Sleeper Costs of Buying a Home

Purchasing a home is one of the most rewarding times in many people’s lives. It can also be one of the most stressfull. The build up to buying a house is huge, you have to scrape and save to get the money together for the down payment. The search then starts for the best rates on your impending mortgage and figuring out what you will qualify for.   Then you enter the hunt for the perfect house, the home to meet all of your wants and needs. Buying my first place was probably the proudest moment, aside from the birth of my sons, in my entire life.  I had achieved something no other child in my family had, I bought a house. At the age of 23 I was now a home owner to say it was amazing was an understatement.

Once I closed escrow and took ownership the fun started. You move in and start to arrange furniture the way you want and get things situated exactly right. Then once the couch is perfectly positioned you go to plug in the cable box only to realize there isn’t a cable, there is no wall plate, and all you have is black box that flickers. This is when the sleeper costs start to really add up. Something has to be done to get your perfect TV,  in the perfect place, in your perfect house. Guess what that is going to cost you money. If you do it it won’t be that bad but to pay the Crapcast guy to do it you are out like $100. This is just an example of the sleeper costs that you don’t think about or take into consideration before you buy a home, here are a few more.

  • Cable/Phone Installation – If you are buying a new home you are going to have to pay to have the cable hookup’s initially run from the street to your home. They generally don’t wave this fee, even if they will wave other installation fees. The fact is the cables aren’t buried to your house, just out by the street. In some cases they have to hire a contractor to bore under the road to your yard, that costs them and they pass it on to you. Used homes can sometimes get away without it as it is already “connected”.
  • Utility Connect Fees – Similar to cable if the home has never had electric, gas, or water service you may have to pay an initial connect fee. The same fee applies if you fail to transfer over utilities from a previous owner. Make sure you coordinate with the sellers so utility responsibility transfers on the day you close escrow so you avoid unnecessary fees.
  • Home Owners Associations – Commonly referred to as the busy body club, the HOA is usually responsible for upkeep of the neighborhood entrance and generally causing disdain amongst neighbors. Hopefully you were made aware of any HOA fees prior to purchasing your home. In some unfinished developments there may not be a fee until the developer actually completes the hood and turns it over. Watch out for situations like this because they could cost you in the end.
  • Paint – My first house was 1100 sq ft. I think it took me all of 3 gallons of paint to make it my own. That was a lot more than I expected. My current house is 3044 sq ft. and painting it is going to bankrupt me. Paint ain’t cheap and don’t pretend it is. If you get the cheap stuff it will probably take you ten times the coats to make it look decent and it will even out with the expensive stuff. Builder beige is only good for so long.
  • Landscaping – The Jones’ are some mean SOB’s. Their lawn is always greener, their bushes are always thicker, and their flowers are always prettier. Keeping your yard from looking like that creepy house from The Burbs costs cash. You are going to need at least three things; a lawn mower, a weed eater, and a blower. Without these essential lawn maintenance tools you will quickly be known as “that guy.”
  • Utility Bills – The amount you are going to spend on utilities is directly proportionate to the age and size of the home you are buying. The older and bigger the home the more it is going to cost you to heat and cool it. Don’t discount the number of people who are showering either. All of these factors contribute to higher utility bills. If you can I would ask to see a sample utility bill for the home you are purchasing.
  • Tax Increases – The amount you pay into escrow correlates to the amount of taxes and insurance you are required to pay on your home. If the taxes on your property haven’t been reassessed in several years you can almost count on the county/city coming out and doing an assessment. They generally disregard the actual real estate market so you can expect your property taxes to go up.
  • Air Filters – No one ever thinks about an air filter when they are buying a house but these things can be pretty damn expensive. Both my oldest son and I have sensitive allergies and require pretty clean indoor air. What this means is we have to be diligent about replacing our furnaces’ air filters regularly. When we replace them we use high quality low allergen filters. These things are freaking expensive, I am talking around $20+ a piece and I need three.
  • Light Bulbs – Yes I really said light bulbs. It would seem there are thousands of these things in my home and they were forever burning out. We have since replaced most of the incandescent bulbs with flourescent. The rule of thumb is that if it is a oddly shaped expensive bulb it lasts 1/1000th the time as a regular 60 watt bulb. In my house this stands for any bulb that requires an extension ladder to change.


1 Jason @ MyMoneyMinute October 27, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Great list. We moved into a brand new house 5 years ago. In addition to all that stuff, we also had to shell out cash for blinds for the windows. Luckily we had grass in our back yard. Many new homes don’t come with sod already installed.

2 Kyle October 27, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Good call, I forgot window treatments those things are bloody expensive.

3 Credit Card Chaser October 27, 2009 at 10:58 pm

Great list – also I would add pest treatments and pool treatments if you live in the south and have a pool like many homes in the south.

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