How much does a house really cost?


So I’ve been saving up to buy my own place, and I wanted to pull some thoughts from you all since a lot of you have been homeowners already.

I’ve run the numbers on mortgages, property taxes, insurance, and all of those knowable expenses, but the one piece that I’m not sure about is the unexpected costs of owning a home. I’m probably going to go for a condo in the city, but I’m also considering single family homes further out in the less dense/trendy neighborhood. I’ve heard warnings about special assessments and unscrupulous home renovators. What kind of expenses have popped up when you bought a house or condo?



Typical unexpected items for us included early A/C repairs (breaking down way before you’d expect it to). Storm damage is another.

Regular upkeep , aka normal maintenance is a big one. There are things around the exterior of the house that need painting, misc maintenance that you have to budget for… Maybe put money away in a “maintenance savings account”. Or use a savings app (Acorns, Digit, Stash, etc.) to grow the money a small bit then use it when you have an unexpected expense.

Lawn care. Either you borrow or buy a lawnmower and all the little things for keeping the yard clean or you hire someone to do it.

Pest control - a monthly expense unless you live somewhere that doesn’t have a bug problem (Or you just don’t care!).

Good luck on the purchase or whatever you decide to do.


For a single family home, these were some of our expenses in the first four years of owning:

  1. Expected: insulation of two bedrooms. The inspection report showed us this and we knew we had it coming.

  2. Expected: replaced carpet that was the colour of phlegm in two bedrooms

  3. Unexpected: dishwasher crapped out

  4. Unexpected: section of the fence needed to be replaced

  5. Unexpected: A/C work because it turned on and sounded like it was working very hard but was doing a crap job of actually cooling anything

  6. We’ve had a plumber over 3 times for an assortment of issues


Your costs really depend on your DIY capabilities. In 6 years we have had only two major problems sewage line to street needed replacing. My father in law did it in two days by himself except hired a plumber to actually make the connection. All that digging saved us about $6k. Our house re-wrire cost us 15k but we sort of knew going in, we would one day need to replace the knob and tube. We are happy there so not a problem. Everything else except minor plumbing we have been lucky enough to handle on our own and we aren’t very handy.


YouTube is a wonderful invention for homeowners


Yes! We’ve learned a ton there!


Learn as much as you can about DYI. We bought a run down foreclosure and other than the roof (I refuse to roof - did it as a teenager) everything has been done by me and my sons.
Its really not hard if you go slow and think about whatever it is that needs to be fixed. Typical costs associated with a repair by others:
1-Research the items ie toilet replacement. Look at Home Depot pricing. Double it and that’ll get you close to the contractor will charge you (just for materials) Your cost = $100 What they charge = $200
2-But you may ask what about their labor? Triple that same original cost of the item and again, you’ll be close.
There’s also going to be incidentals but that should be shown on what they expect cost wise. Orig = $100 Chg = $300
So what could cost you 100 now is 500. Huge savings. But there is a learning curve and you can screw it up costing you more in the long run. Learn learn learn all that you can.
As to your question, there’s always going to be something that you’ll have to do. Unless a pipe is broken or sewer backed up, ie EMERGENCY, I research what I need and add up all the costs. If I have all the money needed set aside in my general savings fund, I go and get all I need. If not, it will wait until I have the $$. We have no figure set aside for “monthly” repair costs.
Hope this helps


Thanks for breaking it down! How much would you budget on regular up-keep? I’ve been living in apartments, so I have no idea what it costs to actually keep a place livable.


Unexpected expenses are the worst. Thanks for the input, I’m going to include it what my worst case looks like for expenses so that I can make sure that still fits in my budget.


Your family sounds so handy! Great points @Jillena, @whiskey, and @faithfuldividends on using youtube. I’ll have to check it out. I’m not completely mechanically inept, but anything connected to electricity and water seems way out of my league at this point.


Good question, one thing to keep in mind too is the age of the home and appliances.
You can expect most major appliances to last 10-15 years (HVAC, fridge, washer/dryer, etc).
Expect to do windows every 20-40 years.
Expect asphalt roof every 15-30 years.
Resealing/repaving of driveways in snowy areas every couple of years.
Sometimes it comes in waves too, like I experienced this year. I was planning for the windows this year, but none of the other stuff!

This year I’ve spent the following:
All windows replaced - $5700
Furnace & AC - $6700
New gas line - $1200
New water line & gutter tiles - $6000
Misc other repairs & maintenance - ~$1000

I’ve spent a boatload on my house this year, around $20.6k.
The only other major expense I’m expecting in the near future is a new water heater. Mine is original to the house, from 1978!
But I shouldn’t have any major expenses for at least another 10-15 years at which point I’ll probably need new furnace, AC unit, and/or roof. Plenty of time to save up.


How physically large are the single family homes you are looking at?

For our first house it was small enough that we legit replaced every pipe in the house for under $800, in our new house we paid more just to replace some.

