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The Unexpected Price of Home Ownership

When it comes to buying a new home, figuring out the mortgage, taxes, and insurance can be done with a little legwork and one of many handy online calculators. Once you have that number and think it'll fit in your budget, you're golden, right?


Expect to pay 1%-3% in maintenance for your home every year. That's a significant amount to add to your budget and the first year it might be more than 3%, even with a great home inspection.

How do you know what to plan for? Ask your home inspector for approximate age of big systems like HVAC, roofing, windows, and siding.

Most things break or wear out in an expected amount of time. This list means that you'll basically be doing a remodel on the house at least 10 years before the standard mortgage is paid off. Check out this list from The Balance for an idea.

  • Carpet and Carpet Padding - every 5 to 10 years

  • Windows - Every 20 to 30 years

  • Water Heater - Every 6 to 20 years, depending on the model

  • HVAC System - Every 10 to 20 years (but efficiency drops significantly after 4, meaning it's usually better to replace than repair anything older than 4 years)

  • Kitchen Cabinets and Bath Vanities - Every 5 to 20 years, depending on the building material

  • Cabinet Hardware - Every 5 to 10 years

  • Bathtubs - Every 5 to 15 years

  • Vinyl Flooring - Every 5 to 10 years

  • Faucets, Basins, and Pipes - Every 5 to 15 years

  • Gutters - Every 15 to 20 years

  • Roof - Every 15 to 25 years

  • Siding - Every 15 to 25 years

  • Paint and Weatherproofing - Every 10 to 15 years

  • Fence and Deck - Every 10 to 25 years, depending on how weather-sealed it is

You also will want to add your own touches to the house, to make it your own.

You don't want your house looking bad from the road as you make friends with your new neighbors. That may mean new landscaping and safety features like adding motion detecting lights to the poorly lit walkway and changing the locks on the doors.

And you could move in and find out that the house needs to be wired for internet because the previous owners used slow satellite and that's not going to work for your family.

If you're moving from an apartment you'll also need to consider lawn care. You can either hire out for around $200/month or buy a mower, weed whacker, trimmers, and fertilizer spreader. You might also find you need to buy a shed or outbuilding to store your shiny new yard toys.

Don't forget extra things the house should have but doesn't include. For example, if the house is in an area that loses power rarely, but it's in the middle of winter when it does, you may find that you're willing to drop the $10k on a whole house generator to make sure your family is comfortable. Or the house doesn't have a freezer in the garage and you thought your family didn't really need it, but after a few months you realize you do. After living in the house a few weeks you realize that the garbage disposal is undersized for your family's needs or that you really need more space to grill outside and enjoy the yard.

All of these are example of big and small expenses that can hit during the first 2 years of living in a place and can quickly add up.

As Cindy Perman says "While there's no way to estimate what the first few years of owning a home will cost, a good rule of thumb is don’t spend a lot on discretionary items — like clothes, gadgets and vacations — in those first few years. Set aside much as you can for the unexpected expenses and wait a year or two to see how it shakes out."


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