The Hidden Costs of Homeownership: 16 Expenses You Didn’t Expect

On the surface, owning a home is like living the American dream. You own property, you’re in decent financial shape, and every mortgage payment brings you close to owning your house outright. Unfortunately, home ownership comes with several pitfalls, including unexpected expenses.

Owning a home is nothing like renting. New homeowners could be in for a rude awakening if they don’t adequately prepare themselves for these unavoidable costs.

1. Landscaping

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Owning a home takes work. To be more precise, it often takes copious amounts of backbreaking and tedious manual labor. Your yard won’t landscape itself.

As a homeowner, you may dread doing everything necessary to keep your lawn looking good: cutting the grass, trimming hedges, pulling weeds, and generally making sure everything is nice-looking. It’s exhausting, but it must be done.

2. Appliance Upkeep

Stainless steel appliances
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Arguably, nothing stings harder than having to replace a major household appliance. Unfortunately, things we take for granted, like dishwashers, washers, dryers, ranges, and refrigerators, eventually break down and need to be repaired or (at worst) replaced.

These big-ticket items could put a big dent in your monthly budget, so do yourself a favor and periodically inspect them to ensure they last longer.

3. Extra Furniture

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Unless you’re a savvy homebuyer who actually downsized when they graduated from renting to owning, any new home will be larger than the place you previously rented. That poses a problem in the form of a critical unexpected expense: new furniture.

Seemingly overnight, you’ll be tasked with outfitting more square footage than ever before, and I don’t know if you know this, but furniture and home decor aren’t cheap.

4. A Security System

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Investing in a security system isn’t just about protecting your family and loved ones but also your investment. A person’s most significant purchase will likely be their home, so installing a security system for peace of mind (especially if you live in a not-so-good neighborhood) is essential.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where properly securing your home is always a good idea, even if it comes at a significant financial cost.

5. Everyday Repairs

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Things will break around your home. Whether you find holes in the wall from art hanging gone awry or broken windows from a badly hit baseball in the backyard, and everything in between, you’ll be faced with a litany of minor repairs throughout your mortgage.

These minor, everyday repairs are just that: minor. However, they can add up significantly over time, contributing to your homeowner’s expenses.

6. Mortgage Insurance

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You need the foresight (and ability) to put a substantial down payment on your home to avoid being forced to pay for mortgage insurance, which will only add to your monthly homeowner’s expenses. Millions of people pay for mortgage insurance nationwide, regardless of income level.

Mortgage insurance is a nagging monthly expense that will loom over your head. Thankfully, once you have enough home equity, the mortgage insurance can be removed.

7. Clogged Plumbing

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I refuse to use my home’s built-in garbage disposal because I’ve clogged far too many of them as a renter. Thankfully, my landlord covered the repair costs, but that’s an advantage I don’t have as a homeowner. Otherwise, homeowners can expect to pay to repair clogged plumbing every now and then.

Clogged toilets and other plumbing issues may pose potential financial problems of its own.

8. HOA Fees

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As nearly every homeowner will tell you, the local homeowner’s association is the bane of all owners’ existence. While the merits of an HOA are a topic for a later date, the unexpected expense of substantial annual fees can dampen the entire home-owning experience.

If you play your cards right, you’ll buy a home in an area without an HOA, or your annual fees are inexpensive enough to be manageable.

9. Every Light Fixture

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Lightbulbs eventually burn out. Unfortunately, that’s a fact of life. I’ve lived in many apartments that provided free lightbulb replacements courtesy of the handyman, but that doesn’t apply to owning your own home. Be prepared to pay out of pocket for lightbulbs (as trivial as that sounds).

Savvy homeowners replace old-school incandescent light bulbs with superior LED versions due to the latter’s longer life.

10. Exterior Maintenance

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Roofs don’t last forever. Neither does siding. Neither does masonry or brickwork. Making repairs to your home’s exterior is an expense no homeowner wants to take on, but unfortunately, you don’t have much of a choice in the matter.

Either make peace with having the ugliest house on the block or pay for expensive exterior repairs. (We know which option your significant other prefers.)

11. Trash Pickup

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Weekly trash collection costs money, and without a landlord to pay this utility, the burden falls on you, the new homeowner. Get used to it, though. You’ll be at the mercy of trash collectors for the duration of your ownership and pay a lot for it.

Trash pickup is a dirty job, but somebody has to do it, and they must be paid for their hard work.

12. Snow Removal

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Unless you have an undying love for shoveling snow, you’re in for a rude awakening during winter if you own a home in a particularly snowy area of the country. Shoveling snow is hard work, so most people pay someone to do it for them.

Of course, this adds up. It’s 2024, and paying someone a few dollars to shovel your driveway in below-freezing temperatures won’t cut it. Expect to pay several hundred dollars each season for snow removal.

13. Leaf Pickup

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If you thought removing snow from your driveway and sidewalk was a major pain, it doesn’t compare to paying a company to haul away leaves during the fall. Expect to pay for leaf pickup unless you’re graced with a generous HOA in your neighborhood or a city that does it as part of the sanitation service.

It was a rough day when I realized the leaf fairy didn’t magically appear at certain times of the year.

14. Property Taxes

Property tax, taxes, home, house
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Renters have it easy, don’t they? They get to sit back and enjoy a wonderful living environment without having to pay the bane of a homeowner’s existence: property taxes. Uncle Sam demands to be paid each year, and the more expensive your home is, the more taxes you owe annually.

While I’m as pro-tax as it gets, I daydream about how much happier I’d be if I never had to pay property taxes again.

15. Flooring

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Whether you prefer carpets, hardwood, or cement flooring, there will eventually come a day when you have to replace the floors throughout your house. It’s a sad day for you and your wallet, but it’s all but guaranteed to happen. Prepare yourself now.

Replacement flooring (consisting of any material) costs thousands of dollars. In other words, start telling your kids to stop spilling liquids on the carpet now.

16. The Mental Expense

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Perhaps the most significant expense is the mental toll of owning a home. Unlike renting, owning a home is permanent (for the most part). There is no “pack up and move to a new place next year” when you buy a house, and that sense of finality can be overwhelming, especially for new homeowners.

Owning a home requires a leap of faith, a good head on your shoulders, and a healthy aversion to risk. Not many people possess those qualities.

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