6 Home Ownership Truths That Will Shake You To Your Core

Photographed by Erica Gannett.
Are you plagued by recurring dreams of ditching your rental in the city and buying your own place upstate? A bungalow in the Hudson Valley sounds nice right about now, doesn't it? But behind that clapboard facade lurks a hard truth — homeownership kind of sucks.

Sure, it seems like a lovely concept, but have you ever thought about how much responsibility owning a house actually entails? Taking the garbage out every Monday is enough of a chore. Owning a home certainly has its advantages and can make for a solid long-term investment, but the fantasy is best served with a solid dose of reality. We spoke with Porch.com editor-in-chief Anne Reagan to parse through the complex costs of owning a home, and came out with these six hard truths — apologies in advance to your burgeoning inner lifestyle guru.
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Photo: Marcos Fecchino.
1. Your financial ducks need to fall in line before you start your search. Down payments, a mortgage, insurance — oh, my!

"These are the 'meat' of your house payments, and these costs are probably what you're thinking about when you’re calculating what type of home you can afford. Before you search home listings, you’ll want to sit down with a qualified home lender, your banker, or a real estate agent who can fully explain mortgage rates, how the down payment can affect your monthly payments, and tax implications. Home insurance is another cost you’ll need to be aware of, as most lenders require it when loaning money. It’s a good idea to get pre-approved for a loan before attending open houses, so you have a much better idea about how much home you can actually afford."
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Photo: Erin Yamagata.
2. Utilities and operational costs might very well eat your soul (or at least your savings).

"When you rent, you’re only vaguely aware of how a building operates. Heating, cooling, electricity, running water, insulation, and other functions are necessary to make us feel comfortable. As a homeowner, the responsibility of maintenance is up to you, and experts advise saving about 1% to 3% of the total home cost each year to pay for these costs. Maintenance could be as inexpensive as needing to fix a running toilet (about $20 for parts), as complex as installing a new HVAC system (several thousands of dollars), or as massive as putting on a new roof (tens of thousands of dollars). Additionally, some homeowners pay monthly or annual homeowner association (HOA) fees, which goes toward shared operational and maintenance costs like neighborhood landscaping or tree service."
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Photo: Winnie Au.
3. Cleaning can't be put off on your OCD roommate.

"Maintenance, cleaning, and repair costs will vary greatly depending upon the task at hand — and to be honest, you might not know what needs to be done until something breaks. Some maintenance costs are easy to anticipate, like repainting a room. But discovering a leak in your roof that requires a full roof replacement can cost thousands of dollars. In general, the size of the home and the age of the home could be the best way to budget for these costs."
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Photo: Evan Lane.
4. Pinterest may have done you wrong.

"Home decorating magazines and TV makeover shows always seem to omit the costs of a kitchen makeover. The average cost of a kitchen remodel ranges from $19,000 to $113,000, depending on where you live, the size of your kitchen and what, exactly, you are doing. By and large, the kitchen is the most expensive room in our homes; it is also the room most likely to be remodeled when someone purchases a home. Kitchen appliances are expensive, especially when you have to purchase the classic five: sink, dishwasher, oven, cooktop, and refrigerator. And, we haven’t even discussed all of the other things you want in your kitchen — like new kitchen countertops, better organization, new cabinet doors and better lighting. If you’re a budding chef or love to entertain at home, keep in mind that you’ll likely invest even more money into the kitchen."
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Photo: Rus Anson.
5. A collected home is hard to come by.

"Although shopping for furniture and decor can be fun, it's an expensive hobby. When you see images of Pinterest-worthy homes, what you might not realize is that those homes either had an enormous furniture budget or the homeowners spent many years decorating their home — or both. [Keep in mind] that most first-time homebuyers start with the basics and then slowly add furniture and decor over time. Putting a dollar figure on your home furnishings budget is pretty straightforward — all it takes is keeping a scrapbook of what you’d like for each room, then start adding up costs. New homes often need other furnishings besides furniture, such as new light fixtures, bathroom mirrors or vanities, new window shades, outdoor furniture, or new carpeting. Even small expenses like a new doorbell system, new house numbers, or new linens can add up."
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Photo: Evan Lane.
6. A beautiful backyard is a pain in the...backyard.

"If your dream home includes a yard, be prepared for landscaping costs. This could include lawn care, tree maintenance, new plants or shrubs, water and irrigation, arbors or fences, pavers or pathways, as well as exterior lighting. Even if you hire a landscaping professional to take care of monthly maintenance, chances are you’ll still need to purchase tools and equipment like a lawn mower, a leaf blower, shovels, clippers, and other equipment. When looking at prospective houses, it’s really important to assess the condition of the property and take into account the overall square footage of the yard. Take a look at the flowers and plants: Will they need a lot of maintenance or water? What about the size of the trees and shrubbery, will they need regular trimming or removal?"