We say it all the time to prospective home buyers. Owning a home is not the same as renting. On the surface, most of us get that. But it’s not until you buy your first home that you truly understand all the costs of being a homeowner. As you’ll see, there are over 20 costs you need to think about to make sure you are ready for life as a homeowner.
Costs to consider for the first year of homeownership (after you move in)
Your first house will bring new costs into your monthly budget. To make sure you aren’t caught off guard, we’ve created a list of things you should make sure you include in your budget. If you are at the home buying stage, grab this house buying checklist, it’s free!
Monthly Costs of a Homeowner
This will generally be your largest monthly bill. If you want to know your mortgage payment, use this simple mortgage calculator. This will be your biggest monthly bill, so it’s important to know before you buy a house.
Now I’m not going to try to give you an idea of what this might cost, as it varies greatly from area to area. But your electricity bill is going to add to your monthly spending. If you were renting before, you likely had a smaller place and fewer appliances and less electricity. Check the bills with the current owner to see what they are spending, and pay attention to the items that are plugged in when you do your walk-through.
Again, I can’t tell you what to budget for this as it’s different everywhere. In some cases, this might already be included in your electricity bill if the home has an electric furnace. Record the current heating and electricity bills of any home that you’re seriously considering. Just because the house is a nice temperature when you view the house for the first time doesn’t mean they keep it like that year-round (or even once the showing is done).
What? Do I need to pay for water? Not always. Some properties may use a well to supply the house with water, but more often than not, homes are hooked up to the city water supply (which they don’t give away for free).
Again, here you can ask for a record of previous water bills for any home you’re interested in pursuing. It’s a good idea to know how many people are living in the house when you get the homes’ water bill. For example, two seniors will use a lot less water than a family with four teenagers.
Related: Read our First Time Homebuyer Mistakes
This will be one of your highest monthly costs and definitely something to consider when buying a home. This is one cost that you have no control over, and it will never go down (unless some miracle occurs).
You can always buy plumbing fixtures that use less water, more energy-efficient appliances, and LED light bulbs to cut down on utility costs. However, it’s important to remember that property taxes only go up. Make sure you know what this cost is and find out if it’s paid annually, quarterly or monthly.
This can also be a high-ticket item. But it does vary depending on many factors (such as credit score, house location, housing contents, history of the home, etc.). Getting the cost of home insurance that the previous owners were paying will provide you a close estimate. However, when it comes time to purchase the home, do your own research.
TV bill (cable and streaming):
This budget item often gets missed by people moving from their parents’ home and out on their own for the first time. Check out the websites of some local providers to see what type of rates they offer. Or, if you are going to go streaming, it’s good to include your monthly cost of Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services in your budget. Remember, if you are streaming, you will need internet, so add that in here too! You can sign up for special intro packages like Xfinity offers; check around for others in your area to see where you can get yourself the best deal.
You probably already have a cell phone bill, and while landlines are becoming increasingly obsolete.
If you are considering a landline in your new home, check out the local providers to get an idea of the cost for your budget (you can sometimes bundle the payments by including your mobile, internet, home phone, and cable. This bundling can sometimes be a cost-saver, but other times involves you paying for things you don’t need, want or use, and with a larger monthly payment, so always make sure you do your research).
Some homes have alarm systems, and some don’t. If the home you purchase has an alarm, you can get the monitoring fee’s cost from the previous owners. You can then chose to either use it or not. If the home doesn’t have an alarm system, and you want one, it can be easily retrofitted into any home with today’s wireless technology. Again, research some costs on this from local providers.
This can be another high cost. It varies from state to state and varies from building to building, even on the same street. This fee is obviously only applicable to condo living.
Homeowners association fees:
Depending on the community you’re planning on moving into, you may be required to be part of a homeowners association (HOA). There will be a fee associated with this. Ask your real estate agent about possible HOA fees when viewing the home. To learn more about what is a homeowner association click here.
Extra commuting costs:
Consider where you work and where most of your weekly activities occur so you know if your commuting costs will increase based on your new location. This is definitely something to consider when finding a real estate agent and setting up your initial real estate agent search.
First Time Home Owner Costs
List of fix-ups or renovations that need to be done in the first year of homeownership. When you do your walkthrough, make sure to keep a list of any repairs that you will need to do before you move in and within the first year all the way up to year 5. This will give you a much better idea of what you will need when the time comes to take possession.
Under this category, put anything that you’ll need to buy for the upkeep of your home. This list may include:
- Snow shovel (this will save your back)
- Lawnmower (here’s the best)
- Garden hose
- Vacuum (here’s the best under $300)
- Mop (here’s the best mop for laminate floors)
- Broom and dustpan
- Home Cleaning supplies
Repair and maintenance budget:
Most people don’t consider this in their monthly budgets but can creep up as a surprising and costly amount if not taken into account.
Regardless of how thoroughly you complete your DIY home inspection, and even if supplemented by a professional home inspection, things can and will go wrong.
Unforeseen things always seem to come along when money is the tightest. Don’t be caught off guard.
Start by creating a monthly budget for everything that will need to be fixed in the first 5 years, and then add a bit extra for the unforeseen.
Think about it, if your furnace breaks in the middle of winter and you haven’t set aside any emergency fund money to fix it! Cozying up in your wool sweater will only go so far. Don’t forget you can also pay for a long-term insurance plan for your furnace if it’s an older model, but this isn’t necessarily needed for a furnace for five years or less. As always, use your discretion and shop around to make sure you’re paying for the insurance you want/need.
Ideally, your repair and maintenance budget should be approximately one percent of the cost of your home annually. If the repairs listed for the first five years exceed that budget, you may want to take that into account when making your offer or when deciding how much money to set aside before you move in.
Once you move into a new home, you usually want to make it your own. Painting is a great way to add your own style to the home and is a change that generally won’t break the bank. If painting is something you want to do, don’t forget to plan for it in your budget. Check out these painting projects that will transform your home.
Changing the locks:
It’s a good idea to have the locks changed or re-keyed once you move into your new home. Real estate agents often have a local resource that they can recommend, or you can go to Home Depot or Amazon, pick out some locks and change them yourself. Costs on this can vary depending on the number of locks and how fancy you get with the replacements. If you want to see how to choose the best smart locks, click here.
While furniture is also on the list of costs to consider when purchasing a home, there may be things you can’t live without when you move in and that you may want in your home in the first year.
Again, you may want to have certain electronics right when you move in, while others can be purchased sometime within the first year or later.
Curtains or drapes:
Often overlooked until you’re standing naked in your bedroom, looking across the backyard into the neighbors’ kitchen! Don’t forget about window coverings (they aren’t always included in the deal). That’s not how you want to meet your neighbors. Or maybe it is. I don’t know. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Stocking your kitchen:
This is something that can get out of hand if you let it. Don’t think you need to go out and buy everything you see in your parent’s or a gourmet kitchen – these things have been accumulated over many years.
You will, however, if you don’t own them already, probably want to have basic pots and pans set (check out our product reviews for several brands to choose from( as well as some cutlery, glasses, and some cooking utensils. Again, think about your lifestyle and how you use your kitchen.
Here is a checklist of new home essentials to get you started.
Final Thoughts about the Costs of Being a Homeowner
While at first, these expenses can seem like a lot and feel overwhelming, they aren’t overly complicated. They are merely there for you to know. Once you know, you can be better prepared for homeownership and put an offer on your first home.