Many will equate the American dream with reaching the milestone of buying your own home. And, while we’re certainly not here to scare you away from working toward that accomplishment, we also don’t want you to walk into your new home with rose-colored glasses.
As you are calculating the practicality of owning a home, it is important to look past the down payment. Here are just a few of the sometimes-overlooked expenses of the biggest purchase you’ve ever made:
Mortgage payments. Our eyes can often be bigger than our stomachs. Know your price range before you even start looking at new homes. The lower end of your budget is always a great place to start. And, don’t assume you can afford a mortgage that is the same as your rent. Remember, there will be no landlord to pay for the maintenance and repairs to your house. When calculating your monthly mortgage payments, you will need lots of information:
How much do you plan to borrow?
What’s your lender’s interest rate and the duration of your home loan?
How quickly do you want to pay off your loan. Remember, the quicker you pay down the principal, the less you’ll end up paying altogether.
Homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance is absolutely vital and, in many cases, required by your mortgage bank. In the event of a catastrophe or theft, rebuilding, repair and replacement costs can be heavily offset when you’re properly protected.
Maintenance. Hire a qualified home inspector to walk you through the condition of the house BEFORE you buy it. Heck, be overzealous, hire two or three. It is incredibly important to know what you’re getting into before signing on the dotted line. If things like the roof, HVAC, plumbing or electrical need replacing or fixing, it can be very expensive! Keep checking on these components after you move in or it can lead to much more costly expenses in the long run! A great way to be sure your HVAC system is in tip-top shape is frequent and regular home air filter changes! We just might know someone one who can help you remember such an out-of-sight-out-of-mind task.
Property taxes. Schools, libraries, sidewalks and much more are paid for by your real estate taxes. And, they are not optional! So, ask the seller or their real estate agent to share the property’s current yearly tax bill.
Utility bills. Ask the seller for recent records of utility bills, too: electricity, gas and water. You will want to know your FULL monthly cost to keep your house running.
Miscellaneous. There are plenty of big and small expenses that can fall into the "other" category in your budget, so make sure you have a good bit of wiggle room. Things like trips to the home improvement store, homeowners association fees, t.v./internet, and food will all feel as mandatory as taxes. So make sure you can afford them all!
Whatever cost it may be, you’re going to run into them. So, be prepared. Nobody wants to sit in their nice new home eating frozen pizza. Or, maybe that is exactly what YOU want, and that’s fine. We are not here to judge --- four cheese is our personal favorite.