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How Much Should You Anticipate in Hidden Homeownership Costs?

hidden costs with buying a home

This post is from Jennifer Riner at Zillow. 

Making the switch from renting to owning? While historically low mortgage rates might mean your monthly mortgage costs are lower than what you paid while leasing, buyers must plan for more than a mortgage. Although you might factor in the high cost of a down payment, and the title and insurance fees you now face as a homeowner, it’s also important to consider the extra or hidden costs of homeownership.

Courtesy of: Zillow


These extra costs can range from property taxes to minor landscaping fees to major roof repairs – depending on your region and the size of your property. According to a recent report from Zillow, the leading real estate marketplace and Thumbtack, a website that connects consumers with service professionals, homeowners might face $9,000 or more per year in hidden or extra homeownership costs. These include both unavoidable costs, such as utilities, and optional maintenance expenses like gutter cleaning.

Unavoidable Hidden Costs

The report identified three unavoidable hidden costs, which include homeowners insurance, property taxes and utilities. These are non-optional costs, meaning almost every homeowner is responsible for these dues – regardless of where they live.

On average, homeowners in the United States pay $6,042 per year to cover these unavoidable costs. However, these specific costs can vary widely by region. The highest metro analyzed was Boston, where homeowners could expect to pay $9,413 each year. Increased hidden costs in Boston are largely due to high property taxes. On the other hand, house hunters searching for homes in Phoenix, for example, might only expect to pay around $4,513 in annual hidden unavoidable costs – the least expensive of the metros identified.

Optional Maintenance Costs

While considered “optional,” maintenance costs are also an important cost to consider when budgeting for homeownership, even if you plan to do many of these projects yourself. Regular cleanings and aesthetic maintenance aren’t absolute necessities, and some homeowners prefer to take care of property maintenance themselves rather than hire out, subsidizing much of the overhead associated with visual maintenance. However, regardless of whether they plan to hire out or DIY, it’s important for homeowners to at least be aware of some of the common expenses associated to maintaining a home so they can plan ahead accordingly.

U.S. homeowners pay an average of $3,435 for costs like house cleaning, yard care, gutter maintenance, carpet cleaning and pressure washing. San Francisco homeowners have the highest home maintenance costs, at around $4,653 per year. Homebuyers looking in Denver, on the other hand, could pay much less at $2,782 annually, on average. Denver is the least expensive metro for optional maintenance costs analyzed in this study.

How to Plan for Homeownership Costs

You can eliminate extra costs associated with homeownership costs by learning about landscaping and doing it yourself, as well as learning how to clean your own gutters. Don’t forget to consider the difference in utility costs when moving to a different climate. For example, homeowners in Seattle might not need air conditioning, whereas homeowners in the Midwest require it May through October to fight the hot, humid summer. This can add on as much as $100 to your regular electric bill.

When purchasing a home, consider asking your lender for a credit back from the seller at closing rather than a reduced purchase price. Lenders sometimes allow a 6 percent credit for buyers to set aside in case of emergency maintenance or needed home improvements. While it doesn’t diminish your costs right away, you can rest easy knowing you have money set aside to offset the covert, costly homeownership fees.

What was the most surprising cost you’ve faced after buying a home? 


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. We’ve done a lot of renovation work from maintenance put off by the previous owner(s). I’ve always heard the rule that you should set aside 1% of home value for maintenance each year. That’s a big chunk of change!

  2. When my parents decided to move to our new house, they didn’t expect the property tax on our house. But the surroundings here is a way much better compared to our old home.

  3. If those totals include things like property taxes, heating/cooling bills, and maintenance, then they make sense. I’m in the Philadelphia area and outside of Philly proper, property taxes are high since state taxes are low (flat 6% and the biggest energy industry, fracking, pays no taxes), forcing personal property taxes to be the sole source of income for schools. In addition, it gets cold here so for people who aren’t the “put on a sweater” type, can have to pay $400/month heat bills in their 1930’s built not-so-insulated home from November to February.

    Plus, in older homes, common in the Midwest-Mid Atlantic-New England, you have things like field stone basements and slate roofs that can require more expensive maintenance if you’re trying to keep with the “This Old House” aesthetic.

    My husband and I are looking to buy a house soon and we are aware of the annual costs and responsibilities. However, we’re the type of people who plans on doing as much of the cleaning maintenance ourselves as possible and we have no problem keeping the heat at 55-60 degrees to keep the winter bills low (I put on lots of sweaters, lol) so I don’t foresee our annual costs getting that big.

  4. I’ve heard the same stat that Taylor mentioned. We hit it some years and others we don’t. We have a separate emergency fund to help cover for expenses, which has come in handy too many times to count.

  5. I always advise clients that when they buy a home (even if it’s a new one), they should have at least $10,000 in a “surprise” home repair account because no matter how well your home is made or how good your home inspector is, once you start living in a home, changes will occur and things will need to be fixed. It’s better to be safe with savings than sorry with debt.

  6. Assuming an annual 1% maintenance / repair cost, it costs us $5800 / year for property taxes, insurance, and maintenance repairs. That’s quite a chuck of change at almost $500 per month! And that’s before you even consider the mortgage payment, utilities, etc. It’s really making us rethink our desires to be a homeowner.

  7. At a certain point, many of the optional maintenance costs will turn into required costs. Your roof might start looking bad, making replacement an optional expense, but eventually it will start leaking and causing actual damage to other parts of your home, and you’ll have to replace it.

  8. We were in for a rude awakening when we got this house. In the past four or five years, we’ve had most things break or otherwise need replacing. And we’re still trying to figure out how to permanently deal with the yard to avoid monthly lawn care. (Because I’m *not* taking my husband’s suggestion to pave over it. And yes, he’s serious.)

    So far this year, we’ve replaced 2 toilets, fixed a leaking pipe, extended the masonry wall, gotten doors on the fence that actually lock and added an HVAC unit for the in-laws in our guest house. I think that’s everything, but it adds up to around $7,000. Last year, our water heater died right after we invested in a new dishwasher. And those were only a couple of the repairs done in 2014.

    Some days I miss being a renter.

  9. There are many hidden costs, indeed, and many home buyers should research good before committing to such a serious and responsible actions as buying a house. There definitely should be some emergency account in order to be prepared for all these extra costs. Stuff like gutter cleaning, carpet and house cleaning are not cheap and they are a must in case you buy a house. This is a very good post that reminds us of the seriousness of house buying. Thanks!

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