A euphoric feeling comes over you when you finally find the house you have wanted for a long time. However, unexpected hidden costs start to come along that seem to take away that initial joy.
Katrina Roberts, broker and owner of Greentree Real Estate in Monkton, Vt., has been in the business for 11 years and has noticed that many newcomers to home buying don’t understand all the costs and fees associated with buying a home.
“Depending on where you live, there can be costs for all kinds of things. Here in Vermont, we even have a property transfer tax,” she says.
Some hidden costs are inescapable – such as closing costs – but others have to do with where you live, what kind of home you bought and what your lifestyle is like.
For instance, extra costs were quite high in Boston at almost $14,000, while they were nearly half that cost in Phoenix at $7,550. Those costs include utilities, carpet cleaning, property taxes and more.
Here are some of the things to be aware of when buying a home:
It’s the deposit made by prospective buyers as their goodwill gesture saying they are in it for the long haul. Roberts emphasizes to her clients that if the offer is accepted, their earnest money will be applied to the down payment or closing costs. You usually pay 1 percent of the sales price.
However, in a competitive market, it does make your offer stronger the higher your deposit, she says.
“People are very surprised by closing costs,” Roberts explains. “The biggest thing we can do for clients is just have them understand, especially in Vermont, that buyers pay their closing costs.”
She works with many out-of-state buyers looking for a second home, and they are very surprised by closing costs.
Some states allow the seller to pay some or most of the closing costs. Plus, in Vermont and in other states, there are certain additions to closing costs that can add up quickly. The property transfer tax in Roberts’ state can sometimes add up to a few thousand dollars.
“Closing costs in this state can be a minimum of 3 percent of the purchase price,” she says.
This can cost $500-$800, Roberts says, and that includes radon testing. Even with the cost, you’ll want to make sure that an inspection is done – after all, you don’t want to buy a home that isn’t fit to live in.
Prorated fuel costs
In many northern and midwestern states, the buyer of the house reimburses the seller for the propane or heating oil they already paid for. For instance, if the seller just got a delivery of $700 of propane gas, the fuel cost will be prorated and charged to your closing costs.
Property taxes are an expense that homeowners can expect to pay for as long as they own their home. Taxes are assessed based on the current value of your home and can change over time to reflect your home’s increase or decrease in value.
If you live in certain areas of the country, you can potentially add more than 50 percent of your energy bill to annual housing costs. In places like San Francisco and San Jose, energy bills add just 2 to 3 percent to annual housing costs.
If you don’t have 20 percent to put down on your mortgage, then you most likely will have mortgage interest – whether it’s an FHA or conventional loan.
Some forms of mortgage interest payments can eventually be removed with a refinance, so they may not be a permanent cost.
According to a January 2017 study by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Florida has the highest average homeowners insurance premium in 2014 ($2,005), and Oregon had the lowest ($574).
Most mortgage loans require homeowners insurance, which usually protects your home from natural problems. If you are in a floodplain or hurricane alley, you’ll need additional insurance policies.
Lawnmower, landscaping costs and more
This is now your property. If you want to plant two oak trees, 100 geranium plants or put up a fence, it’s all on you.
If this is your first house and you never had to be responsible for a lawn or sidewalks, then that means you have to buy a lawnmower and shovel or pay someone else to do it.
You’ll likely be moving to a much larger house, and that means you definitely have to find furniture to make your house a home.
You don’t have to purchase all your furniture at once, but beds, tables and couches can be pricey. Reduce your expense by shopping estate and garage sales, or consignment and thrift stores.
Homeowners’ Association Fees
If you are moving into a condominium community or a housing development, you might be charged a Homeowners’ Association (HOA) fee or condominium fee. These fees cover things such as maintenance of the public areas plus any landscaping costs.
Even with all these extra expenses, homeownership can still be a very fulfilling and act as a profitable investment since real estate values tend to increase over the long term.
Your own home is a place where you can make memories with friends and family. Just understand your budget and make sure to figure in all those hidden costs.