Allen Norwood

Surprise home expenses

Which home expenses would you warn first-time buyers to budget for, in addition to mortgage principal and interest? Which ones never crossed your mind – until you bought your first house?

We’re planning some tree work, and it struck me that trees might top my list of expenses we didn’t anticipate.

Every other home ad seems to tout “wooded lot!” But tree work is expensive: Having a couple of trees removed can easily equal a monthly house payment.

When you buy your first house, nobody ever warns you about tree bills.

There’s limitless online advice for first-time buyers, tallying up all the expenses that come with home ownership. Lots of the tips are good.

There’s maintenance, plus lawn care and pest control. Even if you tackle many jobs yourself, you’ll need tools and supplies.

Homeowner association fees. Don’t forget those. I’ve seen agents and brokers explain HOA fees to prospective first-time buyers – and watched eyes in the audience get bigger and bigger.

HOA fees come at regular intervals, but assessments don’t.

Condo and townhouse assessments often are for things you’d spend on if you owned a single-family home, it’s just that someone else is making decisions about the amount and timing. (And those board members don’t care that you just bought a new leather sofa for your living room.)

I don’t remember ever seeing anything specifically about the cost of removing trees.

And I’ve never read much at length about the differences between those expenses that come at regular intervals, like insurance and taxes, and those that always seem to show up in the middle of the night at Christmas – like leaking hot water heaters.

The differences are important. You can budget for those regular expenses, even if they’re a stretch. For the surprise ones, well, create an emergency reserve fund – and cross your fingers.

Trees fall somewhere in between. They’re expensive, but – unless they topple onto your house – you typically have some control over when you write the checks.

Anyway, the point here is not to terrify prospective first-time buyers, but to help them.

So, what expenses would you counsel them to be sure to plan for? Any that sneaked up on you? What other budgeting advice would you offer?

Drop me an email at the address below, and we’ll share the best comments.