Deciding if you can afford a home means more than working out how large a mortgage you can handle. There are plenty of other costs that go along with homeownership, and not all of them are obvious to first time buyers.
But if you don’t take them into account when buying a property, you could be lining up serious financial problems for the future.
1) Closing Costs
Although the realtor’s commission fees will fall on the seller, as a buyer you’re responsible for a lot of the other expenses of closing the sale. At a minimum, you’ll need to pay legal fees, appraisal costs, and property transfer taxes.
The total amount of closing costs you’ll pay depends on your local jurisdiction, but it usually adds up to around 2.5 percent of the property’s value. However, you can usually fold these expenses into your mortgage rather than finding the funds yourself, although this will increase your monthly repayments. (Related: Advice For Homebuyers So You Can Buy With Confidence)
2) Mortgage Insurance
Depending on your mortgage deal and the size of your down payment, you may need to take out extra mortgage insurance to cover your lender’s losses if you default. Budget for this to cost around 1 percent of your mortgage value, although it can be a little higher or lower depending on your finance deal and credit status.
3) Home Insurance
You’ll also need to take out home insurance, with coverage for the building being required by the lender. However, it’s also highly advisable to take out contents or personal property coverage at the same time, as you can usually get much better deals by combining both types of policy.
4) Homeowner’s Association Fee (HOA Fee)
If you’re buying a condo, you’ll likely need to pay a Homeowner’s Association (HOA) fee to pay for cleaning and maintaining the building’s lobbies, lawns, and other shared areas. This charge can also apply to private homes in some neighborhoods, so make sure you check with the seller first.
5) Your Own Maintenance
If you’ve previously been a renter, your landlord was responsible for most maintenance and repairs. However, as a homeowner, these costs now fall on you, and they can add up to more than you might think.
If you have the time and skill to carry out maintenance yourself, you can save a few dollars. However, include enough in your budget to hire someone in case your circumstances change. (Related: Are New Homes Better Than Older Homes?)
Also, make sure you save up a rainy day fund for emergency repairs, so you’re not forced to take out expensive credit to cover fixing essentials such as heating in the depths of winter.
Moving from a small rented home to a larger one often means utility bills increase significantly, and this can come as a shock. Before making the final decision on a home, ask the seller or realtor to provide rough estimates of utility bills for the last year, so that you’re prepared for the likely costs.
7) Moving Costs
And lastly, for anything but the most straightforward of moves, you’ll need to hire a moving company to transfer your possessions. You may think you can reduce the expense by hiring a truck and doing this yourself, but it’s an extra level of stress on top of an already complicated process. (Related: Nine Apps to Simplify Your Move)
Importantly, make sure you get a quote in plenty of time, as movers can be booked solid during peak moving periods. If you move in the middle of summer, you’ll likely need to pay a premium.
Preparing for these costs isn’t as exciting as choosing neighborhoods and viewing homes, but it’s essential to set a careful budget that includes these extras. If you’re suddenly hit with unexpected expenses you can’t afford, your homeownership dream could quickly turn sour.