All The Surprising Costs That Come After A Home Purchase

Just like how the purchase price of a car is not the entire cost, the purchase price of a house is not the entire cost either. Let's discuss all the surprising costs that may come after you close escrow.

First of all, these are the unsurprising costs after you purchase a home:

  • Monthly mortgage payment
  • Home insurance payment
  • Property taxes
  • General and anticipated maintenance expenses
  • Utilities

If you follow my 30/30/3 home-buying rule, you should be able to comfortably afford your home, even if you lose your job for a year or two.

My goal for this post is to highlight as many home ownership costs as possible so you can budget appropriately before and after purchase.

Surprising Costs That Come After You Purchase A Home

Your surprises will depend on your experience in buying a home. The more homes you've purchased, the less surprised you will be about these costs.

However, even if you've purchased multiple homes before, if you are upgrading homes you will likely still encounter unanticipated costs. This is especially true for folks who move from a condo/townhouse to a single-family home or for people who move from an urban environment to a suburban environment.

To minimize financial stress once you move in, it helps to build all of these costs into your budget in advance.

1) Curtains and blinds

One “trick” stagers and real estate agents like to employ when staging a home is removing all the curtains and blinds. This way, homes seem larger, brighter, and more cheerful. I was advised to remove all the dark heavy curtains in my home when I tried to sell in 2012. Thankfully, I didn't given that was close to the bottom of the market.

As you are mesmerized by the greater space and natural light, you might forget you will have to buy custom drapes and blinds for many windows in the house if you like privacy. The home seller might still have the old drapes and blinds, but they may be old, hardware could get lost in the shuffle, or they simply may not match your tastes.

I went to a window treatments place called the Shade Store to get a quote for custom curtains and blinds for each room in the home we wanted to buy. The total estimated cost ended up being $25,600, and that was after the 25% designer discount! I was shocked.

Given I didn't want to spend $25,600 on window treatments, we contacted Smith & Noble, a competing company we've used before. After some bargaining, we ended up paying about $9,800 for everything, including installation. It felt great to save over $16,000 on window treatments. But $9,800 is still a lot of money!

2) Bidets and washlets

Now that I've used a Toto washlet for over 10 years, I will never buy a home without them. At the very least, electrical outlets and water-line access needs to be near the toilets. Seriously folks, if you haven't tried a Toto bidet washlet that cleans and dries, you don't know what's missing.

In the new house we wanted to buy, luckily, all of the main bathrooms had electrical outlets near the toilets. So I thought we'd be set to install the Toto washlets once we closed. However, after several visits, I realized they were all wall-hung toilets with tanks inside the walls. In addition, there was no water line access because it was also behind the wall!

Luckily, one of the toilets had a hole to the left of the toilet that was covered by a bumper pad. We took the cover off and there was the water pipe. From there, the contractor measured the distance and height from that valve to the center of the toilet. Then, he took a leap of faith and drilled into each of the remaining bathrooms' wall tiles in hopes of finding the exact access point of the water line.

We bought five Toto washlets that each cost $1,100. We also paid a handyman and a plumber to drill five holes in the wall and install them all for $300 each. Overall, we spent about $7,400.

3) Changing all the locks

For security, it is highly recommended to change all your locks and codes once you purchase a home. Contractors, subcontracts, real estate agents, the previous owner, friends and relatives of the previous owner, and more could all still have copies.

Changing each lock might cost between $30 – $70. If you want help changing fancy gate codes and other special types of locks, you'll have to pay more as well.

Our cost to update locks totaled $250. Not bad for something so important.

4) Security system – cameras and motion sensors

Your home may have an existing security system. Maybe it's through ADT, Ring, Xfinity, or another security system. You would think setting up a security system would be as easy as just coming up with a new username and passcode. Then you'd call the security provider for monitoring service and off you'd go.

But it's not always that simple. In our case, the security system was complicated with multiple cameras, zones, and sensors. We ended up hiring a guy who spent eight hours replacing equipment, changing keypads, testing all devices, and getting everything programmed.

The security installer also set up an internal camera system and a smart lock. It's some pretty fancy stuff.

His eight hours of time plus new equipment ended up costing us $1,950. Given nothing is more important than the security of my family, I was fine to pay this money. However, the cost was about $1,000 more than I had expected.

5) Broken appliances that weren't properly tested

A home inspection contingency is important because it gives you the chance to test all appliances, bathrooms, showers, and amenities. It's not enough to just turn on the shower for one minute and say it works. You need to actually take a 15-minute shower or a 15-minute bath to make sure everything works.

