Watch Out for These Added Costs When Buying a House

House with a 'Sold' sign


You’ve found a house you like and a down payment you can afford, but buying real estate isn’t that simple. There are thousands of dollars worth of extra steps, hidden fees, and charges between you and homeownership, and they need to be considered well before you make an offer. These are the costs to tack onto the cost of a home when tallying up your payments. (As with everything else these days, the coronavirus is having an impact here, too.)

Related: New Rules for Buying and Selling a Home During the Pandemic

writing a check at bank teller


This $500 to $1,000 in “earnest money” basically states your intention to buy a home. It’s a security deposit with a bit of a cooling-off period for those who get nervous about their purchase, but gets folded into the down payment if you actually go through with buying the house. Know that the check doesn’t get cashed right away and may disappear altogether if you back out after the cooling-off period.

Related: 25 Home-Buying Myths Debunked

man sweeping pool

Bill Oxford/istockphoto

If you’ve bought a condominium — or a home, in some communities — you’re going to have condo or homeowner association fees to cover the cost of maintaining and repairing common areas. The pools, lobby, landscaping, and elevators that enticed you into buying a home in the first place can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars a year.

Related: 26 HOA Horror Stories That Will Make You Fear Homeowners Associations

suburb neighborhood aerial drone view Cedar Park, Texas


It’s right there in the real estate listing, but not factored into the price you see. Reading that tax estimate and dividing it by 12 will give some idea of what monthly payments will be, but getting an average property tax for the area will give some idea of just how high those taxes may get.

Related: Counties With the Highest and Lowest Property Taxes

Asian couple looking at laptop in kitchen


Couldn’t come up with a 20% down payment? Your lender now views you as a foreclosure risk and will slap 0.3% to 1.5% onto the cost of a mortgage to protect themselves. It won’t go away until the amount of mortgage owed drops to 80% of the home’s appraised value.

Related: What You Need to Know When Shopping For a Mortgage

hands protecting little plastic house


Do you like having a home and all of the items in it? Unless you want flood, wind, or fire damage to take that all away, you’ll pay an average $1,445 a year in insurance.

Related: 11 Things That Can Go Wrong When Closing on a House

flood in living room


Flood insurance alone can easily jack up home insurance premiums by 50%. Earthquake insurance is similarly costly. If you live in an area where either disaster is a reasonable risk, you’ll have to decide if the risk outweighs the cost.

Related: 10 Costly Home Repairs Your Insurance Might Not Cover

erasing interest rate


If all you’re doing to calculate mortgage interest is checking the rate on Freddie Mac, you’re in for a surprise. Your debt, income, down payment, and credit score will also factor in to determine how many points you have working for or against you.

Related: 16 Biggest Credit Score Mistakes to Avoid

Mortgage Application


Yep, you’re going to be charged just for applying for a mortgage, and that fee can balloon to $500. Make sure you have your credit in order, as that’s a lot of money to waste on a declined application.

Related: Refinancing Your Home: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Looking at credit score on a phone


While you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every year, mortgage companies have to pay for it. They pass that cost on, and it can set you back $25 to $100.

Related: 16 Biggest Credit Score Mistakes to Avoid

hand on calculator with papers on desk, doing accounting


You’re being charged not only to have your mortgage application reviewed (unless you’re applying for a Federal Housing Administration loan), but also for a flood certification fee, commitment fee, documentation preparation fee, wire transfer fee, processing fee, and tax service fee, often well into the four figures.

Couple speaking with a man in a bank


Another fee a potential homebuyer is charged simply for dealing with a mortgage provider. Sometimes it’s a flat fee, but often an origination or service fee is 1% to 2% of the cost of the loan.

Related: 13 Things to Consider When Buying a House After 50

inspectors or blue collar workers examine building wall


An appraisal determines the value of the home and loan-to-value ratio of the mortgage. The cost of the work has to be paid up front, since an appraiser needs to be paid regardless of whether you buy a home. Expect to pay around $300 to $400.

low credit score being erased


If your credit score is too miserable to get the lowest interest rate on a mortgage, you could always pay your way out of it with a “discount” fee. This “discount” can be 1% to 3% of your purchase price.

