3 Surprises That Can Wreck New Homeowners' Budgets

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 19, 2021 - First published on May 9, 2021

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These things could throw you for a major loop.

When my husband and I bought our home just over a decade ago, we decided not to purchase at the very top of our budget. We wanted our mortgage payments to be reasonable, and we wanted to leave wiggle room in case owning that home wound up being more expensive than we expected.

That turned out to be a smart decision -- it's saved us a world of stress (and debt). If you're a first-time home buyer, here are a few financial surprises that you should be prepare for.

1. Rising property taxes

In the 10 or so years that my husband and I have been in our home, our property taxes have increased by about $8,000. That's a big jump, even over 10 years. Worse yet, from our first year in our home to our second, our tax bill went up about $2,000 when the town reassessed our home.

When you buy a home, don't just look at its current property tax bill -- also look at its tax history. That should give you a sense of how often your taxes might climb.

2. High maintenance costs

Most homeowners know to budget for home maintenance. But if you're new to owning a place of your own, you might forget about some maintenance items that can be quite costly. A basic gutter cleaning in my neck of the woods, for example, is about $150 to $200. And usually, we need at least two cleanings per year. Furthermore, you might spend money for grass cutting, snow removal, fence repainting, and power washing of your siding -- and these are just a handful of examples.

If you're new to owning a home, talk to people who have owned for a while and ask them to list the maintenance items they deal with. That might help you account for expenses that otherwise wouldn't hit your radar, and from there, you can budget accordingly.

3. Unexpected repairs

Buying a home in good shape does not mean you won't face repairs. In fact, my husband and I bought a brand-new home -- we watched the construction from the ground up -- but within our first few years there, we still had plenty of things break.

Home repairs can be hard to anticipate, and some are costly. It's a good idea to put a line item for home repairs into your household budget. You should also build a healthy emergency fund before buying. That way, you reduce your chances of landing in debt for an expensive and necessary fix.

As a new homeowner, you may uncover a world of surprises -- good and bad. Keep these in mind so you can plan appropriately.

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