When you purchase a new construction home, there are several hidden costs that you might not think about. The normal costs of homeownership like mortgage payments (e.g., principal and interest), property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and utilities are obvious. 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 Extra Costs that Might Surprise You
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 a 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.
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, to better afford the expense.
Also, many new homes come with freshly sodded or seeded lawns, and they need a lot of water! If you don’t keep them extra hydrated, they often don’t live through the Summer.
2. Window Treatments (Curtains and Blinds)
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 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.
3. Appliances and Fixtures
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 builder sales representative what exactly is included and not included in the deal.
In my area, the washer and dryer are typically not included when you buy a new construction house!
You might think that newer homes are more energy-efficient, but you may not have considered that:
- Larger house costs more to heat and cool.
- New utility providers may be more expensive than your previous providers.
- Major appliances (especially when considering the cost of gas vs. electricity) can cause a significant change in your utility costs.
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 wintertime was ridiculously expensive.
5. HOA and Condo Fee
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 and/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.
6. Property Tax
If the house is built on an empty lot, you might be surprised by the following year’s 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.
7. Unexpected Repairs
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 everything should work right? Not 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.
The good news is that most of the workmanship and appliances are covered during the first year, but you’re mostly on your own after that.
If you are moving to 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 a 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.
Although the home is brand new, it doesn’t mean everything is upgraded, or everything is there. For example, many new homes do not come with a deck or a patio — so that could be something you feel you need to spend money on in the short-term to fully enjoy the house. Another common item that is often not upgraded is the flooring. Many new homes come with basic flooring, so you might be tempted to pay the builder more money for upgraded flooring, or spend money afterward. Finally, another item that is often missing is ceiling fans and bedroom light fixtures. If you want these items in your new home, you generally will have to spend money afterward.
Most new homes come in one basic color. This is another place where a lot of new home buyers spend money after the closing to customize each room to their taste.
Other Costs to Consider
1. Costs of Moving
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:
- Cost of packing materials (boxes, tape, etc.)
- Cost of a truck, whether you hire movers, use a pack-it-yourself, or rent a truck and drive it yourself
- Storage for items that you can’t move in yet, or if you can’t get into your new house
- Fees related to transferring utilities, or disconnecting or transferring phone and other services
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 many 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.
Miranda is a professional personal finance journalist. She is a contributor for several personal finance web sites. Her work has been mentioned in and linked to from, USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. She also has her own blog at Miranda Marquit.