotiate the price of the home or ask the current owners to fix the issue before you buy it.
  • Look for tax credits available to homeowners in your state or area. This can help provide some relief and reduce your home expenses. There are different kinds available, including ones for purchasing or updating a home. Take advantage of all the credits you can for maximum savings.
  • Shop around for the right home insurance. This will help protect you from costly expenses and keep you covered should anything unexpected happen. There may be additional ways you can lower your monthly premiums to save even more.

Homeownership can be expensive, but it’s much easier to deal with these hidden costs when you’re properly prepared for them. Take them into account when budgeting for your home, and you’ll be well-equipped and ready for whatever comes your way.

About Eric Stauffer

Author: Eric StaufferI am a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. My priority is to help educate individuals and families about the different types of insurance they need, and assist them in finding the best place to get it.

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