5 big costs first-time homeowners don't realize they have to pay

Buying a house
Source: Anetlanda/Shutterstock.com
Buying a house
Source: Anetlanda/Shutterstock.com

So you think you're ready to buy a house. You've saved up a nice down payment, researched where to buy your home, and know how much your mortgage loan is going to cost. You're ready to take the leap. Right?

Not so fast. 

Are you sure you're ready to buy a home?
Source: Giphy

There are lots of surprise expenses that most people don't really think about when they calculate the total cost of home ownership. Here are five to consider.

1. Homeowner's insurance will set you back 

According to Fran Erdle, a banking loan officer at BB&T Mortgages: "It has been my experience as a mortgage loan officer when working with a first-time home buyer that they always seem to be shocked over the cost of insurance for their home." 

One of the biggest surprises for first-time buyers — especially young buyers — is that insurance companies often require costs to be paid upfront. 

First-time buyers "are shocked to hear that the insurance companies require them to pay the homeowner's insurance for the next 12 months at the closing of their purchase and don’t understand why this has to be prepaid in advance," Erdle says.   

According to ValuePenguin, average homeowner insurance premiums are around $952. Paying this entire cost upfront can really do a number on your budget.

Insurance hits your budget hard.
Source: Giphy

2. Your lawn is a luxury item

The surprises keep coming once you move in. If you've been a renter all your life, you've never had to worry about things like who's going to mow the lawn. 

Now that you're a homeowner, get ready to become this guy: 

Source: Giphy

The average homeowner spends between $60 and $267 on monthly lawn care, according to HomeAdvisor, including mowing, fertilizing and pest control. 

While you may be able to save a little with some DIY lawn care, don't forget this means you have to buy a lawn mower, pay for the gas or electricity to run it and buy fertilizer.  

3. Your utility bills may skyrocket

You want lights in your house, right? 

Turning on the lights
Source: Giphy

Although you probably already pay for utilities in your rental, expect those costs to go up in a house you buy, as it will likely have more rooms and there's no landlord to cover things like heat or running water.

"Houses tend to have more rooms, appliances, light fixtures and features that use gas and electricity, including garages," the Nest warned. 

You'll probably even have to start paying for garbage service. 

According to the National Solid Wastes Management Association, most homeowners pay between $12 and $20 monthly for residential garbage pickup. That may not seem like a huge expense, but it adds up. 

4. Budget for routine maintenance 

Expect to pay anywhere from 1% to 4% of your home's costs on annual repairs.

It's not just the big things like replacing your refrigerator or repainting the living room, there are a million little costs to consider as well: Smoke alarms need batteries, windows need washing and carpets need cleaning. 

Power washing isn't this fun.
Source: Giphy

All that costs money. 

You either have to buy parts and equipment and handle this stuff on your own or pay someone to do it for you.  

Ouch. 

5. HOA fees are no joke

If you bought a home in a neighborhood with a homeowner association, factor in monthly HOA fees. Fees can run around $200 to $400 monthly, according to Investopedia

Beyond HOAs' upfront costs, you may be surprised to find your association can send you a bigger bill if a special assessment is needed. 

Your HOA can vote on a special assessment if they need more money to do things like paving community roads or putting a new roof on a condo building.  

It doesn't matter whether or not you personally want these upgrades; if the association follows the rules for a special assessment, you have to pay. 

Because of the possibility of unexpected HOA costs, you want to be cautious about buying in an association neighborhood

As with all of these unexpected costs of home ownership, you just need to know what you are getting into. 

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Christy Rakoczy

Christy Rakoczy is a graduate of UCLA School of Law and the University of Rochester. She is a full-time writer based in Florida and Pennsylvania.

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