Run the microwave for five minutes while all the lights in the house are on to ensure the house has enough power. Fill up several cups of water from the refrigerator to ensure the filter is working and there are no leaks. Test the garbage disposal. Test the garage door ten times and inspect the spring. Make sure all the windows properly open and shut. Test all the light switches etc.

Even after all your tests, you may still find something broken after you move in. In our case, we had not tested a full load of clothes in the washer and dryer. The seller said the washer and dryer were never used, so we forgot to do a thorough test before we moved.

When we came back to check on our wash 20 minutes later, the laundry room had flooded! We spent an hour mopping up buckets of water and then drying the floor.

When the plumber came, it turned out the filter at the bottom of the washer was loose. As a result, water was just leaking through it. Once he tightened the filter, everything worked. Ugh, such an easy check that could have prevented a lot of stress, time, and work.

Luckily we didn't run the washer and go away for hours. If we had, there would likely be floor damage. The cost to fix the washer was free given the seller paid for it. Check your washer filter and dryer ducts folks!

6) Higher water and electricity bills

If you move to a bigger house on a larger lot, you will likely face much higher water and electricity bills than you are used to.

These are surprising costs because you're not really using more electricity than normal. However, because your new home might have a hot tub, another refrigerator, electric instead of gas washers, radiant heat, and more, electricity costs add up.

If you move from a more temperate region to a region with hot summers and cold winters, your water and electricity bills will go way up as well.

Our new home has literally 10X more plants and is on an automatic sprinkler system that goes off for 15 minutes, four times a week. Our first water bill was for over $350 versus $50 normally.

Now that winter has arrived, we've turned off our automatic watering system that used to run for 15 minutes, four times a week.

7) New furnishings

If you're moving into a larger space or are simply tired of your existing furniture and decor, you'll have the added expense of new furnishings. The margins on furniture are huge and decorating your new home could easily run into the tens of thousands if you want to purchase new, quality pieces.

For example, I have an old desk I got at World Market almost 20 years ago. I loved it at the time, but it's dated, bulky, and rather ugly now. Looking to replace it, I went to browse at the Room & Board showroom in San Francisco. I found a sleek, modern desk I loved, but it costs $2,000 after tax. Pricey! Now my old desk doesn't look so shabby after all.

New couches can run between $1,000-$15,000, dining table sets can cost $1,000-$6,000, swivel chairs are between $600 – $2,200, and large area rugs can easily cost $5,000 – $10,000. The list goes on.

If you're looking for some interior design help, you could pay an interior designer an unlimited amount of money to design every room in your home.

Check out this nice sectional from Arhaus furniture. $9,999 pre-tax for a sectional! Dang! When did furniture get so expensive? Thankfully, my buddy gifted me his newish $15,000 sofa. I just had to pay $400 to move it out of storage.

The cost to furnish a house is more than expected

8) Replacement appliances and devices

Never just assume that a home will come with every common appliance and device.

For example, home sellers may choose to take their washer and dryer to their new place. They may choose to take their non built-in microwave and even bathroom mirrors. Or the home may only come with one garage clicker when you need two. Always clarify with the selling agent and the disclosures what is and isn't actually included in the sale.

Also make sure that nothing is missing before you close. I went to an open house once where the seller had installed over 10 Nest thermostats throughout the house. It seemed overkill to me, but that's how the house was designed. Anyway, some lookie-loo snuck through the house and ended up stealing three of them, over $700 worth that needed to be replaced and reprogrammed.

We thought the seller was going to leave two wall mirrors in the main bedroom since the house was empty except for these two items during escrow. It turns out the sellers just hadn't gotten to returning the mirrors to the stager from a year ago. Replacing the mirrors was a surprise cost right before closing.

9) Landscaping, new plants, and tree maintenance

If you're lucky enough to have yard space at your new home but have never hired a landscaper before, you could be in for a surprise. Depending on how big your outdoor area is and what you want done, you could easily spend tens of thousands of dollars.

This summer, a landscaper quoted me $5,000 to landscape the front yard at one of my rentals. Given it was a simple job and we had some extra succulents, I decided to do the work with my son. Save money, build work ethic, and learn about rental property management. What's not to love?

Adding retaining walls, leveling uneven ground, installing automatic irrigation systems, and installing outdoor lighting can easily run thousands of dollars. If you're buying a house that has already been landscaped, learn to appreciate it.

After moving in, you may still have to pay to replace certain plants that may have been neglected. I wanted to replace some tropical looking plants at our new home and was shocked they cost $420 each (pictured on the left)! Luckily, I found a suitable alternative for a much more reasonable $35 per pot (pictured on the right).

