Hidden Costs That Come With New Homes

If you’re having a house built, you’re in for a heck of a lot more charges than your down payment, closing costs and mortgage payments. To shape your new home into something livable, you’ll need to go out and buy things that you might normally take for granted.

Moolanomy identifies some hidden expenses in new houses:

* Landscaping. Unless you’re going for the dirt chic look, you’ll need to spruce up your yard with an assortment of structures and vegetation that make it hospitable to visitors. Expect a combination of brutal work hours and wince-inducing invoices from contractors.

* Window treatments. Roaming through your new home for the first time, it’s stunning to discover exactly how many windows you have. You’ll need to cover pretty much each one with blinds, curtains, shutters or something else.

* Appliances. Unless you’ve cut deals to include the amenities, don’t be shocked if your home is missing a refrigerator, a washer, dryer, ceiling fans and a garage door opener. Also, you’ll need to spring for lighting and may want to upgrade any mediocre appliances that came pre-installed.

4 Extra Costs When You Buy a New Construction Home [Moolanomy]

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  1. Gman says:

    For first time homeowners: Don’t forget HOA fees and assessments, with potential penalties and the costs involved for not properly maintaining your property.

    • Marlin says:

      And for those house hunting DON’T BUY A HOUSE WHERE THERE IS A HOA.

      You can thank me later.

      • tbax929 says:

        Better advice would be to read the CCRs before you sign the dotted line. Not all HOAs are evil. I, for one, am glad I have one. It keeps my neighbors from doing some of the ghetto shit I wouldn’t want me neighbors to do.

        • A.Mercer says:

          Yeah, my HOA saved the day. My neighbors installed an outdoor sound system that was hooked to their TV. When they watched TV the sound was blasted to everyone. One night they went to bed and “forgot” to turn the TV off. The police did not care about the noise. The people living there thought it was funny. Finally, I started send an email to the HOA every day it happened. Finally, I got an email back saying they had talked to the neighbors who claimed that they did not know this was a problem for anyone. After that the outdoor speakers have been off.

          • Firethorn says:

            Did you ever happen to try to talk to the neighbors directly?

            • HogwartsProfessor says:

              I would imagine several people did.

              After a fruitless conversation, I would take a pair of wire cutters over there when they weren’t home and *snip*

        • Firethorn says:

          Having always lived in non-HOA homes, I need to point out that none of my neighbors did ‘ghetto’ stuff even without an HOA to prevent them. Yes, our house got painted a nice shade of blue* for about a decade, which might of pissed an HOA off, but it added variety. Certainly none of our neighbors ever voiced a complaint.

          *Turned out Dad’s a touch colorblind when he picked out the color. He intended to get ‘grey with a hint of blue’, and instead got ‘blue with a hint of grey’. Seeing as how we got the color we ordered(we checked), and the custom colored paint wasn’t returnable…

    • TheGreySpectre says:

      This is why I bought a home without a HOA

      • scoutermac says:

        We tried to buy a house without an HOA. The only one we could find in our price range was in a neighborhood we were concerned about being broken into.

  2. usernameandp says:

    There’s nothing hidden about these things.

    Man, I thought I would look here & see some sort of revelation!

    • Gman says:

      Aye the three above are clearly obvious “No Duh!” things that any reasonable person will assume come as extra charges. Who purchases a new home and assumes the bank or builder will throw in appliances if they were not explicitly in the mortgage or nor not in the walk-through?

      The only one I can say may be on the fence [no pun intended] is Landscaping and how much physical labour and time it take to do something like lay sod or maintenance.

      • Cat says:

        Landscaping! Five years after moving in, we’re still not totally done. Of course, we did it all ourselves, including the lawn, trees, water feature, and the fence.

        But yea, make sure you hire someone else to prep and seed or sod the lawn. Lot of effort, minimal savings.

