Hidden Expenses of Home Ownership

Guy Cecala, publisher of the Inside Mortgage Finance magazine is on a crusade to promote successful home acquisitions. But it’s an uphill battle. “Most people are unprepared for the big repairs — and even the small repairs,” he said. “When the toilet starts flooding, you can’t call someone like you did when you were renting. You’ve got to fix it yourself.”

An overflowing toilet is only one small item in a long list of what you need to prepare for as you become owner of a home. Don’t relate to home ownership like a casino online game. When you buy a home, make a list of your expenses, both fixed expenses (those that occur on a regular basis) and expenses that may crop up. Then look at your income and decide whether you can take on this particular house or need to reconsider. 

Some home expenses that you shouldn’t forget include:


That’s one that you won’t forget because you start paying it immediately. But list it anyway.

Property Taxes

Find out what your property taxes are for your property BEFORE you buy the house and figure it into your monthly payment plan. Remember that a so-called “better” house in one area may have lower property taxes than a simpler property that’s located in another area.

Keep in mind also that taxes go up so plan ahead for the possibility of such an increase.


It’s crazy to not have insurance for your house. Your lender will most probably require you to take out home insurance but you shouldn’t settle for the lowest level of home insurance – the money that you lay out for a complete policy could prevent serious outlays in the future.

You can make sure that your insurance pays for structural damages but also covers you for theft or damage to a furnace and other major appliances. Insurance can cover the cost of staying in an alternate building if your house becomes damaged due to fire or a natural disaster. 

Obviously you want to minimize your costs but you should also take out an insurance policy that gives you the most amount of coverage for the widest range of scenarios.

Add the cost of insurance to your budgeted expenses. Don’t forget that if you live in an earthquake, tornado, volcano or flood zone you’ll have to pay extra for hazard insurance.


You’ll have to decide how to take care of your lawn. Either you’ll need to cut it yourself – a significant investment of time and equipment:  weed whacker, hedge trimmers, a lawnmower, a sprinkler, hose, rake, buckets, gloves, a shed or other storage unit where you’ll be keeping all of your equipment, and more – or contract it out for upwards of $100/month. You might want to add new bushes, trees, flowers or fencing.

Most of these are up-front expenses but don’t forget items like pest control, fertilizer and weed killer and the expenses of watering which are on-going costs.


Don’t think that you will be satisfied with the house the way it is. Unless you’re buying a house that’s in pristine condition, with no needed repairs or renovations, you’re going to want to create the kind of space that makes you happy.

Before you even buy the house, take a survey of the kinds of changes that you’d want to make. Then budget for those changes. Remodeling a kitchen, changing the carpeting, redoing the lighting, adding shutters or flower boxes, landscaping, paving the walkway or driveway…..……all of these need to be considered as part of the purchase price, unless you agree, from the beginning, that these changes will come later when you’ve saved up a bit of money to do more renovations.

Home Maintenance

There are a million maintenance costs associated with owning a house. Reseal the driveway, replace old windows, fix the roof, clean the gutters, patch the front steps — and that’s just a few of the outside maintenance tasks!

On the inside, you’ve got to keep the appliances in good repair, fix plumbing leaks and busts, replace filters, clean out the furnace, drain the water heater, clean the chimney, patch the walls, varnish the floor and replace, regrout, restain, repaint – you get the idea.

Homeowners say that “it’s always something” but it is, in fact, always something. Make sure that you have some money put away for those rainy days.


You have two choices. You can clean your house and have it look nice or you can let it get dirty. After you’ve invested every cent that you’re going to be making for the next 30 years, it’s pretty clear what your choice will be. 

You need cleaning supplies and cleaning apparatus. In fact, if you have a few floors in your house, you might decide to invest in 2 or 3 or everything so that you don’t have to lug your supplies up and down the stairs.

You also need to factor in cleaning time and energy. If you work full time or have other time-consuming responsibilities you may decide to hire a cleaning person. That’s going to cost you upwards of $100 per visit.


The house may be wired for electricity when you make the purchase but you’ll still have to wire it for your phone and Internet service as well as for cable if you so choose. Also, if there are any electrical problems within the house, you’ll have to deal with it – on your dime.

If you have a home inspector check the house before purchase, s/he’ll catch that. But if you close after a few superficial walk-throughs, you’ll be responsible for any of these problems.


There are many ways that you can save when you buy a house but safety isn’t one of them. Make sure that your house has all of the safety devices – smoke detectors, carbon detectors, motion detector lights, fire extinguishers, security systems etc. Save on something else. 

Pest Control

Homes are subject to all sorts of pests from hard-to-see termites and bedbugs to mice, rats, raccoons and other types of critters. If your house has an invasion of some type of pest you’ll need to pay to get rid of it. It’s not uncommon so if and when it happens, don’t be surprised.


It’s not uncommon for a young couple to buy a house in preparation for starting a family. Once the child hits the crawling stage you’ll need to childproof the house.  Make sure that you have high shelves where you can place cleaning materials and other toxic substances. Put child-guards on the lower cabinets and child gates in any doorway that leads to stairs, the kitchen or anywhere where there’s something that you don’t want your child to touch.

You’ll probably want to put all the breakables up high as well so you’ll need some upper cabinets and shelves. Be prepared for the unexpected….balls dropped down the toilet, walls “repainted” with crayons and pens, de-booked bookshelves and more.

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