Caught Off Guard: Hidden Costs of Homeownership

Owning a home isn’t entirely about the dollars and cents – in addition to the monetary benefits, it often comes down to the fact that homeownership is part of many peoples’ American Dream. After all, owning a piece of property is a sign of accomplishment and a means of building on a family legacy for future generations.

But aside from the emotional and mental significance of the decision to buy a home, there are some real financial considerations that shouldn’t be skipped over. Homeownership has some significant costs associated with it, and we’re not just talking about thirty years’ worth of mortgage payments.

According to an analysis completed by Zillow (an online real estate database) and Thumbtack (a mobile app that connects consumers with local service providers), the hidden costs of homeownership can vary regionally. But in the Washington DC metro area, for example, the total estimated cost of these annual expenses is more than $11,000. And if your budget is already bursting at the seams because you overspent on your house, that can mean big trouble ahead.

So does that mean no one should purchase a home? Hardly. But it’s important to be realistic when laying out your finances and determining how much you can afford to spend on a home – including all the hidden costs and a buffer to take care of any unexpected issues or emergencies. Once you have all your numbers together, it’s easier to come up with a price range that won’t break the bank.

Unavoidable Costs

Our first hidden cost of homeownership actually isn’t a hidden cost – it’s just sometimes overlooked or pushed to the side. After all, even though things like property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and utilities aren’t negligible expenses, nearly half of all real estate shoppers are first-time homebuyers and aren’t aware of all the costs associated with owning a home.

In fact, across the country the average annual bill for these “hidden” costs tally up to over $6,000. In areas where cost of living and tax rates are higher, this bill can skyrocket – in the San Francisco Bay area, for example, the average homeowner pays more than $13,000 annually in these additional expenses.

Maintenance & Home Improvements

When you’re renting an apartment, it’s easy for the costs of home maintenance to slip your mind. If your dishwasher breaks, maintenance shows up to fix it and doesn’t leave a bill. But once you own the house, you’ve bought yourself a new job – you’re the new maintenance supervisor.

Thankfully, there are lots of skilled professionals out there that can tackle improvements and upkeep that you don’t have the time or expertise to do yourself… at a cost. Of the most common home improvement and upkeep expenses, the following items were among those that topped the list of individuals who used Thumbtack: cleaning, yard work, and HVAC maintenance. The average cost? Approximately $3,000 for consumers who paid a professional to handle these common projects.

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