9 Costly Things New Homeowners Don't Prepare For
When you’re buying a new home (and that could be a new build or a used home that’s new to you) you are caught up in a whirlwind of things to do, people to see, papers to sign, and plans to make.
Most of all, you’re excited. And rightly so.
Then, moving day comes. Once all the boxes are unloaded, and the furniture is shoved roughly into the right rooms, you grab a coffee and take a breather. And that’s when it dawns on you. This is only just the beginning.
As a new homeowner, there are whole lists of things you need to take care of, and almost all of them cost money. Sometimes, a lot of money.
So, if you’re planning to buy a new home, have just signed the paperwork, or are moving in next week, this list is for you. And if you know someone who's moving in, be a buddy and warn him or her as well.
Note: The figures next to the titles are rough guides based on an average sized U.S. home (2,700 sq. ft.) with a typical yard (1/5th of an acre), but obviously they could be much higher or lower depending on the size of your home, its location, and the condition it’s in.
1. Window Coverings and Treatments – Up to $2,000
“Oh, look at all the windows! It’s so bright, so spacious, the views are lovely!” Well, yes they are. But you don’t want people viewing you at night, or looking in whenever they want, so all those windows need coverings. If it’s a new home, you’re going to be spending hundreds (and probably thousands) of dollars on blinds, curtains, curtain rods, tie backs, valances, and shades (even more if you're not too handy and have to have someone come and fit them for you). If it’s an old home, you may be fine for a year or two, but you’ll need to decide if you want to live with the old owner’s treatments or have your own. To offset the high costs, remember to look for deals on blinds and other window coverings long before you move in.
2. Landscaping and Groundskeeping – Up to $30,000
Walking around new neighborhoods, you see all sorts of beautiful landscapes. And often, on new builds, the landscaping at the front of the house is included in the price. Hurray! Oh, but then there’s the back. And there, almost always, you’re on your own. Depending on the size of the yard and the HOA rules and restrictions, you could be looking at $10,000 - $30,000 worth of landscaping materials and labor. Want a deck or a patio? That’s even more money. And then you may need sprinklers, irrigation, and other services. If you move into an old home, that’s no guarantee of a great yard. Many foreclosed homes may have been left vacant for a long time, and a once attractive yard could be a wreck, if it was even finished in the first place. So, do your homework. See if you can hustle the homebuilder for a finished back yard too, or ask the seller to drop the price to cover landscaping. If it's foreclosed, a short sale, or some other kind of repo, guess what? Yep, you’re on your own. Time to dig into the savings.
3. Major Appliances – Up to $10,000
New home builds usually include a dishwasher, microwave, and stove, with the option of a fridge/freezer, washer, and dryer. They are basic, unless you opt for the upgrades in your contract, but if you do, they could add a chunk to your monthly mortgage payment. If you buy a used home, you may not have any appliances included, especially on a repossession, short sale, or foreclosure. You could always hunt around on Craigslist for used appliances, but they won’t come with a warranty. So figure on spending a nice chunk of change when the time comes to upgrade.
4. HOA Fees – Up to $700 a Month
Many new homes come with a Home Owners Association, and most used homes have HOAs as well. In theory, they’re a sound idea. They are there to keep the neighborhood looking great, and deal with trash collection, playgrounds, community pools, street lighting, common areas, snow removal, and so on. Of course, in practice many people hate the HOA because they extend their reach far beyond what most people consider fair. They can tell you what colors you can and can’t paint your house, what type of blinds and window treatments are allowed, what you can and can’t put in your yard, and the list goes on. Oh, and it costs you. A typical HOA can run $100 a month. Some are just a few hundred a year, while in the higher-end neighborhoods, you may not see much change out of $1,000 every month! Did you see that one coming? Before you buy, make sure you know what the HOA dues are, but remember, they can go up annually and you have little say in the matter.
5. Furniture – Up to $20,000
That’s a very rough estimate. Clearly your particular tastes can range from Ikea to custom-built furniture, but what you need to know is that most homeowners completely underestimate the amount of furniture they’ll need. This is especially true when moving into a bigger home. You may now have two areas for relaxing, a living room and family room. You could also have a den, a library, a nook or study, extra bedrooms, guest rooms, or even a game room. Depending on what you’re moving into, you could have a very empty-looking house that needs to be filled. Get ready to go shopping.
6. Insurance – Up to $2,000 Annually
There are a few different types of insurance you need to have when buying a home. First, you must have homeowners insurance. The average cost of this is around $700 annually, but this again varies by state. If you live in a duplex or other type of connected building, the insurance may be covered in your HOA dues or your monthly escrow. You should also have contents insurance, based on the value of your possessions. You could, of course, skip this payment. But if tragedy does strike, you could lose everything.
7. Property Tax – Up to $10,000
When it comes to property tax, a lot of people get sticker shock a year after they move into a new construction. The reason for this is simple; the taxes are based on the empty lot the home was built on. But a year later, the assessors come around and put a new valuation on the lot, which now has a beautiful home sitting on it. Many people see their initial tax payment double, or even triple, in just one year. You can also face much higher taxes based on the particular school district you live in. And of course, taxes vary greatly by state. The average property taxes paid in New Jersey are almost $8,000, as opposed to $2,000 in Colorado.
8. Utilities – Up to $400 Monthly
Again, if you live in the Playboy mansion that figure will be greater. And in a new one-bedroom apartment, much less. But on average, when moving into a new home, you will see utility bills in the hundreds of dollars. This can be quite a shock, especially if you were formerly in a small apartment or even living with your parents. And what’s worse, depending on when you move in, you could really get a wake-up call. Bills in the summer months can come with higher rates, so you may budget based on the winter bills, only to be unprepared for summer. The best thing you can do to prepare is ask the utility companies for the history of the property, if it’s used. If it’s new, ask neighbors who have already moved in what they’re paying. If you're first on the block…good luck!
9. Repairs and Maintenance – Who Knows!
I saved the worst till last. One of the biggest unknown expenses of owning a home is the repairs and maintenance costs that can hit you out of nowhere. If you were formerly renting, that was all taken care of. Now it’s all on you. If the boiler blows up, you pay. If the roof leaks, you pay. If strong winds blow your fence down, you pay. If vandals put rocks through your windows, you pay.
Basically, you pay. And these bills can be steep. You’ll soon find out that hourly labor costs for plumbers, electricians, and builders are usually a lot more than the hourly wage you get paid. There are standard call-out charges, which you pay before they even look at the problem. It can be a nightmare. You can, of course, buy insurance to cover appliances, boilers, A/C units, and so on, but there are deductibles to pay. And like any insurance, the small print can really bite you.
Are you a new homeowner? Did a situation or expense recently pop up that you were not planning for? Let us know.
This article was made possible by the support and inspiration of Genworth Financial, a S&P 500 insurance company with more than $100 billion in assets. Check out Genworth's website for more information on their mortgage insurance and reverse mortgages products.