by Maurie Backman | Jan. 30, 2021
Your home could cost more money than expected. Here's how to eke out some savings.
When you buy a home, it's not just your monthly mortgage payment you'll need to cover. You'll need to contend with other expenses, like property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and repairs. Unfortunately, those costs are largely unavoidable and can push you dangerously close to busting your budget. But that doesn't mean you can't do your part to lower those expenses. Here are a few tricks that could result in substantial savings.
Your property taxes are calculated by taking the assessed value of your home and multiplying it by your city or town's tax rate. You can't change the latter -- your local tax rate is what it is -- but you can argue that your home is overvalued. If you manage to knock down your home's assessed value, your property tax bill will drop as a result.
You'll generally have an opportunity to contest your property tax bill once a year, though the process varies from town to town (or city to city). In some areas, you can appeal your property taxes by mail. In other places, you'll need to actually go to court for an in-person appeal. But either way, if you can prove your home's assessment is too high, you could get a nice break on your tax bill.
How do you prove you're over-assessed? Call your town office and find out how to access public records, which should include property assessments for all homes in its jurisdiction. From there, you can compare the assessed value of your home to that of other homes in the area. If those properties are assessed for less but you know your homes are comparable, that will support your case. You can also look at listed homes for sale in your area and see what asking prices they're commanding. If homes that are similar to yours are selling for less than your assessed value, that's another leg to stand on.
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Homeowners insurance premiums can be very expensive, but if you also own a vehicle, you have an opportunity to lower them. Many insurers offer a discount to customers who bundle their homeowners and auto policies (meaning, those who buy both from the same source). As such, it pays to see if doing so will benefit you financially.
If you own a home that's part of a homeowners association (HOA), you'll need to pay monthly dues that can really eat into your budget. But if you make an effort to get more involved with your HOA, you may be able to bring those dues down -- not just for yourself, but for everyone involved.
Joining your HOA board will likely involve going to meetings and putting in the time to work on different initiatives for your housing community. If you're willing to make that effort, you could lower your costs. For example, say you join your HOA board and volunteer to take on the task of finding cheaper landscaping and snow removal services. If you're successful, you may be able to bring down everyone's HOA fees.
Owning a home costs money -- but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to save as much as you can. If you're having trouble keeping up with your home expenses, employ the above tips. Additionally, unless you signed your mortgage recently, it could pay to look into refinancing. Doing so could lower the amount you spend each month on principal and interest. That's a great way to cut your costs and make your home more affordable.
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