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The real costs of home ownership

Published: Oct 14, 2009

The true costs of owning a home can be staggering for a first-time homeowner. In addition to the expenses you might expect (like your mortgage) other costs, like maintenance and utilities, can run up the bill. Here's a list of what you can expect to pay beyond the traditional mortgage and property tax bills.

  • Homeowner's insurance

    In 2006, the average yearly premium in homeowner's insurance was $804, according to the Insurance Information Institute. That's an average increase of 5.2% from 2005. You can expect that premium to be higher now, since it's been a few years since the institute collected their data. (Plus, insurance premiums almost always go up.)

  • Utility bills

    When you own a home, you'll have to pay for electricity, heating, cooling, water and sewer. While utility prices vary widely across the U.S., you can expect to pay hundreds of dollars for these services throughout the year.

  • Internet/cable/phone bills

    Unless you drop your land line and go Internet- and cable-free at home, you'll have to pay for these services as well. Prices for these vary across the U.S. (and can be higher or lower, depending on the level of the plans you carry), but expect to pay at least $100 to $150 a month for all three.

  • Repair/maintenance costs

    They call it Murphy's Law, but perhaps it should be called "Homeowner's Law." When you own a home, something is bound to break or need replacing. And when repairmen charge a fee just to take a look at a problem (not to mention the cost of fixing it), a homeowner should always hold at least some cash in reserve to cover unforeseen expenses and emergencies.

  • Cleaning supplies

    Keeping a home clean costs money. There's the expense of buying a vacuum cleaner (and keeping it in good repair), plus the extra cost of purchasing cleaning must-haves like vacuum bags, sponges, paper towels and cleansers. Even if you go green and just use vinegar and water and old rags to clean, the vinegar still costs you something and you may want to re-use and wash those rags (at your expense).

  • Lawn maintenance/cleaning services

    If you'd rather bring in a cleaning service, expect to pay about $80 a week or more. If you don't want to cut the lawn, either, expect to throw in an extra $20 to $40 a week.

  • Decorating/furnishing/landscaping expenses

    Once you purchase a home, no doubt you're going to want to furnish and decorate it. You may also want to improve the landscaping or add a deck or patio. Furnishing just a single room doesn't come cheap -- think a few hundred dollars if you buy new -- and adding just a small patio to your backyard could cost a few thousand dollars ($6,000 to $8,000 isn't unheard of, depending on the style of the patio and the materials) if you bring in a professional.

  • Homeowners' association fees

    If you live in a community with a homeowner's association (HOA), you'll also have to pay homeowners' association fees. These fees vary according to where you live and the services offered by the HOA, but they can run from less than $100 a month to several hundred dollars monthly. That hurts.

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Buying and owning a home is a big expense -- besides the purchase price, there are the property taxes, heating and cooling costs, maintenance expenses…the list goes on. But the good news is that there are tax savings available to homeowners. Read on ...

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