Another factor is age.

We have friends who purchased newer houses than ours and while they paid more they haven’t had to replace anything like furnaces and such like we have: yet.


Here’s a great article with a good rule of thumb


Condos are nice because you’re only responsible for the stuff inside the walls, and the HOA should take care of the structure and the landscaping…
But when the whole neighborhood needs a new roof or there’s a problem with the pool, every homeowner can be billed a special assessment of several thousand dollars if the HOA’s savings is insufficient.

I’ve heard that for houses you should budget 1% of the value per year for maintenance. Some years you’ll use less and some more, of course, but new flooring or a roof can easily eat that $$$ up.

As much as (or more than?) money it’s also your time to have the issues addressed or to DIY. If you like this stuff and want to make it a hobby, then go for it. But if you already have a lot of hobbies and aren’t interested, then it’s nice to have a landlord to take care of it all for you.


If the home is fairly new, you shouldn’t have any major issues. If not, be prepared. Most times, the biggest issues are due to maintenance. Just like a car, homes need to be maintained on a regular basis. Plumbing, air conditioning, roof, etc. are all things that can come up. Also, factor in time and/or money to do landscaping. And yes, be careful about homeowners associations. This is an expense you can’t control. Just be aware of their rules and regulations if looking into a neighborhood with one. Good luck!


For a condo, you’ll want to take a close look at the overall age of the complex, the associations insurance policy, and the bylaws. I lived in a condo for six years as my first place and fortunately didn’t experience any nasty assessments. But the condos were relatively new (hence not needing major repairs) and they had a good association insurance policy in case anything happened.

For expenses, I only had a few major ones during the six years I lived there:
-Replace a garbage disposal (a few hundred)
-Paint the condo (did this myself, so only a hundred or so for the paint)
-Replace light fixtures (got some at tag sales)
-Replace all the carpets before selling (around $1k)
-Refinish the bathtub ($300)

I actually preferred the condo to the house I live in now expense wise. I was only responsible for the items on the inside (drywall in), not the exterior (walls, roof, driveway, sidewalks, lawn, etc.), which simplified maintenance and kept the costs down. The person sold it with appliances that were new-ish, so they didn’t break down. At the time I bought the complex was 12 years old, so not shiny new but not so old that things needed replacement. I also sold the condo for $60k more than I paid, which was the down payment on the house. I will caution that condos typically don’t hold their value as well as homes do. When I look on Zillow the condo is worth $30k less than I sold it for 10 years ago. At the height of the crash it was worth about what I had paid for it, so had I held on a few more years I only would have broken even on the sale.

Definitely some things to think about when comparing a condo to a home.


What you have to do is identify all items in a house that will wear out over time.

Home expenses:

What I do is calculate the cost of each repair and expense it monthly. For example if a new roof on your house would cost $8,000, and it lasts for 15 years, you can expense $45/month (15 years * 12 months = 180. $8000/180 months = $45/month). Now do this for all possible items above.


My grandmother owns a condo and the association just did a special assessment for outside work that needed done. She had to pay $1000 up front and her dues rose $250/month for 20 months. Thankfully she can swing it, but I have to wonder how this huge increase must be affecting some of her neighbors.


Ongoing maintenance costs depend so much upon things like:

  • age of house and systems
  • size of house (2500 sqft vs 1200 - larger increases most costs significantly)
  • simplicity of floorplan (I love box-like houses with simple roofs for my rentals)
  • durability of materials (wood siding is a HUGE expense vs masonry, metal, vinyl)

I tell you all that to say it’s hard to give a rule of thumb here. But I’ll do it anyway :slight_smile: On our typical single family house rentals we start with a budget of $150/month for maintenance and replacement of capital items (roof, HVAC, etc). We might adjust that down or up depending upon factors above and others, and if any large item have less than 5 years life left we count on spending that money up front. My father has had rentals for 25 years and he’s a nitpicky-CPA-type who saves all of these repair numbers, and his houses have averaged about that $150/month number.

Hope that helps as a starting place. Good luck!


The most expensive things to maintain on a detached home are usually the roof, windows, and the furnace. Before buying, make sure those three things are in good condition, that’s important.
You can then begin to set aside funds for other maintenance that will come up.

A few other things I think are SUPER important to keep in mind:

  1. @faithfuldividends is bang on about Youtube, DIY will save you a tonne of money over the years.

  2. The smaller the home, the lower your operating/maintenance/reno costs will be. Whenever I see a giant, custom home, I think about how much the reno costs will be in 20 years when the owners want/need to update it.

  3. If you stay well within budget in buying the home, then you’ll have more cash flow flexibility to maintain it.

  4. Avoiding the HGTV trap is key. A new $40,000 kitchen is not ‘required maintenance’. Sounds silly, but many people confuse luxury reno’s with the basics of home maintenance.

As for condos, I haven’t a clue, never owned one! lol.