    • qwickone says:

      While these items are not hidden and seem “no duh” to people that have owned a new home, I did not consider these things when I was looking at new construction. My parents pointed this out to me (before we bought) and we wisely went with an existing home. There are so many things that are new to you as a first-time home buyer that seemingly obvious things get overlooked. Also I had NO IDEA how expensive blinds are, especially if you want wooden. I am SO glad my first home is not new construction due to additional costs associated with new. I knew there would be additional costs associated with new const, but I had no grasp on exactly how much.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        Amen to that. I was really excited to have two big shade trees in my front yard. So excited, in fact, that I never noticed they were sweetgum trees.

        *facepalm*

        Now twice a year I have to clean up leaves (I usually just mow over them), and indestructible, non-compostable gumballs. Grrrr. I’m hoping for a small tornado to touch down in my front yard and chew them to bits, without killing me or my neighbors.

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          turns out my tiller makes short work of both sweetgums and magnolia pods. yay! unfortunately, the stupid grass keeps coming back even when i plow it under and chop the sweetgums and magnolia pods/leaves into it

  3. mcs328 says:

    Duh?? The only think you should know beforehand is the HOA fees and assessment.

  4. Cat says:

    One of the expenses I didn’t count on was the pool boy. While I thought I could do the job myself, the wife insisted that I should relax and not work so hard. She’s so thoughtful.

    Wait – we don’t have a pool…

  5. Nobby says:

    This article plus $2.00 will allow me to buy a Coke.

  6. Chasing Headless Chickens says:

    Here’s one nobody thinks about: when you have a house built, people forget that the property tax assessment was based on open land. So, the first year people are “hey, my taxes are great!” But when the taxes get reassessed, their payments jump by the thousands.

  7. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    So if I move into a new unfurnished huouse, I will have to furnish it.

    Okey dokey. I got it.

  8. EdnasEdibles says:

    If you do ever buy a new construction home (or condo) make sure you have at least a one-year warranty built into the contract. But even with that, as soon as you possibly can – test everything extensively. If you move in the summer, test the heater for two days, test the home humidfier if you have one, test the AC if you move in the winter, test every single outlet and every single switch. Because 9 months down the road when winter comes and you realize that the humidifier doesn’t work properly, it will be far more difficult to get the contractor on the phone and have someone come out. It’s easier that first or second month after you close – plus you’re more likely to get someone who actually worked on your house to come out and look at it.

    Even with an inspection, things get missed and you are going to encounter some weird leak during the first rainy season or heavy snowfall – if you can get the other crap straightened out right away, the other stuff isn’t as much of a headache.

  9. prosumer1 says:

    Don’t I know it. We moved into our home 7 years ago when it was brand new, thinking we are the first ones living in that house, so no hidden damages or costs. The backyard was a dirt lot, so that was expensive and a lot of hard work. Furniture and appliances to fill the house cost a shitload. Owning a home, regardless of age, is expensive, but the feeling of waking up every morning, knowing you OWN the house, is worth it.

    • LanMan04 says:

      but the feeling of waking up every morning, knowing you OWN the house, is worth it.
      ——-
      Yeah, I LOVE being $25K underwater on my house. It was TOTALLY worth it (not). I should have just fucking rented.

    • milkcake says:

      If you can actually get over the feeling happy about owning a house, you can make a better financial decision whether owning or renting is better. I feel good about owning a sport car every morning but that doesn’t justify the cost or the pain that might be inflicted from the bill.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      For you.

      We did that and came out with the opposite feeling. We hated the repairs, keeping the lawn,our bitchy neighbor, and everything else that came with being a homeowner. I love apartment living. We have a private garage, a huge gym, two pools, and very quiet neighbors. We get excited that we don’t have to mow the lawn, trim the trees, fertilize,clean the pool, or landscape. And, the two toilet repairs they did for us last week would have cost us about $300 if we had to pay for them. Never mind the $2000 in new appliances we are getting when we resign our lease. And, we can move anytime our lease is up should we want to relocate (although we plan to be here for a while.)

      Your dream is not the dream of everyone.

    • BradenR says:

      Or you don’t own it! Association fees and regulations are extreme. Can’t have a car in the driveway, house must be painted a certain range, no grills visible, etc. etc. etc.

