• My husband and I had plenty of savings when we bought our home, but there were still surprise costs.
  • I had no idea how much it would cost to spruce up the front yard, or get our trash removed.
  • And we weren’t expecting our air conditioner to go out on a hot day in Florida.
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If you are considering buying a home, you’ve probably realized how expensive it can be. With a down payment and closing costs kicking off a long-term monthly payment, it can easily cost tens of thousands to become a homeowner. 

But the initial costs of homeownership don’t end when you close on a home, as I found out in my first month of homeownership. In fact, unexpected costs can add up quickly. 

My husband and I bought our first house in April 2020. Within a month, we encountered a range of unexpected expenses. Although we did plan to cover some minor renovation costs, some expenses were a complete surprise. 

Curb appeal comes at a cost

The biggest costs I did not expect were outdoor expenses. We didn’t have any major landscaping plans to completely transform the front yard, but I did want to add a couple of bushes and flowers to give our new home a touch of curb appeal. 

Since I had always lived in an apartment, I seriously underestimated the cost of sprucing up a small yard. I had expected to pay around $200 for the outdoor updates, but basic costs ended up including:

  • $350 for a lawnmower
  • $1,500 for new gutters 
  • $250 for flowers and bushes for the front of the house 

In all, it cost more than $2,000 to make some minor updates to the front yard. That may not seem very expensive when you are binge-watching HGTV home makeovers, but it was a major expense for our budget.  

Trash removal isn’t cheap

When you navigate homeownership for the first time, there are some costs that pop up but shouldn’t have been a surprise. 

For me, I hadn’t expected to pay for an expensive trash and recycling service. But since our home is in a relatively rural location, we only have one option for trash collection. Overall, it will cost around $150 per year. Luckily, we have room in our budget to make it work.

Broken appliances can put a dent in any budget 

In our first month of homeownership, our air conditioner broke down. We live in a hot and humid state, so we called to get it fixed ASAP. 

Luckily, the repairman was able to come out and fix it that day. With quick service, we had to pay around $300 to fix the AC. Of course, we were happy to pay this rather than live without air conditioning in Florida. 

My top tip to help you avoid surprise costs

Although we did run into some unexpected costs, we were able to anticipate most of the expenses that the home would require before closing. That is in large part thanks to diligent inspectors. 

I highly recommend spending the extra money to work with an amazing home inspector before closing. Most mortgage lenders will require that you get the home inspected anyway. But doing your research to hire a quality inspector who knows the problems facing homes in your area can be extremely worthwhile. 

As you move through the closing process, the home inspection may seem like just another formality to pay for. But the advice of an experienced inspector can help you determine whether or not the home has any major issues. If an inspector finds something major, you usually have the opportunity to get quotes from local contractors before the deal is done. 

Personally, our home needed to have the pipes updated. At first, this seemed like a deal breaker. But after talking with the inspector and getting quotes from a few local plumbers, we realized it would only cost around $2,000 to update the pipes in the home completely. With that, we were able to move forward more confidently. 

Without the guidance of an experienced inspector, you might not find out about major issues like this until after you close on the home. At that point, you’ll be stuck footing the bill without any opportunity to negotiate a lower price from the seller. 

Homeownership can be a big milestone in your life and your finances. Before you dive in, take some time to consider what costs might be waiting for you on the other side of closing day. Saving more than you think you’ll need — beyond your down payment, closing costs, and expected expenses — means you’ll have funds to cover you if and when you need them.

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