First-time home buyers are often besieged by information designed to help educate them about the home buying process and, specifically, the financial component of purchasing. Mortgage professionals talk about different kinds of loans and interest, explain about mortgage insurance, may offer points or other closing cost credits, recommend that buyers roll their homeowner’s insurance and real estate taxes into their monthly payment, and focus on providing competitive rates. While all of those things are important, my experience is that there is a vital expense of home buying that is rarely discussed: budgeting for maintenance. While not necessarily the job of the mortgage lender (the buyer’s agent should definitely discuss the costs of taking care of the house and property with the buyers), it certainly seems to be an overlooked topic.
I urge any buyers to consider costs beyond the obvious ones–renovating the 40 year-old bathroom is probably something you’ve considered–to thinking about budgeting to replace a furnace or roof in five years, or considering how much lawn maintenance and snow plowing is going to cost. How about yearly tree care? Branches that can fall on the roof should be addressed. Have a stone house? Great! We love stone houses on the Main Line. Do you know what stone work costs? Redoing patios and walkways will require you to learn. What about maintaining that deck or keeping your hardwood floors in good shape? Being “house poor” is no fun. Please, please, think about the costs of maintaining not just the house, but the property, too, when you are considering a purchase and budget a monthly amount to keep in a “maintenance/repair” account.