Expensive vs Cheap Plant Cost
$420 exotic plant on the left vs $35 alternative

The Cost Of Tree Removal And Maintenance

You may be faced with the cost of tree trimming or even tree removal. To remove huge trees, I've heard quotes of up to $50,000!

Trees, although beautiful, can cause a lot of damage if not properly maintained. In addition, if trees were planted too close to the house, their roots could damage the foundation and cause cracked pipes and leaks during rainy seasons. I know from past experience.

The original landscaper at our home planted three trees that can reach 25-feet heights within six inches of the home's foundation. These type of trees need at least five feet on each side. Fortunately we realized the landscaper's errors before we closed escrow and had the seller pay for their removal. We were able to save one ficus tree by replanting it in a different location.

In addition, extreme weather conditions can cause trees to uproot suddenly. We have friends who were displaced from their home for over a year in because of tree damage to their property during the 2021 atmospheric river.

10) The ongoing cost of owning your OLD home

Buying a home during the slow winter months may give you a better deal. However, if you haven't sold your old home before you buy your new home, then you may have a difficult time selling or renting it out. You may be surprised to discover your old home might take longer to sell or rent out than anticipated.

If you own property that is more suitable for a family, like a single-family house, the best time to sell or rent it out is during late spring or summer. Families will be looking to move once their children are out of school for minimal disruption.

Every month your home goes unsold or unrented is costing you money.

After 20 years of being a landlord, I am picky about who I will rent to. Therefore, I will be taking my time. I'm also undecided on whether to rent out, sell, or keep our former home empty in this weak market. My gut instinct says to find great tenants and hold for the next 20 years.

With tech stocks on fire and artificial intelligence revolutionizing the world, I want to be an owner of San Francisco real estate long-term. There are also local economic catalysts like the Chinese American International School opening on the west side and the UCSF Parnassus remodel completion in 2030. The hospital expansion will bring in 1,200 new jobs.

I love our old home with panoramic ocean views. It's the ideal work-from-home house. It also has a lot of sentimental value since we raised our kids in it for three years during the pandemic.

No More Surprising Costs After Buying A Home

Now that you've read this post, these surprising costs should no longer be surprises. You can now properly budget them into your home purchase costs.

A good rule of thumb is to budget 1% of the cost of your home in ongoing maintenance expenses. Homes need to be repainted, roofs need to be replaced, and water heaters tend to leak after 12-15 years.

You won't face big home maintenance costs most years. But when it comes time to fix your home, you can draw on your home maintenance reserves to pay for them.

Ideally, you'll befriend a trusty handyman or contractor who will be able to fix everything for you at a reasonable price. In addition, your guy will do some preventative maintenance before things get bad.

After more than two decade of homeownership, the most common surprise cost of owning a home is water damage. Be vigilant in clear gutters, drains, and clogged pipes. Inspect and fix weak spots in the roof. Check under your sink and kitchen cabinets to see if there are leaks.

Like cancer, the key is to detect the water problem as early as possible before things get really bad!

Related: All The Warning Signs Before Buying A House

Real Estate Investment Suggestions

To invest in real estate without all the hassle and unexpected costs, check out Fundrise. Fundrise offers funds that mainly invest in residential and industrial properties in the Sunbelt, where valuations are lower and yields are higher. The firm manages over $3.5 billion in assets for over 500,000 investors looking to diversify and earn more passive income.

Another great private real estate investing platform is Crowdstreet. Crowdstreet offers accredited investors individual deals run by sponsors that have been pre-vetted for strong track records. Many of their deals are in 18-hour cities where there is potentially greater upside due to higher growth rates. You can build your own select real estate portfolio with Crowdstreet.

I've personally invested $954,000 in private real estate since 2016 to diversify my holdings, take advantage of demographic shifts toward lower-cost areas of the country, and earn more passive income. We're in a multi-decade trend of relocating to the Sunbelt region thanks to technology.

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27 thoughts on “All The Surprising Costs That Come After A Home Purchase”

  1. Enjoyed the article. What are your thoughts on appliance warranties? I’ve discarded the offers I’ve received but my property is 8 yrs old and I’m thinking about upcoming expenses as the home ages. I’m thinking of moving in 2-3 yrs and making my current home a rental, thus the extra consideration about appliance insurance.

  2. Since this post is based on a house in the city, I’ll add that if you’re buying a house with a private well or septic system (about 15% of homes in the US), those can also fail at any time, and are $20-40k each. Ask me how I know.