  10. DrPizza says:

    Weird – the article is referring to newly built homes – that’s where landscaping is going to be expensive. But Phil refers to needing to upgrade mediocre appliances that came pre-installed. There seems to be a logic disconnect.

    Furthermore, the original article refers to them as “Extra Costs.” Only a fool would complete purchasing a new home before figuring out that he needs appliances, landscaping (of bare soil), etc. These are not “hidden” costs.

    • makreljohnson says:

      Look up the term: “Builder Grade”

    • Rachacha says:

      builders who include appliances are giving you bottom of the barrel appliances. Ovens without a self cleaning feature, dishwashers with no options and that are extremely loud and very small refrigerators. The first home I built, I replaced the dishwasher and refrigerator within the first 2 years. We hung on to the oven for a few more years, but hated every second of having to clean it when we spilled something. These were not absolute necessities, but surely a convenience issue when we replaced them.

  11. u1itn0w2day says:

    Hidden costs are all the hidden problems. The show that the sellers and realtors fool many. A total renovation or fresh paint, really fresh paint could be a sign the house was never taken care of on a regular basis.

    I’d say one of the bigger costs will be landscaping including those trees growing next to the house because a few years down the road they stand a chance of falling on the house, fence, car or garage from a storm or dropping leaves and clogging gutters or dripping rain water onto the same exact location causing other problems, just like the roots causing cracks in the foundation.

    Selling a home has a become a show: a hollywood production. Remember the real estate industy has spawned the smaller industry of stagging. If it’s staged it’s covering up a problem.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      As annoying as I find stagging (I’m calling it stagging from now on), it isn’t always a sign of trouble. It is often a sign of a gay realtor, or somebody who likes to decorate. It’s also a sign of the schizophrenic attitudes found in real estate. Some agents think a home should be empty; others believe it should be filled with beautiful things. This lack of consensus leads me to the conclusion that the entire “profession” of real estate agentry is packed full of hard, dark sh*t.

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        My bad for staging the words in my post incorrectly.

        The problem with staging is that the average person is less likely to move objects and things. Nor are they likely to look at things from different angles and/or in different light. In other words staging is a big cover up and diversion. A naked a house would show things cracks in the wall or unevenness in floor.

        You should look at things from a practical point of view. Things like wood paneling make me run because what is behind the paneling. Open kitchen/dinning room would make me nervous in smaller house because you unless you have a wind tunnel for an exhaust fan or you don’t mind opening windows in cooler temperatures or even warm you’ll wind up with a cooking grease film in a much larger area of the house. People want that wow factor which will fade for most.

        In a new house only I would worry about landscaping because if you let it go too long stuff would either grow wild or the lack of landscaping might cause errosion. Appliances are nice but alot of bells and whistles can lead to higher electric bills. Even that whirlpool tub that actually sold you could become an electrical nightmare in more ways than one.

        Practicality rules over beauty.

    • jasonq says:

      A house is a commodity, a product. To sell it as quickly as possible and for the best price possible, it’s often necessary to spruce it up.

      Look at it like this: You’re selling your car. Would you put the “For Sale” ad up before you vacuumed it out, gave it a wash & wax, and pulled all the dead McDonald’s french fries out from between the seats?

      No? Then why is it so unbelievable that someone who’s selling their house might want to clean the carpets, put a fresh coat of paint on, clear all their extra crap out of the place, etc.? Maybe rearrange the furniture so it shows better?

  12. areaman says:

    Landscaping is part of a bigger picture. Most experts say expect to spend 1% of the price of the house per year to maintain the house.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      You have to be carefull with landscaping. Our neighbor planted alot a trees and bushes immediately upon moving in 6 years ago. He had to rope trees to help pull them away from the house. The bushes have started heaving the ground making the pooling of water between the house and bush much greater. The bushes planted near the sidewalk need regular trimming And yet he ignored existing trees with branches well over the house which came down on the house during a windy thunderstorm.

      I’d say for landscaping 2 things. Plant it away from the house, driveways and sidewalks and always make sure the dirt/lawn is pitched down away from the house so water is more likely to drain away from the home.

