5 Costs You Need to Consider Before Buying a Home
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Home prices are on the rise nationally. Record low inventory coupled with high demand is pushing prices up.
If you’re looking to buy a home and considering stretching your finances a bit, remember that there are many costs beyond the selling price. It’s important to weigh all the “little extras” when figuring out your budget.
Here are some top costs to consider while you are in home buying process and budget for your first year as a homeowner.
1. Hiring a home inspector
Once you’re under contract, you want to make sure your dream home is as perfect as, well, you dreamed it would be. Hiring a home inspector gives you the opportunity to find out if there are any little nightmares lurking, such as outdated electrical work, an empty oil tank buried in the front lawn or an HVAC unit about to blow.
A thorough home inspection can identify current and potential problems, or, better yet, give the home a clean bill of health. But it is not free. The average home inspection costs $323 according to HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide.
Many buyers hire separate inspectors for specific concerns as well.
“Termite inspection and radon inspection are not always included in the basic inspection costs,” says Beth Slifirski, realtor with Keller Williams City Life in Hoboken, New Jersey. Additionally, Slifirski says, some buyers elect to bring in specialists for certain concerns, like an arborist to check the health of a large tree on the property.
If an inspector finds problems that need to be fixed, they’ll cost more money. “You can have associated repair costs if the seller doesn’t take care of the issue or [the seller] can issue the buyer a credit,” Slifirski says.
You can pay for inspections directly or have them bundled into your total closing costs.
2. Other closing costs
Simply put, closing costs are what you pay all the people who have been working behind the scenes to make your home purchase happen.
“Closing costs, which can include agent fees, hiring an inspector or flood zone insurance, can add up during the home buying process,” says Felipe Chacon, housing economist at Trulia. “Additionally, there are other costs you don’t think of,” he says.
Closing costs also cover various fees: the appraisal fee, the credit report fee, title insurance fees, and government recording fees, to name a few. Buyers receive a sheet itemizing all the costs, so there are no surprises, but all in, they typically run an additional 2% to 5% of the home’s purchase price.
3. Property Taxes
Once you’re in your new home, you’re also on the hook to pay into your new municipality’s tax pool. Property taxes are often added to the mortgage so the buyer doesn’t have to worry about paying a separate bill each quarter. But remember, property taxes aren’t a fixed cost—and they go up more often than they go down—and even if you pay off your mortgage, you still have to pay those taxes.
“Buyers can ask sellers if the property has had a recent tax revaluation or if one is planned,” says Slifirski. “In the case of taxes that seem higher than they should be, they should ask if the taxes have been or can be appealed or revalued and hopefully reduced,” she says. The best place to ask these questions is the municipality’s tax office.
Tax laws and practices vary around the country, so it’s important to do your research, especially if you are moving to another state. The average annual property tax in the U.S. in 2016 was $3,296, according to research from ATTOM Data Solutions. That’s an effective tax rate of 1.15%. The states with the highest property tax rates are New Jersey (2.31%), Illinois (2.13%), Texas (2.06%), New Hampshire (2.03%), and Vermont (2.02%). The states with the lowest property tax rates: Hawaii (0.32%), Alabama (0.48%), Colorado (0.52%), Tennessee (0.54%), and Delaware (0.56%).
4. Home improvements and repairs
Don’t forget to factor in all those little changes you want to make to your new home — maybe some shrubs in the front yard or a white picket fence in the back. Those projects add up — and many of them require some degree of upkeep.
“There are other costs you don’t think of,” says Chacon. “Some percent of the home’s value will go into maintenance,” he says, and “that’s almost like a fixed-cost where you pay to keep up with little problems.”
The most common home improvements after buying a home are installing a wooden fence, which costs an average of $2,706; landscaping, which runs an average $3,316; and building a deck, to the tune of about $7,010, according to HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide.
And then there are those small repairs and big emergencies you can expect to encounter, says Brad Hunter, chief economist with HomeAdvisor. “On average, homeowners should plan to spend one percent of the home’s purchase price on repairs and emergencies each year,“ Hunter says.
The top four emergencies homeowners say they wish they had saved more for: unblocking pipes, repairing water damage, fixing a clogged drain, and servicing a broken air conditioning unit.
You could also see the cost of utilities jump when you buy a new home. That’s often the case if you’re buying a bigger space or moving to a different area of the country where the climate is different so you may be using heat or air conditioning more often.
Also, moving from a condominium to a detached home can also have an impact on your monthly bills.
“If you are going from an apartment to a single family home, you have to think about utilities,” says Trulia’s Chacon. “You are no longer sharing walls and sharing costs.”
Chacon also points out that the move from renting to owning — regardless of what type of home — can make a difference financially. Landlords sometimes absorb costs like water bills or trash collection, he says. But when you own your own home, you’re on your own.