Estimating Expenses Before Buying Your First Home

If you are like most people embarking on their search for a first home, you will do a certain amount of math. You will look at your current budget, size up your down payment and figure out what sort of monthly mortgage payment you may be able to afford.

But the list of new expenses, previously handled by the landlord, only starts with line items like property taxes. There are monthly condo or co-op charges or homeowners association fees. Insurance, electricity and heat will probably cost more than they used to, and there may be a new water bill, too.

The expenses will differ a fair bit depending on the size of the home, but there are others — a double-digit number of others, alas — that are fairly predictable. Not all will hit you each month, but you should save for them as if they will, so you are not turning to credit cards when they do.

This list will get you started, though a good home inspector can provide you with one as well. Our list includes estimates (in today’s dollars) from service providers in the Chicago and Los Angeles areas that are highly rated on Angie’s List, which ranks local merchants. Costs may vary depending on your region, and some of you may well mow your own lawn or clean your gutters or not have a swimming pool to worry about.

But much of this is unavoidable, and if you shoulder it all, you’re looking at roughly $900 each month on average. Ignore it in your home-shopping budget at your peril.

ALARM A monthly monitoring service starts around $40, according to Ken Volpp, a spokesman for ADT Security Services, which has offices across the country. The price doesn’t depend on the size of the home. There is generally a one-time installation fee of at least $99 as well.

CENTRAL AIR The main unit will need to be replaced about once every 12 years in the Chicago area, said Ned Charlton, sales manager at All Temp Heating and Air Conditioning in Chicago. In warmer climates, it could be every seven years.

A new central unit starts at around $3,000, though it can cost more than twice as much for quieter, high-efficiency models. Spread out over 12 years, that’s $21 a month you will need to save. Especially large houses may need more than one unit.

Performing annual maintenance should help the system reach or even exceed its normal life span. For $163 a year, or about $14 each month, All Temp will perform the upkeep on the air-conditioning unit, the furnace and the water heater.

FURNACE Figure about 18 years of life, Mr. Charlton said. Because of new rules about venting, a new one will soon start at around $3,800, or about $18 a month.

HOT WATER HEATER This will start around $1,200, and you will need to replace it every 12 years or so, according to Michael J. Goode of Goode Plumbing in Chicago. That is about $8 a month. You will need two of them if many people in your home bathe at the same time or if you have fancy showers with multiple heads.

He adds that many customers are choosing tankless models that can last up to 20 years and help lower energy costs. They run around $4,000 each.

TRASH Not every city or town picks up the garbage. If yours doesn’t, you are probably looking at about $20 a month, based on somewhat dated estimates from the National Solid Wastes Management Association.

CRITTERS At ABC Wildlife in Arlington Heights, Ill., the quarterly cost to keep the outside and inside free of various four-legged animals, along with wasps, ants and bees, will be about $200, or $67 a month for an average size home and plot of land.

The company does not, however, use the sorts of pesticides needed to get rid of roaches and similar bugs, according to Rebecca Fyffe, a wildlife educator. So you would have to go elsewhere if you needed help with that.

CHIMNEY Cindy Nace, co-owner of King Chimney and Fireplace in Chicago, says the cost for an annual cleaning of a partitioned chimney that vents both the fireplace and the furnace and hot water heater is $420, or $35 a month. Fireplace-only cleanings are $195.

DRIVEWAY California Paving and Grading in Los Angeles recommends sealing an asphalt driveway every three years, at a cost of roughly $550, or about $15 a month. Replacement happens every 15 years or so in that region, at an average cost of $6,000, or $33 a month.

LAWN AND LANDSCAPE At Eva Ray Landscaping in Berwyn, Ill., a customer pays an average of about $100 a month for eight months of lawn care, and another $200 when the weather starts getting warm for aeration, fertilizer and seeding. Averaged out, that’s $83 per month. Bigger lawns in outer ring suburbs would require more money.

SNOW REMOVAL Most customers opt for a flat-fee, come-when-there’s-at-least-two-inches, four-month plan at Eva Ray. They pay $200 per month for four months, or about $67 per month on an annualized basis for sidewalk and driveway clearing.

SPRINKLER Greg Newman of Newman Irrigation in Glenview, Ill., prides himself on building systems that require no annual maintenance contract, but he figures the average consumer will end up needing a $100 annual visit, or about $8 a month, in most areas.

TREES The average customer of Gray Tree Service in Arlington Heights, Ill., will trim about four trees every five years at a cost of $300 a tree, according to Rick Gardner, a co-owner. That requires you to save $20 a month.

ROOF You will need to replace your roof every 25 years or so, though the life span will depend on how much sun, heat and ice your roof is exposed to, said Stuart Nyberg of Nyberg Exteriors in Palatine, Ill. A new one will run about $7,500 for an average-size home with a roof that isn’t unusually steep, or $25 a month.

WINDOW WASHING L. A. McMahon Window Washing in Schaumburg, Ill., charges an average of $150 for an annual interior and exterior spring cleaning, or about $13 a month.

GUTTER CLEANING About $100 annually, according to L. A. McMahon, which performs this service, too, or about $8 a month.

PAINTING A two-story, four-bedroom home will require interior repainting about every 10 years and cost about $9,000, or $75 a month, according to Pete Fortune of Fortune Restoration in Lincolnwood, Ill.

That same house with an all-wood exterior will need exterior repainting every seven years or so at a cost of about $12,000, or $143 a month. POOL For those with year-round pools, Amanda Green, the business manager at Spectrum Pool Care in Sherman Oaks, Calif., figures the average monthly cost will be around $130. This includes weekly maintenance visits and some extra chemicals and such a few times a year.

Have a hot tub that is separate from the pool? Figure another $50 a month for maintenance, chemicals and periodic draining and refilling. After all of these expenses, you will probably need a good soak once in a while.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/09/your-money/estimating-expenses-before-buying-your-first-home.html?_r=0

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