Related: 14 Ways to Fix a Bad Credit Score

woman working at home


The good news about the lender credit you get when locking in an interest rate is that it will reduce the amount paid in closing costs. The bad news is that you’re likely paying a higher interest rate than you should. Crunch the numbers before taking this option.

Related: I Just Bought My First Home at Age 47 and This is What I’ve Learned

mixed-race mortgage woman helping Asian customer

Weekend Images Inc./istockphoto

It’s great that a mortgage provider wants to lock you into the best rate possible, but don’t think they’re happy about missing out on a higher rate. A rate lock on a $250,000 mortgage, for instance, could end up costing you 1% of the loan ($2,500).

signing paper with home in background


Someone has to search public records for your new home. Then there are notary fees for the person witnessing your signature on documents, government filing fees, and other title-related fees. Set aside between $150 and $400 for these services.

surveyor drawing home plan


To determine the size and dimensions of your property, you’ll need a survey. The cost of surveying property hovers around $463, but can be as expensive as $950.

Related: 21 Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

mortgage consultation


Attorney fees, title insurance, property transfer taxes: All fall under the heading of closing costs. They also vary widely by location, with some of the costlier cities in the country hitting homebuyers around $7,500 or more in closing costs, while some areas could be closer to $3,000.

Calculator and pen in front of model house and coins


There are all sorts of little charges hidden in those closing costs, including a roughly $50 charge just to make sure all of a property’s tax payments are up to date. It may seem like a hassle, but so is buying a home with a tax lien on it.

Hand placing money down


You aren’t just paying off a mortgage with monthly mortgage payments. If you’re paying insurance, PMI, and property taxes, you’ll be utilizing an escrow account that will require an initial escrow deposit. That amount will be determined by the cost of your insurance, taxes, and other payments.

home inspector examines outside


You’re required to have a general home inspection, but if you have specific concerns, you may have to pay for specialized inspections. Pests, lead-based paint, chimneys, easements, foundations, the roof, soil stability, radon, methane, asbestos, well water, and other concerns often require a la carte inspections to address.

Related: 30 Questions You Need to Ask at Your Home Inspection

close up of utility bill


As Trulia’s real estate agents point out, you’re well within your rights to ask current homeowners for their utility information before buying. It’ll give some idea of what a home’s monthly costs will be, but also what issues may need to be addressed.

Related: Which States Have the Highest Gas Bills?

customer choosing large fridges in domestic appliances section


Don’t just assume the stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, or chest freezer seen during an open house comes with the home. If they aren’t part of the conditions of sale, they may be gone when you move in and add yet another cost to the home purchase.

Related: How to Make Sure Your Appliances Don’t Fail When You Can’t Get Them Repaired

mold inspection


In damp climates, a mold inspection should be mandatory. But mold doesn’t always show up when it’s most convenient. It hides in attics, behind wallpaper and carpets, and in other corners. It’s fairly simple to prevent, but costly to remove.

close-up of man putting hardwood floor panels


A new home may have flimsy siding, wonky floors, inadequate waterproofing, or other problems — and though sellers only have to disclose less-than-obvious defects if they know about them, there are ways to duck some of that responsibility. Research a builder’s reputation and don’t do something foolish like stint on inspections.

man erecting a wooden fence outdoors


If a newly built home doesn’t have fencing, a deck, window coverings, or even landscaping, don’t just assume it will be there after you close the deal. Ask the builder; if what’s missing isn’t included and doesn’t fit your budget, ask the builder to cover closing costs and free up some money.

contractor installing a new laminate kitchen counter top


Be careful when touring a model home, since features there often won’t be included in a less-expensive newly built base model. If you see a grand foyer, granite countertops, hardwood floors, or especially large bathrooms, ask if they are included in the base price.

construction site of new homes


Looking at a whole development of new construction? You can’t tell what a neighborhood is like if there isn’t a neighborhood there. If the school district isn’t established, the crime rate hasn’t been measured, and no neighbors have moved in, what will be the cost of addressing all of the above in the future? A new subdivision or community is a gamble that’s up to the homebuyer to assess.

