Insights

You've found your dream home in the perfect neighborhood for you and your family. You've even determined that you'll be able to afford the monthly mortgage payments that will come with this home.

However, have you factored in the other costs of owning a home?

Your monthly mortgage payment is just the start of the costs of owning a home. Property taxes, homeowners insurance, utility bills, home repairs and, depending on where you live, homeowner's association fees, can all drive up the monthly costs of living in a home.

Here is a look at these costs and what impact you can expect them to make on your monthly budget.

Property taxes

When considering a home, be sure to review the property taxes. These taxes can add significantly to the cost of that house.

Property taxes vary widely by state and county. For example, according to the most recently released census data, residents of New Jersey paid, on average, $7,840 in property taxes in 2019 on a home worth $321,100. Hawaii homeowners paid $867 in median real estate taxes for the same home value. The national median average stood at $2,279.

Many homeowners take out an escrow account with their mortgage lenders to cover their property tax payments. Under such an arrangement, lenders pay homeowners' property taxes. Homeowners cover this by paying more each month when they write out their mortgage loan payments.

That means if you have to pay $3,000 each year in property taxes, your monthly mortgage payment will include an additional escrow payment of $250 to cover them.

Homeowner's insurance

If you take out a mortgage to finance your home, you'll also have to pay for a homeowner's insurance policy. No mortgage lender will lend you money without one.

It is a good idea to have homeowner's insurance regardless. These policies can provide you with financial protection should your home be damaged or destroyed. It will also protect you financially from cases of theft or robbery.

However, homeowner's insurance also adds to the bottom-line costs of owning a home.

According to the Federal Reserve Board, homeowners can expect to pay from $300 to $1,000 every year for their homeowner's insurance policy. The cost depends on several factors: If you own a larger home, you'll pay more for homeowner's insurance. If your home rests in an area prone to tornadoes, earthquakes or other natural disasters, you'll pay more, too.

Utility bills

Depending on your lease when you rented, you might not have been responsible for paying utility bills. When you own a home, though, these bills – for everything from electricity and water to weekly garbage pick-up and gas – become one more monthly cost.

These costs are not insignificant. For instance, according to the Energy Services Group, U.S. homeowners who use natural gas for heating will pay about $1,215 annually to heat a 2,200 square foot home. An additional expense is what you will pay for electricity. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projected in March 2017 that the 'perfectly average' American household spends about $112.59 per month for electricity. Of course, that amount varies by the size and location of your home. South Carolinians pay the most for electricity at $173 per month. New Mexicans pay the least at $90.

Before buying a home, ask what the average utility costs have been for the last two to three years. Sellers are under no obligation to share this information with you. Most, though, will. Don't forget, then, to add these fees to your monthly cost of owning a home.

Homeowner's association fees

If you buy a condominium, the odds are good that you will have to pay monthly homeowner's association fees. You might also have to pay these fees if you live in a gated community or other housing subdivision where maintenance tasks are performed by the HOA.

These monthly fees go to cover the costs of mowing lawns, shoveling snow, repairing cracking driveways, maintaining common areas and other maintenance issues. Again, these expenses can be significant. They usually run from $200 to $400 a month and can add significantly to the cost of owning a condo, townhouse or single-family home.

Home maintenance

The last big bite on your monthly budget is home maintenance.

Ask anyone who's purchased a home. Maintaining it costs money. One year the hot-water heater might go. The next, the roof might start leaking. Another year? You might need to reseal the driveway.

Real estate giant Coldwell Banker advises homeowners to be prepared to spend from 1.5 percent to 4 percent of a home's original cost on annual home maintenance. For a home that cost $200,000, that comes out to $3,000 to $8,000 a year. Again, that can be a significant drain on your monthly budget.

Owning a home can be a wise financial decision and there are many benefits that can't be disregarded. It is important, though, to fully understand the costs before you invest in homeownership.

Dreaming of owning a home?

Our First-Time Homebuyer resources give you ten simple steps to a stress-free buying experience.




This content is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice or indicate the suitability of any product or service for your unique circumstances. You are encouraged to consult with a qualified legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professional based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.
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