First Person: The 5 Added Costs of Your First House

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When we bought our house eight years ago, it was a new build and built big enough for our family to grow. We knew when we bought it that our house would become our home slowly over time and with added expense.

But as we are closing in on our first decade in our home, it is obvious in hindsight that there were a number of home-ownership costs that we just didn't think about when we bought our home. Our home-related expenses in our budget grow every year. When thinking about buying a house, consider these five costs of home-ownership that have hit our pocketbooks the hardest before you sign on that home mortgage loan.

The yard

When you rent, you don't have to think about things like mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, and watering during the dog days of summer. As a home owner, you'd better count on having the money, tools, and time to invest in the yard since it's one of the biggest annual costs in home ownership.

We started by having to install a six-foot tall cedar fence mandated by our HOA that ran us about three grand. This was the first major purchase for our home, and one that was little more than a necessity. Bids to install a sprinkler system and landscaping started at $4000. Then we had the expense of a lawn mower, trimmer, trees and plants, fertilizers, hose and tools to the tune of another $1,000 over the next two years.

Upgrading our home's features

We've all seen those home buying programs where the young couple sits down with the real estate agent and goes over a list of must-haves for their new home. The reality is that most of us buy the house that is closest to what we really want, and then we begin to upgrade it over time.

For our home, our biggest upgrade was to finish our walk-out basement. This project ran us just over $20,000, and we did most of the work on the cheap hiring a young, just-starting-out contractor and working with him on every detail even shopping for supplies with him to keep costs under control.

We've also completed some other upgrades including adding a security system for three thousand dollars, adding a deeper kitchen sink with a new high-arc spout and sprayer for $500, a $700 storm door for the front of our house, and having a digital television antenna installed for $200.

While the home you buy may not need these specific upgrades, the truth is that if you own a home, you'll want to improve some parts of it to meet your family's needs. Plan on having a home improvements category for your budget.


Of course, we had some furniture before we moved into our house, but we discovered that moving into our new house with old furniture made our old furniture seem somewhat less than adequate. Not even a year into our new home, we began spending our weekends prowling around furniture stores looking for that right sofa set or bedroom furniture for our master suite.

Now that we're eight years into our home, most of the furniture we originally brought with us is now gone. Only the two beds that we brought with us remain, and even they remain in the guest bedrooms. It would be hard to put an exact number on the amount we've spent on furniture over the years, but $25,000 is probably a pretty conservative guess what with new dining room furniture, a master bedroom collection, our son's bedroom, and two living room sets.

Home maintenance

If you own a home, go ahead and budget for home maintenance. Appliances will need repair or replacing. You'll have to paint. That windstorm might mean new shingles in your future.

In this past three months alone, we've written checks to have our sprinkler system in the front yard repaired, to have an electrician install a new outlet for our foyer, and to have our carpets professionally cleaned. In the fall we have our furnace inspected and our duct work cleaned as well. We regularly budget about a thousand dollars a year for regular maintenance on our home, and we know that number will only get higher the older our home gets.

Homeowner's insurance and HOA dues

Even combined, these two budget items run us less than $2000 a year, making them relatively small expenditures in our housing budget. However, we know that our location helps keep our insurance low, and our HOA dues could be far worse. If you're looking at home ownership costs, every expense adds up, though, so keep these in mind.

When weighing the costs of buying a home, there are many factors beyond just that mortgage payment. While not all of these costs were necessary like our basement remodel, the vast majority of them are pretty standard for most homeowners. As we discovered, buying a house isn't cheap, and if you're going to make your house a home, you'd best make a smart budget first.

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