4 Homeownership Expenses That Caught Me Off Guard

by Christy Bieber | Updated July 19, 2021 - First published on May 18, 2021

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A man changing hvac filter.

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Don't be surprised by these expenses like I was.

Most people know that buying a home comes with expenses beyond their mortgage loan -- such as property taxes and homeowners insurance.

While I was prepared for these expenses when I bought my house, there were a few surprise costs that really caught me off guard.

Here are four of those unexpected expenses.

1. HVAC filters

In order for your heating and cooling system to work effectively, it's important for air to flow easily. Dirty filters can make that impossible. As a result, my HVAC installers recommended I change my filters around twice per year or when they appear dirty.

With the filters for my unit coming at a cost of $49.99, this can add up. It's also not something that I was even aware of prior to buying my home. So I had to work it into my budget.

2. Chimney cleanings

We have a fireplace at our house, and we tend to use it often on cold nights. As a result, soot and creosote build up in the chimney. This can create a risk of a chimney fire, which would be a disaster.

To make sure our fireplace remains safe to use, we have our chimney cleaned once per year. This service costs around $250 each time, and it's something I never thought about having to pay for until my father-in-law mentioned it right before the second winter in our home.

3. Trash removal

When I lived in an apartment, I walked my trash to a chute and never had to think about it again.

That's not the case now that I have my own home. I had to arrange for a garbage service to come and pick up my trash. And in the area where I live, you don't have a choice of services. That means no shopping around for the best price.

It costs me $300 per year to have my trash picked up, and this isn't an expense that can be skipped since I can't exactly leave my garbage to pile up.

4. Water softener

When I moved into my home, it turned out I had hard water. This was causing unattractive stains and also wasn't very good for my pipes. This not only meant I had to install a water softener system, which cost several thousand dollars, but also that I'll need to pay for ongoing costs of water softener salt to add to my system.

While the cost of this isn't huge -- it's about $10 per month to run the system and buy salt for it -- it was still a surprise bill to add to my budget. And, of course, my water softener system won't last forever, so I need to plan for the day that it will end up having to be replaced.

All of these costs have made living in my home a little more expensive than I imagined it would be. When you buy your own house, you could end up facing some of the same expenses -- or there may be other surprises waiting for you.

The reality is that you can't anticipate everything you'll have to pay for, which is why it's so important to maintain a reasonable budget for your home and avoid taking on a mortgage that you struggle to afford.

If your housing costs are already at the top of your budget, you could really be in a bad situation when you inevitably discover unexpected homeownership costs. Fortunately, if you find yourself in that situation, you have options. To help you find ways to reduce your monthly mortgage payments or possibly secure a lower interest rate, check out our guide to refinancing your mortgage.

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