Related: 42 Metro Areas Where New Home Construction Is Booming

construction of newly built home


When buying a newly built home, you are by no means obligated to take the financing offered by a builder. In many cases, it is far from the best offer available, so consider all mortgage options before moving forward and avoid an unnecessary cost of buying.

couple planning new room


If you don’t like what you’re seeing at first glance and think “Hey, I can fix this,” get a rough estimate first. Remodeling multiple rooms can add an average $46,000 to the cost of a home.

Related: DIY Disasters: 20 Repairs to Leave to the Pros

man pushing wheelbarrow over grass


If you don’t like the look of the surrounding property or aren’t sure about your ability to maintain it, don’t underestimate the cost of simple maintenance or landscaping. Landscaping projects can cost $5,000 to $100,000, while even simple maintenance can cost hundreds of dollars.

Related: How to Stop Spending $400 a Year on Your Lawn and Garden

man cleaning chimney

Bill Oxford/istockphoto

If your house comes with a functional fireplace or wood stove, the best-case scenario has you cleaning it annually for an average of $240 a pop. If it needs to be repointed, rebuilt, or lined, that one-time cost can run into the thousands.

closeup of a pool cleaning device


You may really love that built-in swimming pool in the backyard, but you’re signing on for years of maintenance. Even if you limit the costs to opening and closing the pool — which is a great way to ensure paying far more for repairs later — it’s still can be $450 a year


Related: 20 Reasons Not to Put in a Backyard Pool

repairing driveway


You finally have a dedicated parking spot that belongs to you and no one else. You also have a stretch of asphalt, concrete, brick, or other material that the local Department of Public Works won’t fix. Unless you have a gravel driveway that costs $300 to repair, tops, you’re looking at up to $2,600+ each time it needs a repair.

new installed water bore


Are you off the grid and on well water? Did the previous owner dig a well just for irrigation? In either case you have a well to maintain, and that costs money. It may be less than the cost of municipal water, but maintenance is harder to do without a paid crew and can get really expensive if you don’t know your way around a well pump and keep running the well dry.

domestic wastewater treatment


Hey, they’re still out there. Not hooking into a sewer system can save a bundle, and septic tanks also cost relatively little to maintain every few years — but a lot to repair if you don’t do proper maintenance.

close-up of person cleaning the tiled wall


If you’re moving from an apartment to a house, expect to spend a lot more time cleaning. While that, in itself, isn’t costly, cleaning supplies are. And foisting it off on a cleaning service costs an average of $167 each time.

Related: 16 Filthy Things Even Clean Freaks Miss

woman on ladder outside house doing repairs


The average U.S. worker makes a little under $30 an hour. Keep this in mind when you’re spending an increasing number of hours each week cleaning, fixing, and maintaining a new property.

man clearing leaves from guttering of house


If you aren’t spending time cleaning gutters, you’re spending $70 to $200 to have someone else clean them. If you have a steep or incredibly high roof, it’s far less than the medical bills incurred from a fall.

sprinklers in yard


Bet that seemed like a great feature during the home-buying process, too. But simple maintenance comes with a $80 to $101 average price tag that only gets higher if you don’t figure out how to do simple winterization yourself.

man installs light fixture in new home

Steve Debenport/istockphoto

You can save money in the long run by using more energy-efficient light bulbs, but they’re going to cost far more up front. You’ll face a similar conundrum with windows and thermostats.

Related: 25 Energy-Saving Products You Need in Your Home

woman in kitchen asking digital assistant question


Cable, phone, and internet providers are responsible for wiring leading up to a house, and if there’s a problem in their wiring or even the box outside, they have to deal with it. If it’s an issue with wiring in your new walls or with your hardware, it’s on you — and bringing in someone to rewire portions of your house can get costly in a hurry. Determining where the problem lies is also no fun.

Man installing insulation in a house


You can poke around the attic and see what kind of insulation you’re dealing with in your home, but you won’t know exactly how well-insulated the place is until winter. If it’s chilly and drafty, the costs of insulation can add up more quickly than you can say “Do we really have to open that wall?”

Related: The Coldest and Warmest Cities in Every State

Closeup of hand painting interior of house

Bill Oxford/istockphoto

Pride of ownership makes you think you can take on just about anything a new house throws at you. It also makes your local contractors very happy, as they know they’ll have to fix any project you either botched or couldn’t finish.

Related: 5 Projects That Boost Home Value — and 5 Cheap Alternatives