Owning a home doesn't just mean saving up a down payment, making mortgage installments, covering property taxes, and buying insurance. It also means grappling with the ongoing expenses that come with owning property.
Most people know to budget some amount of money for ongoing home maintenance and upkeep. But the amount you actually need to spend may surprise you, especially when you hear what homeowners forked over last year.
Average home spending in 2018
The average homeowner spent $9,081 last year on home services, according to HomeAdvisor. The costs broke down as follows:
- $7,560 on home improvements
- $1,105 on home maintenance
- $416 on home emergencies
That's a lot of money, and it underscores the importance of preparing for homeownership rather than winging it or going in blind. And while the bulk of that $9,081 comes from home improvements, renovations are often necessary to make a home livable.
For example, if your windows are old and drafty, upgrading them could constitute an unavoidable expense. Therefore, while improvements don't quite fall into the same category as maintenance and repairs (including those of the emergency variety), they're often the sort of thing that can't easily be put off.
Grappling with home expenses
Some expenses are unavoidable when you own property. These include repairs (think water leaks, electrical issues, or roofing problems) and upkeep (like lawn care, gutter cleanings, and power washings). That's why it's crucial to budget for home maintenance once you become a property owner. If you don't, you risk racking up debt when maintenance and repair items creep up, which they assuredly will.
The amount of money you allocate to maintenance and repairs will depend on the state of your home when you buy it. Homeowners are generally advised that upkeep will cost between 1% and 4% of their property's value annually, but that's a wide range.
If you have an older home, you may need to assume you'll hit the higher end of that range. And if you've purchased a new construction, budgeting for that 1% mark could be more than reasonable.
Not only must you budget for home maintenance and repairs, but you should also have a healthy amount of emergency savings on hand before you buy property. That way, you'll have a means of tackling costly repairs that your budget may not allow for. A solid emergency fund contains enough money to cover three to six months of living expenses, but you may want to put additional funds aside for home issues only.
Of course, there are ways to cover home maintenance, repairs, and renovations if you don't have the cash but also don't want to rack up loads of credit card debt. If you have equity in your home, you can borrow against it to finance these items, but be aware that there are risks and drawbacks to going that route, too.
Know what you're signing up for
Owning a home is an expensive prospect. If you're not sure you can swing it, talk to homeowners you know and see what their actual expenses look like. Then take an honest assessment of your own finances and see what you can really afford.
There's no getting out of home maintenance and repairs, and improvements are often a necessity, too. Keep that in mind before you make plans to sign a mortgage.