    1. How do you know?

      I guess that’s the benefit of owning a house in a city. There’s an intricate plumbing system that doesn’t require a septic tank or well.

      But I hear you! My friend’s Sonoma property has both.

  3. Matthew Drybred

    Also, don’t forget to have the sewer line inspected with a scope, *especially* after a long vacancy which allows the crud to accumulate in the sewer pipe due to lack of water flow.

    Ask me how I know…….

    1. Good call! How long is too long? I got the seller to change all the internal pipes that went from the roof gutters into the house and down the sewer as they were old and some were cracked.

      Where do you inspect the sewer line? And what happened to yours?

      1. Matthew Drybred

        In 2021 I bought a condo with a known slow draining first floor powder room toilet (the lowest toilet in the house), so I used some baking soda and vinegar and plunged it until it flowed freely. Fast-forward about a month and a half after the tenant moved in and he texted to tell me sewage was backing up from the floor drain in the utility cubby under the staircase. So I had the sewer line cleared, but not scoped, for $420.00. Fast-forward 92 days (2 days outside the plumber’s 90 guarantee) and the tenant texts again with the same issue. But this time it’s a Sunday, so it’s a double-time emergency, $920.00. But they did a return visit for a no-charge scope to inspect the sewer pipe and found tree roots growing into the PVC pipe. I dug up the clean-out and found that when the condo had been built the T-fitting for the clean-out was snapped and someone carefully placed it back into place and then back-filled and buried it with dirt. So I had the plumber return to replace the damaged section.

        Total cost $1805.00. $420.00, $920.00, and $465.00 respectively, plus a day off and the sweat to dig down to the line.

        Then in early 2022 I was having the second floor unit of my duplex remodeled and the first floor tenant moved out 1 month before two new tenants moved into both units in 6/2022. So the property was vacant for 1 month and I noticed the combi-boiler drain was backing up a bit and I mentioned that to my heating, plumbing, and AC guy and asked if he could take a look at it, but I didn’t hear back and I didn’t want to be a self-diagnosing “expert” and immediately order a scope of the sewer line, so I ended up being too patient.

        Fast-forward to 7/7/22, just over 1 month after the 3 new tenants moved into both units, and I get a picture from the first floor tenant showing 4”-6” of sewage that had backed up into the basement.

        It cost $2326.18 to clear the sewer line blockage, pump out the raw sewage, and then disinfect the basement.

        My W2 is designing wastewater treatment equipment, and with that experience in mind, I surmise that the issue with the duplex was caused by a month of no water flow moistening the build-up in the sewer line and keeping it open, so it dried out and became impacted.


  4. Even with a new house you are going to find all kinds of things to spend money on. The closets and such probably don’t have enough shelving. The kitchen sink is way too shallow. You want a full workbench in the garage or basement. And, of course, you will want window treatments and additional landscaping.

    Also, take lots of pictures before making a bid, especially on a pre-owned home. First house I ever bought I found myself in the dining room, shortly after we moved in, wondering why the light fixture was a $5.97 cheapie from K-Mart when I was pretty sure I remembered a small, tasteful chandelier. When I drove past the seller’s new house the next evening, just after sunset, they didn’t have their window treatments up yet so I could see the dining room was clearly lit by a small, tasteful chandelier.

    Yeah, anything bolted to the house requires a caveat in the contract if it is not staying, so protect yourself or you may have additional unplanned expenses.

    1. Yeah, I’m not buying a fixer or an old home that I’d like remodeled anymore. Too old and impatient to go through the long and painful process anymore.

      Only fully remodeled homes for me from now on. The gut remodel for my existing home is one of the main reasons why I bought it.

  5. Hi Sam, congrats on the new home! Good article. Highlights a lot of expenses that homebuyers might not think about or budget for.

    On another note, Arhaus furniture is pricy. Their styles kind of reminds me of RH. If you like these type of brands, and don’t mind used furniture and driving and lugging, go on Facebook marketplace. There’s a lot of RH in Sonoma/ Napa. Personally, I’m not into used furniture unless it’s a special vintage item.

    I’ve been debating on a large floor mirror from Arhaus for a while but don’t really have a good spot to place it. The mirror goes on sale sometimes too so I might wait some more until I can think of a good spot for it within my home.

    Check out Allmodern on Wayfair. It’s a Wayfair brand. Their designs are of course very modern. The quality is good/decent too. I’ve purchased countless light fixtures and furniture. It’s cheaper on Wayfair vs on allmodern’s website. And you can sign up for a Wayfair pro account. The best thing is that it’s shipped to your door pretty quickly.

