You’ve found the perfect first home, and you’re anxious to close the deal, grab the keys and move in right away. However, be aware that there are a host of extra costs beyond a down payment and mortgage bills that often take first-time homebuyers by surprise. To avoid shock and prepare your budget, consider the following costs before signing on the dotted line:
To approve a purchase, a mortgage lender might require an assessment by a professional home inspector. Regardless, you should consider one to ensure you’re buying a house that’s in good shape and to avoid any expensive surprises. A general inspection typically costs a few hundred dollars and checks for electrical issues, fire and water damage, and faulty foundations. Consider paying extra for a termite inspection if it isn’t included, as those wood-devouring bugs can wreak havoc in a home. If the house needs major repairs, you might be able to negotiate and have the seller pay for the fixes.
Your down payment isn’t the only chunk of change you’ll need to pay before completing a deal. Closing costs, which include a variety of additional fees, typically range from 2 percent to 5 percent of a home’s purchase price. That means a $200,000 house could cost you between $4,000 and $10,000 in closing costs alone. Make sure you budget for this ahead of time.
Most mortgage lenders require you to get homeowners insurance to cover unforeseen damage or issues. Some studies suggest the average premium costs around $1,000 a year, but the price can vary widely depending on the property and location, among other factors. Furthermore, if the home is in a flood or earthquake zone, expect to pay extra for hazard insurance.
As a homeowner, you’ll have to pay property taxes to the local government. Tax laws vary by region, and your annual rate could range from hundreds of dollars to thousands, depending on your property value and local policies. Property taxes aren’t fixed, so prepare for possible fluctuations year-to-year. Local policy changes or anything that might cause your home’s value to increase, including market conditions or renovations, could boost your tax rates.
One major shock that comes with first-time homeownership is what it takes to maintain the house, including everything inside and out. When renting an apartment, you rely on a landlord to handle repairs when something breaks. When you’re a homeowner, that responsibility—as well as the cost—lies with you.
Whether it be the water heater, a pipe or the fridge, things will unexpectedly break. It’s inevitable. Save some emergency money for when you might need to buy replacements, get supplies for a DIY repair or hire a professional.
You’ll also need to perform upkeep, such as managing the yard, cleaning the gutters, repainting the hallway and regrouting the bathroom. Contractors can be pricey, and if you decide to tackle the jobs yourself, it might mean a costly trip to the store for tools and materials.
Homeownership could mean surprisingly higher utility bills, especially if you weren’t previously responsible for all utilities or moved from a smaller apartment. Again, as a homeowner, everything is on you, including the costs of electric, gas and water. If your new home is larger than your last place, remember that it requires much more energy to light up, heat and cool a bigger area. Before buying a house, have your real estate agent get you an estimate of its utility costs to ensure they fit within your monthly budget.
Sure, homeownership can be expensive and requires a lot of responsibility and smart planning, but that’s a small price to pay for having a home you can truly call your own.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional or legal advice.