Skip Navigation
Trulia Logo

Trulia Blog

8 New Costs of Owning a Home You May Never Have Considered

You've paid your mortgage and property tax, but you're not quite done yet. . .

You learn a lot about a house once you live in it for a few months. You hear some creaky sounds; you meet some odd neighbors. And your first bills start to arrive. It turns out that the monthly costs of owning a home can be a lot more complicated than the original math you did months ago. Sure, you took into account mortgage payments, property taxes, and utilities. But new costs in the form of local taxes, insurance rate hikes, or even some other surprise fees can pop up—often for reasons you never saw coming. Here are nine examples of new costs U.S. homeowners are facing—and how you can be sure to factor them into your future home budget.

8 Surprise Costs To Consider as You House-Hunt

  1. 1. National flood insurance rates

    Natural disasters are costly, and higher insurance rates often follow. Five million policyholders are covered by the National Flood Insurance Program, which is currently $25 billion in debt and in need of new solutions. On April 1, premiums increased an average of 6.3%, from $827 to $878. Now Congress faces a Sept. 30, 2017 deadline to renew the program and decide how much homeowners should pay.

    What you can do

    Eighty percent of the program’s claims come from just 10 states: California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. When home shopping, ask your agent about flood risks and check Trulia’s hazards maps.

  2. 2. Water costs in San Francisco Bay Area

    Paying more for doing the right thing? It sounds awfully unfair, but some California homeowners face big spikes in water costs precisely because they were such good conservationists during that state’s massive drought. More than 1.4 million residents in Alameda and Contra Costa counties will see rates rise 19 percent over two years if a proposal by the East Bay Municipal Utility District is approved. About 30 percent of that increase is earmarked to offset the impact of conservation on district revenue. To avoid higher bills, residents may have to do what they’ve already done: consume less. On average, households dropped water use to 200 gallons per day, down from 250 gallons pre-drought, the East Bay Times reports.

    What you can do

    It may seem strange, but it will actually pay to keep conserving water. Using less costs less. If you are looking to buy a home in California, be sure to ask your agent about the water costs and do a little Google research on the county to determine if rate hikes are part of any upcoming legislation.

  3. 3. Higher fees and taxes to support infrastructure in Virginia

    The Washington Post reports that homeowners in Alexandria, VA will pay $103 more per year for storm water, sewer, and refuse fees as part of a new $728 million operating fund that also bumped up property taxes by $0.06 per $100 of assessed value. Average homeowners will see taxes rise by about $356 (plus the $103 fee). Aging schools and years of underfunding infrastructure necessitated the increases, officials say.

    What you can do

    Probably not a lot once fees and new taxes have been authorized. But if new fees and tax hikes make you nervous, check into the budgetary health of the city or county where you are thinking of buying. Have they been good stewards of the infrastructure? Do they have a fiscal surplus or are they going to need to come looking for more money?

  4. 4. Basic maintenance costs in Detroit

    Homeowners living in Detroit, MI face annual fees ranging from $250 to $494 for services such as snow removal or enhanced security thanks to new local assessments. The Detroit Free Press reports that the first special assessment districts were approved last year and impact homeowners in Palmer Woods, Sherwood Forest, and the Detroit Golf Club.

    What you can do

    Check with your real estate agent or local City Hall to find out what local assessments exist and what exactly they cover.

  5. 5. Fees for leasing docks in Florida

    Waterfront property is almost always a boon to home values, but the Tampa Bay Times reports that some homeowners in St. Petersburg, FL are having to pay new fees to enjoy what they’ve considered part of their property. Homeowners along Placido Bayou are being asked to pay $150 for three-year leases to use and maintain docks that they didn’t know sat on city-owned land.

    What you can do

    Before buying waterfront land, check with local agencies and be sure to work with a real estate agent who is a waterfront expert and knows all the use and easement rules.

  6. 6. New fees for trash cans in Utah

    Trash pick-up is typically a must-have and the cans usually come with the service. That’s no longer true for new homeowners in some Salt Lake City neighborhoods. They’re now paying $50 for each trash can in addition to the $14.75 monthly fee. The Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District added the fee, plus a one-time $10 delivery charge, to offset the expense of new cans in a booming housing market.

    What you can do

    Aside from keeping them clean and locked up, there’s not a lot to be done on this one. At least the fee is only about $60 amortized over a year.

  7. 7. Removing dead trees

    Mature trees almost always help home values. That’s the good news. The bad news is that damage due to major beetle infestations are driving up costs as HOAs, cities, and homeowners deal with infected trees. The emerald ash borer has destroyed 150 to 200 million of America’s 8 billion ash trees, the Kansas City Star reports. Beetle infestation and drought have also claimed hundreds of millions of trees in other states, including California, Colorado and Minnesota. Last year, the Waterford Homeowners Association in Leawood, MO increased its annual assessment from $770 to $870 to help fund long-term treatment of some of its ash trees. Homeowners may also be individually responsible for removal costs if sick trees are on their property. Home-owner’s insurance generally does not pay for removal of a tree that has not fallen, and according to Home Advisor, a search site for home-improvement professionals, tree removal averages about $650.

    What you can do

    Take note of property lines so that you know which trees are yours. Make sure trees are healthy. If the area is suffering from a beetle blight, you might want to have a professional arborist check the trees on your property for damage. Whatever you do, don’t leave a dead tree standing—they pose a danger to people and property.

  8. 8. HOA fees to cover deadbeat neighbors

    It isn’t surprising when HOA fees rise to help pay for aging buildings or other infrastructure. Trulia HOA fee research indicates that average monthly fees—imposed to maintain shared property—increased to $331 in 2015, 32.4% higher than a decade earlier. But what happens when neighbors don’t pay up? The Waipahu, HI Village Park Community Association, managed by Cadmus Properties in Honolulu, decided last year to charge the responsible (read: paying) residents $80 extra. The special assessment was needed because a “substantial” number of homeowners hadn’t paid dues, Cadmus said.

    What you can do

    If you are buying a place with HOA fees, be aware that they will go up. Be sure to ask how often they typically get adjusted and how that gets decided. Do residents get to vote on increases and uses?

Read more home-buying tips:

8 Sneaky Ways to Take Your New Place for a Test-Drive

The Trick to Making One Extra Mortgage Payment This Year

Three Templates for Writing a Winning Buyer Letter


Have you run into any surprising costs of owning your home? Help out your fellow future homeowners by sharing them below.