    Cheers on the new home!

    1. Thanks and good tips! Others have mentioned Wayfair too. Will check it out.

      RH and Arhaus truly are pricey. I was shocked.

      I think I’m just going to pick up my friend’s sectional and table in storage since he doesn’t want it anymore. With two young kids who are going to be standing up the sofas with their greasy hands and jumping around, it doesn’t seem worth going all out for a nice furniture while they are still young. Maybe when they are 12, and eight years, will I just buy some nice furniture.

  6. We live in a co-op in a major Midwestern city. The monthly assessment includes property taxes, heat (radiator), water, gas, snow removal, yard maintenance, regular window washing, trash removal, a composting program, cable/WIFI, gym, two-car parking, guest parking, door staff, common insurance and funding reserves for building maintenance improvements. It also includes an onsite engineer who handles all sorts of issues in each unit as part of the fee, including plumbing and minor electric issues. He installed a new faucet last week and we just tipped him. Our unit does not have a furnace or hot water heater to maintain. We do not feel we need a security system or cameras because we have 24 hour door staff and building cameras.

    It’s easy to scoff at paying assessments, but we’ve found it is not nearly as pricey as it might seem when you factor in all the expenses over the total time of owning a home. Insurance is even less expensive because we only insure what’s inside our unit as the building’s common insurance covers the rest. Co-op living isn’t for everyone, but we’ve found it to be a wonderful and frankly cost effective place to raise our family.

    1. I agree that paying the monthly HOA fee or co-op fee can be a great deal. I do that for one of my condos in San Francisco and it’s just nice to have peace of mind and relief that people are managing the big stuff.

  7. Sam, good article. I just wanted to mention about the sprinkler system. Idk about the weather where you are, but be sure if you would need to winterize your sprinkler system instead of just turning it off. I don’t want you to have a problem with a leak.

      1. Yes, Sam. And the ground freezing. But if you live in an area where you don’t have to worry about that, you should be ok, I think. But maybe research more if you want to be sure. We live in an area of the country where the lines have to be blown out. We also had to do this for our pool when we had one and closed it up for the winter.

  8. This is a great list. I certainly experienced many unanticipated costs as a first-time homebuyer many years ago, and I try to warn other first-time homebuyers about unexpected costs.

    One item that I would add is general home improvements. Even if nothing in the home is exactly broken or non-functional, you (or your spouse) will have different tastes than the previous homeowner. So even if you initially thought you had no problem with the kitchen cabinets, or the bathroom wallpaper, or the color of paint on the bedroom walls, you may find that after living in the home for a while, you really feel the need to change or replace some of these items. And of course, making those kinds of improvements can be costly.

    1. Very good point.

      I’m thinking of changing a chrome faucet in my half bath to a matted gold (!) faucet to match the gold leaf mirror design they have.

      But the faucet costs $450 and I’d probably have to pay a guy $80-$100 to install it. Hmmm.

      Small fixture upgrades are nice though. Low cost way to update the house.

  9. Very helpful post. I too was blindsided by the cost of window treatments. It can get ridiculous. I ended up going to bed bath and beyond and doing the install myself because hiring pros was out of my budget. This resulted in a lot of sweat words and annoying re-dos but eventually in the end things look decent enough.

    If I ever move again I will also play closer attention to when any major work was done and how old appliances are so that I can factor in potential replacements and maintenance into my budget. All that stuff can add up huge!

  10. You don’t have a second home tax, so count yourself lucky – it’s increasingly common in Europe. If you don’t manage to have the sale of the current home and purchase of the new one to happen on the same day, you have to pay the tax – 6% of the property value here in Scotland. You can get if refunded if you sell the previous main residence within 18 months, but it’s a lot of cash held by the tax office.

    1. Wow! 6% is a lot!

      What was the reason for the Scottish government employment such a tax? Have there been a lot of foreign buyers? Is the government trying to deter rental property ownership?

  11. Great post. In my experience, the group that suffers most from such surprises are those that are moving property types, particularly from a condo/townhome to a single family home. In the former, many expenses (landscaping, roof deferred maintenance) are low because the home and lot are small. These expenses are often unknown to the owner as they can be part of dreaded HOA fees. When you move up and have to pay for these on your own, it can be a rude awakening.

  12. Location!!
    If you’re moving out to the country and used to live in the city, expect to see an increase in fuel costs related to driving farther and more often. Possibly higher car insurance premiums due to higher annual mileage too.

  13. This is why we hate moving. It’s such a pain to deal with everything listed here.
    I hope you and your family are enjoying your new home.

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