How much does owning a home really cost?

It's not just mortgage and taxes. Owning a home could bring on some unexpected expenses.

Couple looking at an empty home

When Jonathan Villoslada and his family moved into their new home in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, in June, they were hit by big surprise bills. Issues such as landscaping and painting cost the family over $4,000, an expense they didn’t budget for.

“I didn’t budget too much,” said Villoslada, 40. “It was one of those things, you take it for what it is; I was definitely surprised by the cost, to see how much it is.” 

It’s known as the hidden cost of home ownership. A new study by real estate website Zillow essential home services can add up to $15,000 a year. That’s an average of $1,180 a month on top of a typical mortgage payment. 

First-time buyers need to accommodate for these challenges when calculating how much they can afford. The cost of services and maintenance are more expensive in pricey metro areas, topping $22,000 annually in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to Zillow. 

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Real estate agent Max Stokes of Compass Real Estate tells clients to plan for the unexpected. 

“I would say the best way to prepare for maintenance is when you’re buying a home to have your Realtor vet the seller to get previous bills, whether it’s a utility bill or lawn maintenance,” Stokes said. “Things of that nature so they get a sense of what things will cost going forward.”

Some of the essential maintenance projects include air conditioning, duct cleaning, gutter cleaning and tree trimming.  

The Villoslada family is taking the time to settle in to see what chores they can do themselves and what chores must be outsourced.         

How much a homeowner spends on home maintenance varies depending on a few factors besides the location of the real estate market. The age of the home and the home’s condition are major variables, as well as climate-specific maintenance.