      • BBBB says:

        Planting has to be done with growth and roots in mind. Also consider what the plants do in the different seasons. Especially dropping leaves and fruit. Cherry and Olive trees make a mess that is a lot more work to clean up than citrus or pomegranates.

        All our trees are dwarf – also, they are fruit trees that don’t make a mess and/or are easy to pick up after. All the shrubs are herbs that don’t spread quickly and don’t have nasty roots.

        Unfortunately, most landscape companies will recommend fast growing plants to make your yard look good quickly – the fact that they will need to be removed and the yard replanted means repeat business for the landscaper.

      • Bibliovore says:

        It really depends on the specific plants, and the specific varieties and cultivars of those specific plants. Some really are fine near a house, and some can cause big trouble. When you choose plantings, keep full-growth size/shape in mind. Match that eventual size — along with light and soil and water and drainage needs — to specific planting locations, and you’ll have a lot less upkeep to worry about. Talk to experts at your local garden center or nearest university extension if you have (or just want to avoid) specific concerns

  13. aleck says:

    Hidden cost of reading some recent Consumerist articles – 10 minutes of wasted time you will never get back.

  14. chizu says:

    When I purchased my home, there was this argument/uncertainty going.

    Does the HOA fee cover homeowner insurance or not? Apparently some HOA fee WILL cover homeowner insurance, and many don’t. So, yeah, look over what the HOA fee will cover and plan accordingly. (My HOA fee covers snow removal and lawn mowing — so I guess I wouldn’t need to get a snow blower…)

    Even with a “furnished” house — ask to see how old all the appliance are (they are supposed to provide that list for you). Because you have to estimate when you might need to replace them and how much it would cost you. Let’s just say we’re in a deep, deep, deep hole because of this.

    And if you’re building a brand new house — get your house insulated properly. That alone is going to save you a lot of money in the long run. Also, check to see which appliance might give you some energy credit back when you do your tax next year. And usually those that are more energy efficient will save you more money in the long run (despite being more expensive in the first place).

    • BBBB says:

      If you are buying a house with appliances:

      The “builder grade” crap that new homes and remodels come with has already been mentioned. [Many "name brands" make special lines of builder grade]

      If the house is shown with better appliances, get the makes, models, and serial numbers into the purchase agreement. Some sellers will list the types of appliances in the agreement and then pull the good ones and install used builder grade appliances just before closing.

  15. I'd Buy That For A Dollar! says:

    Yeah I had to go to Lowes and buy blinds, kitchen and bathroom cabinet knobs, and toilet paper holders. Oh, and don’t forget your mailbox.

  16. youbastid says:

    I feel the Phil-bashing has gotten out of hand lately, but this article is just straight idiotic. It contains the most obvious information that people would notice on their first time LOOKING at a house, let alone buying it, and leaves out information they might miss, like potential property tax increase (if your house costs more than it was last assessed at). Damn Phil, I feel for ya, but you’re digging your own grave here!

    • BBBB says:

      “…but this article is just straight idiotic…”

      Unfortunately, many first time home buyers DO need articles like this.

      If someone has never taken care of a house before, they won’t think of many expenses. The perspective of someone who has owned a house or to someone that grew up in a house watching their family buy and repair stuff is different from someone who has always lived in apartments. Also, if the person is moving to an area with different climate or different norms of house construction/sales, they can find surprises. [examples - I grew up in an area where garbage pickup was a city service included in property taxes, then I moved to an area where garbage was a separate mandatory fee provided by a private contractor. Escrow was normally paid by the seller in one area and paid by the buyer in the other.]

  17. rockelscorcho says:

    This really isn’t relavent, but if you do have a home, or when you get one, please maintain your lawn! A nice lawn goes a long way. It’s nice to play on, nice to see, and overall makes your home feel and look more comfortable. But you need to maintain the lawn! Get lazy for a while and you end up with even more work than simple maintance. Ugly lawns are an eye sore for you, your neighbors, and your home. Please, maintain your lawn.

