While the cost of housing is still precarious, millennials are aging and inevitably beginning to move into the housing market to purchase their first home.
If you’re a young person or couple looking to buy a home for the first time, there are some obvious costs you’ve thought about already, like your mortgage and utilities.
You might have calculated the cost of moving all your belongings, which according to the American Moving and Storage Association averages $1,170 on just a move within state lines.
Here are some hidden costs of homeowning that may not be obvious to first-time buyers.
1. Local Tax Rates
Some areas are well-known locally for being ‘cheap’ or ‘expensive’ to live in.
If you don’t know the tax rates for your new town, county, or state, do your research. Even if the cost of your home itself is relatively inexpensive, high taxes from your town or city can quickly cripple your monthly mortgage budget. The popular feel-good reality show Extreme Home Makeover is an oft-cited example of taxes gone awry. A larger home can dramatically raise taxes and utility bills, which families pay for after the cameras stop rolling. A lot of families end up fighting foreclosure or securing second jobs to stay afloat. In the worst case scenario they lose the home entirely, like the family of a Michigan widow whose 2008 Extreme Makeover home was foreclosed in 2017 after years of struggle.
On a larger scale, you should do research about state and local rates such as sales, income, vehicle, and real estate taxes. For example, Delaware as a whole is considered fairly “tax friendly” as it has no vehicle or sales tax and relatively low rates on everything else. Delaware income tax rates typically range from 2.2-6.6%. In comparison, Louisiana has a slightly lower income tax at 2-6%, but has one of the highest sales tax rates in the United States.
2. Yard Maintenance and HOA Dues
Yards are expensive and time-consuming, especially if you decide to live in an area with a home owner’s association (HOA). HOA dues themselves can be very expensive, in many cases hundreds of dollars a month. Around 90% of American homeowners with a yard think it’s important that a yard is “well maintained”, so it’s no surprise that HOA standards usually dictate a well-kept yard with approved features.
Maintenance either takes up a large chunk of your weekend time or costs money to hire a landscaper. Consider if you’re prepared for the yard of the house you’re purchasing.
Are there lots of oak trees with acorns to fall down and possibly damage your house or car?
Are there gardens to maintain or rip out? Acres of grass to seed, water, spray, and cut?
Decide what kind of yard you want and have a realistic budget for it.
Make sure you understand what is an acre and how to calculate it so you don’t underestimate the required maintenance.
3. Expanding Your Family
Back to yard maintenance and HOAs, if you have pets or children or plan to have either in your new home in the future, you will probably want a fenced-in yard for safety and convenience.
Living near a main road or having a pool are extra factors for building a fence; pets like to bolt, and the second leading cause of death for children younger than five is drowning. But fencing can get pricey, and an HOA will likely need to approve any fencing project you have planned. The same goes for dog houses and children’s play structures, or even home expansions and renovations. Dogs specifically might need to be registered with your city or town, which would include some paperwork and fees. Keep in mind if you have children that a lot of your local taxes go towards schools, so research school costs in the area.
Buying a home for the first time is daunting, but being familiar with hidden costs that would naturally pop up after closing helps prepare you for the most expensive scenario. Don’t get surprised by hidden costs. Talk to your realtor, the current homeowner, and locals about what pricey surprises you may come across, and you’ll be golden.