The Hidden Costs of Buying Your First Home

The Hidden Costs of Buying Your First Home

Everyone knows that buying your first home is an expensive ordeal—just the cost of a down payment alone can be significant for many buyers, let alone an entire mortgage. But those aren’t the only costs that you have to consider prior to home shopping.

First-time buyers often don’t realize that they will need to pay for more than just the selling price that they negotiate with a seller. Things like landscaping, hookup fees for utilities, and appliances are all extra expenses.

So what else do you need to budget for as a first-time buyer, what are you forgetting, and what can wait until later? Follow along as we take you through the basics.

Step One: Before You Buy

Before you start booking viewings, figuring out a budget, or even browsing through furniture stores, you need to figure out what your real costs are going to be. Your down payment is not the only upfront cost that you are going to have to pay, so you need to make sure that you hold enough back to cover all of the extras, such as:

Legal fees

When purchasing or selling property, the ownership of the land must be transferred from one party to another. While you don’t always need a lawyer to buy or sell a home, some states require that they at least be a part of closing the deal (officially transferring property ownership), while others require that they participate in another part of the process.

Lawyers can be pricey, so if you intend to use one, or are required to, be sure to budget for them.

Agent fees

If you are buying a house using a real estate agent, and the seller also has one, the realty fees are paid by the person selling the home.

However, if you, as a buyer, purchase a home using a real estate agent from a seller who does not have one (for example, a for sale by owner transaction), you are responsible for paying your real estate agent.

In both situations, the agent is paid a percentage of the sale price upon the completion of the transaction.

Inspection and appraisal

As a buyer, you want to know if there is anything wrong with the home you are purchasing, and if it is priced fairly. The only way to be moderately sure of either is to pay for professionals to do the job for you. That means hiring a home inspector yourself, as well as an appraiser if you need one.

It is not recommended that you allow a seller to pay for or provide a home inspection or appraisal, as you will have no way of knowing if they had an existing relationship with whoever provided the reports.

Do some research to find tried and trusted professionals who come at a price that you can afford.

Mortgage with interest

So maybe you have a general idea of what you can afford for a mortgage, but did you factor in an interest rate? Will your interest rate change based on your down payment? Will your rate fluctuate, or will it be fixed?

You will need to talk to your bank about this, to see how much you qualify for and what they can offer to you. Your monthly payments can change significantly based on your interest rate, so if you get an offer that seems high, feel free to shop around for one that better suits your bank account.

Step Two: After You Pick a House

Don’t put away your calculator yet! After you’ve looked at a few homes, or even put an offer in, you have more financing to work out. Sure, you made your budget work for the “before” costs, but don’t forget about the “during” costs, which include:

Moving expenses

Do you have enough stuff to warrant a moving truck or movers? Is your new place far away from your current one? If you need, or want, to hire movers, you’ll need to figure out the cost. Depending on your preferences, movers can get pricey.

For example, if you just rent a moving truck or trailer, your costs will be moderately low. But if you need people to help pack your things and move your items out of one house and into another, you’re going to have to cough up some extra cash.

Home Insurance

Homes come with all kinds of monthly expenses, and insurance is one of the necessary ones. Depending on the age and condition of your home, your location, your insurance history, and so on, your insurance rates will fluctuate. They’ll also vary drastically by provider.

Be sure to shop around for the best coverage and price for your personal needs.

Utilities and hookups

We all know that utilities are going to cost money; that is inevitable. But did you know that it can cost money to have your utilities hooked up? Some also require a deposit if you have no history with that provider under your name.

Remember that while you may have heard of a variety of providers, they may not all be available in your area, so that great rate that you saw advertised on TV might only be available in the next town over.

Homeowner fees

If you looked at a condo or townhome, you probably know that you have to pay for maintenance fees. But, if the home you’ve fallen for happens to be in an area under a homeowners association (HOA), you’ll have to consider costs related to the neighborhood. That can mean upkeep, decorations, landscaping, and more.

Property taxes

Property taxes are something that every homeowner has to pay, and they vary by location. For example, desirable suburbs and new neighborhoods can cost you a pretty penny when it comes to house taxes, but older areas or properties in smaller towns can have reasonable taxes.

To find out what your approximate costs will be each year, ask your real estate agent or the seller what the annual tax amount has been historically. Make sure that you will be able to afford it when tax season comes around.

Step Three: Once You Move

So, you figured out a budget and selected a house. Since you’ve probably put a lot of your cash into the process so far, it might be difficult for you to consider parting with any more of your money, but chances are you still need a few things to turn your new house into a home.

Take a deep breath and remember:

  • You don’t need to buy everything at once. Purchase only the furniture that you need immediately, such as a bed or a couch, and worry about filling the spare room later.
  • It isn’t often that your first house is your dream house, so take your time with renovations and upgrades.
  • Appliances probably cost more than you think. If you need to buy them yourself and your budget is already stretched thin, buy used for now and upgrade later.
  • Landscaping can only be done in certain seasons, so make sure that you put down sod when you have a chance. That means saving so that if you need to put down a front lawn, you can do it.
  • There will be unexpected costs. Maybe something gets damaged in the move, or maybe you need to change the locks to your new house. Don’t beat yourself up for not thinking about every single cost involved.
  • Your first grocery trip is going to be expensive. Why? Because, chances are you need to stock up on spices, canned goods, pasta, and other staples. Don’t worry, you’ll only need to do a move-in shop once. The rest of the time you’ll just buy what you need, when you need it.
  • All of the money that you were saving isn’t gone. It’s finally gone towards what you were saving for in the first place.

Setting up House and Settling in

You won’t often hear that buying a house is easy, but you won’t hear too many regrets about doing it either. It’s a big purchase, and it’s bound to be a bit complicated, but don’t let that keep you from building equity and making a home of your own.

Spend wisely, save for a rainy day, and cover your most important costs before anything else and you’ll have a happy and financially healthy home to call your very own.

What other costs are associated with buying a home? Which surprised you the most?

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Brittany Foster

Marketing Writer at LawDepot
Brittany is an ardent reader, writer, and blogger.
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