    If you want a home, but not a lawn, consider it when buying one.

  18. notserpmh says:

    Maybe things are different in Texas, but pretty much all of that (except for windows treatments) is included with new homes. I built a new home in 2008 and it came with (no way to even “take it out ” and save money), landscaping including grass, trees and plants, appliances (no washer, dryer or fridge, but it did come with a microwave, and range and a dishwasher) and a garage door opener and a fence.

    We were able to negotiate to get wood blinds thrown in as well on all the windows. From what we looked around at, this is more the rule rather than the exception. Sure, you don’t get a fridge, washer or dryer, but most pre-existing homes don’t have those either.

    Item 4, moving, is dumb. Isn’t that a cost no matter where you move? A new house, an old house, and apartment, in with your parents, whatever, you still have to box up your stuff and find a way to get it to your new place.

    • who? says:

      Things must be different in Texas. In California, the yard is dirt and rocks, and your contract will require you to put in a front yard within 90 days, and a back yard within 6 months.

  19. annelise13 says:

    I have been the bearer of bad news on the appliances thing to more than one friend, so it’s not obvious to everyone that appliances don’t convey automatically. Before people buy a house, they tend to live in apartments. Apartments, at least around here, almost always include a fridge and stove. When they go look at a home (new or being sold by current owner), appliances are usually in place for show if nothing else. It doesn’t even occur to them that they’ll show up to their new place on moving day and have no way to chill the beer they promised their friends for helping them move.

  20. LanMan04 says:

    Window treatments: order blinds online. Super-duper-simple to install, and cheap too!

  21. jasonq says:

    I have not RTFA, but another big one I often see is furniture. People don’t realize their cheapo single-person-apartment furniture looks like crap in a shiny new (or new-to-them) house.

  22. tbax929 says:

    I built and moved into my house in 2010, so I just passed my one-year mark there. It was my first house (not condo), so there were some things I just didn’t know. Where I live, I really needed a water softener. If I’d known I would need one, I’d have had the builder install the loop. I managed to get it done at a reasonable price, but that was only after having 3 other estimates that were ridiculous.

    As far as the dirt chic look, it’s all the rage in Southern AZ. I put some desert plants and rocks in the back and front, but it wasn’t very expensive. I have no desire to have grass, so there was no cost there.

  23. Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

    I don’t know, but I think Phil has either been planning to look for a new house, or has already bought one.

  24. KenZ33 says:

    I’m starting to wonder if Phil should just create a blog roll and list where he “borrows” his articles.

  25. Krazycalvin says:

    With this picture I thought it said hidden cameras that come with new homes.

  26. Alan_Schezar says:

    The so-called hidden cost which got me was the drastic increase in the heating bill. Up from about $60/mo to ~$400/mo. Remember when your parents got mad when you turned up the heat one degree? Well, now you know :P

  27. randomneko says:

    one more cost. my parents had to pay to install 3 electrical polls.

  28. waicool says:

    be careful what you wish for, those home depot/lowes runs will 20 dollar you to death

  29. arcticJKL says:

    Utilities! I hadn’t thought about paying for the gas and electricity! Good thing I read this article.

  30. FLConsumer says:

    Don’t forget to budget for NEW new appliances. The builder-grade crap (usually GE) will break as soon as the warranty expires. If not sooner. oh and toilets! builder-grade toilets generally don’t work.

  31. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Another hidden cost is interest believe it or not. People really don’t get that they will end up paying double the cost of the house after all is said and done. And, most of the early payments go to interest, so you aren’t making much a of a dent in the principal in the first few years. I know people who bought houses and think they made a decent profit b/c after 15 years, they sold a $150,000 house for $200,000. They don’t even think about the interest they have already paid and real estate fees, along with any repairs, which generally average a minimum of 1% of the purchase price per year, nevermind basic improvements. People can be delusional when it comes to buying a house. I’ve met a few people who went into buying a house with a clear head knowing what they were getting into, but I’ve met just as many who just jumped in without thinking, having money put back for emergencies, etc…