When you purchase a new home, there are a lot of costs that you might not think about. Some of the common costs of home ownership, in addition to the mortgage payment (principal and interest) include property taxes, homeowners insurance, and utilities. However, these are costs that many people expect to pay eventually — even if they didn’t consider them when figuring what payment was affordable.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Other costs, though, can come as something of a surprise. When we bought our home (a new build house), a few years ago, we were so focused on the process of buying a home that we didn’t really take into account some of the costs that can come with a new house. Some of the costs that surprised us (even though they probably shouldn’t have) included:
While we knew, on some level, that we would need to landscape, we didn’t realize how costly it would be. We wanted a fence, and a lawn, and space for a garden, and shrubbery. In the end, we employed some xeriscaping concepts to help reduce the total lawn area (although we still have lawn), and we did a lot of the work ourselves. We cut and put up the fence panels, and we planted most of our plants — after buying them on sale in the fall. My husband had help from his cousin in building garden boxes.
Still, we were surprised at the costs involved, from purchasing fencing materials to buying the wood for the garden boxes. We ended up doing the landscaping in stages, over the course of three years, in order to better afford the expense.
As we moved our possessions into our new home, it occurred to us that we had nothing to cover the windows. Since we live in a subdivision, this really isn’t an acceptable state of affairs. So, even as we prepared for our first night, we needed to buy some window treatments. We wrote down the measurements for all our windows and headed to the store.
While you can usually hang blinds without buying more than the kit containing them, curtains are another matter. We had to buy curtain rods to go with the curtains. Since we had lived in rentals up to that point, we had always taken window treatments for granted. It didn’t even occur to us to think that we would need them. The same was true of shower curtains — and shower rods.
If you buy a previously owned house, or are used to renting, you might expect your new house to come with light fixtures and all the major appliances like refrigerator, range, oven, dishwasher, washer, dryer, etc. Don’t make any assumptions! Make sure you ask the realtor or the developer what exactly is included and not included in the deal. It is never a nice surprise to move in and find out that you have to spend another $5k on appliances and fixtures.
You might think that newer homes are more energy efficient, but you may not have considered that:
For instance, we had moved to an apartment that uses electricity for everything once and we would never do it again because heating the home and making hot water during the winter time was ridiculously expensive.
Many first-time homeowners may not be aware that certain houses, especially those in gated communities, townhouses, and condos, come with an extra cost in the form of Home Owner Association (HOA) Fee or Condo Fee. This could range from several hundred dollars a year, or several hundred dollars a month! So be sure to ask about these fees before you jump in.
If the house is built on an empty lot, you might be surprised by the following year property tax as the city adjusts the value of the property (now with the brand new house sitting on the previously empty land). Depending on where you live and what was built over the land, your property tax bill could easily double the original amount.
It’s easy to feel like you can skip the home inspection and home warranty service when you buy a new house — after all, it is brand new and every thing should work right? No so fast. Sometimes people cut corners, or things simply do not have the benefit of extensive use, resulting in things breaking down. Another unexpected problem with new construction is that the house may settle in a weird way resulting in cracks or strange bumps and dips.
If you are moving into a larger place, you might want more furniture. In our case, our new home was slightly smaller than our rental, so we didn’t buy any new furniture when we moved in. Furniture can be an especial challenge if you have been living in a partially furnished rental. The first apartment we lived in after we married came with a kitchen table and chairs, as well as a TV stand (or an entertainment center). When we moved to our next rental, we realized that we needed a table, and possibly something to put the television on (but that could wait).
Before you move into your new home, consider what you have already, and what will be left behind. There is a chance that you will want to buy more furniture items if you aren’t going to have what you are used to.
Of course, when you are ready to move your stuff in, you have to pay for it. Some of the expenses that come with moving your things include:
There are some ways to reduce some of these costs, such as looking on Freecycle for boxes, or checking with local stores for discarded boxes. Many people even save their boxes from each move, ready to use them for next time.
Many people overlook the costs related to maintaining a home. When you live in an apartment where the common area is maintained for you and many repairs are covered by the rent, you might be surprised by how much tools, parts, and professional services cost.
As you prepare to move into a new home, consider some of the costs that can come with it. Homeowners insurance is likely to cost more than renters insurance, and your utility costs are likely to go up. Also, consider what your new living area will be lacking, and save up so that you can make the purchases that will truly make your house a home.
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