More Than a Mortgage: The Cost of Owning a Home

You'll Need to Pay for Appliances, Maintenance, Repairs

Sunny house and yard
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A common myths that you'll ALWAYS be "throwing money away" on rent.

The fact is, as a homeowner, you incur the cost of owning a home. You have to account for property taxes, homeowner's insurance, maintenance, and repairs. You'll need tools and equipment for those repairs.

We haven't even mentioned the after-tax deductions proportion of your mortgage interest. Crunch the numbers to see which scenario costs more.

Depending on where you live, renting CAN be the better deal.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that their mortgage is the only major bill associated with home ownership. They'll run a straight comparison between what they're paying for rent and what their mortgage will cost. If those two numbers are similar, they'll assume buying a home is a better deal.

Don't get me wrong - buying a home is sometimes a better deal. Sometimes it isn't. Let's take a look at what your rent pays for, beyond the landlord's mortgage.

Insurance, Taxes, and Utilities

A mortgage is only one of many expenses associated with owning a home. You'll also have to pay property taxes and homeowner's insurance (which are often included in the monthly mortgage bill).

You'll need to pay for all the utilities, including water and trash. (In many areas, it's customary for the landlord to pay for some utilities.)

Appliances

As a renter, if an appliance breaks, you simply call the landlord.

As a homeowner, you're responsible for replacing those appliances.

Wear-and-Tear

Most non-mechanical things don't "break," per se. Many things - like faucets, gutter seams, and cabinet doors - get worn out and need to be replaced.

Here are some items in your home that will need to be replaced:

Interior:

  • Carpet and Carpet Padding - every 5 to 10 years
  • Windows - Every 20 to 30 years
  • Water Heater - Every 6 to 20 years, depending on the model
  • HVAC System - Every 10 to 20 years
  • Kitchen Cabinets and Bath Vanities - Every 5 to 20 years, depending on the building material
  • Cabinet Hardware - Every 5 to 10 years
  • Bathtubs - Every 5 to 15 years
  • Vinyl Flooring - Every 5 to 10 years
  • Faucets, Basins, and Pipes - Every 5 to 15 years

Exterior:

  • Gutters - Every 15 to 20 years
  • Roof - Every 15 to 25 years
  • Siding - Every 15 to 25 years
  • Paint and Weatherproofing - Every 10 to 15 years
  • Fence and Deck - Every 10 to 25 years, depending on how weather-sealed it is

In other words: even if you buy a brand-new home, you'll have to remodel your house at least a decade before you're done repaying your mortgage.

Maintenance

Houses require an enormous amount of maintenance. Once a year you'll need to apply a pest-control treatment to your house, power wash the exterior, and apply weedkiller. You should also plant annuals, steam-clean the carpets, and tune-up the air-conditioning unit.

Twice a year you'll need to fertilize the lawn and prune back the trees. For the interior, you should change out the air filters and clean the lint system that's connected to the dryer vent.

To do all this work, you'll need to save enough money to buy various tools. Consider purchasing a lawnmower, a sprinkler system, several ladders, a seed spreader, an aerator, rakes, hoes, shovels, mulch, and a gutter cleaner.

You'll also need a drill, a wrench set, and space to keep all your tools and supplies.

To insulate your house in the winter, you'll also need to buy things like caulk, spray-foam, and weatherstripping. None of these are expensive, but they add up.

Repairs

In addition to routine maintenance, many smaller things at your house might break.

For example, you'll have to replace your screen door when the screen tears, change out your door locks as they get older, or replace your kitchen faucet. (A faucet alone will cost more than $100, and if it's time to replace the sink, you'll be shelling out another $200 or more.)

How Much Will This All Cost?

The cost of all this repair and maintenance varies greatly, so it's hard to state any rule of thumb. Factors that impact it includes:

  • The age of your home
  • The condition of your home (how well did the last owners maintain it?)
  • The climate and weather in your area (gutters that endure the freeze/thaw cycle each winter, for example, normally won't last as long as gutters in an area that never freezes)