Budgeting for the Hidden Costs of the Home

2:43 PM

When we buy or build a house, we often develop a budget based strictly on the obvious expenses. We know what size mortgage payment we can afford, and we've talked to insurance agents and property tax officers to determine what costs we'll be dealing with there. We also look into estimated utility expenses and costs like homeowners' association dues.

What we often omit is the maintenance costs of a home. We feel like every home is new when we buy it, whether it's built at that time or not, and we feel like it won't need major work for many years. That is particularly true when we complete a renovation before moving in.

However, it's a significant oversight. There are some less-visible costs of home-ownership that cover the more inconspicuous needs of a home, and just because they're out of sight doesn't mean they should be out of mind. You need to know what these other costs are, and you need to build a family budget that can cover them. Let's look at some of the main ones you'll face.

Pest Control

Everything can look so good about the home when you first move in. Then one day, you bump into the baseboard with the vacuum cleaner and find an area that's been eaten by termites. You never budgeted for that, so what do you do?

Firms that provide pest control for Kansas City residents urge every homeowner to get inspections for termites. It's easiest to do this before moving in because it's much simpler to treat the house before getting furniture (and people) in the way.

And it's not just termites. Ants, wasps, and even larger pests like mice can be a real hazard to your family's health and comfort. Your budget needs to include inspection and treatment for all of these.

HVAC Upkeep

When you come home to your new place and the temperature is where you want it, you probably figure that everything is just fine with your heating and cooling system. You may be right, but that may only be for today. The system could be weeks or days from a major breakdown that leaves you shivering or sweating, not just at the temperature but at the costs. And of course, those breakdowns never happen when contractors aren't already busy.

Your HVAC system, inside and out, requires regular maintenance. Not only will this help you prevent problems, it will help you find other issues early on. In addition, it will help your system stay cleaner and more efficient, saving you on energy costs. It can also help fulfill the terms of your warranty, which you will definitely want to do.

Driveway Upkeep

Depending on your lot size, this may not be a big deal. Many residential areas have short driveways that are a breeze for annual asphalt sealant or for the occasional pressure-washing of concrete.

However, in areas with zoning requirements that mandate larger lots, your driveway can quickly become very long. Whether you do the work yourself or contract it out, there's quite a bit of expense associated with keeping your driveway clean and properly sealed. Good upkeep will extend its life, so it's a good investment, but it's one you have to budget for, too.

It can be so easy during the shopping or building process to put on blinders and just assume that certain costs will be minimal or nonexistent. That won't change the likelihood that you end up with termites or a blown compressor. Budget your money so that you can invest in the appropriate inspections and preventive treatments now to save you much bigger bills later on.

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