Home Maintenance Costs That Can Catch First-Time Buyers Off Guard

Now that you’ve closed the deal on your new home and moved in, you can finally breathe a deep sigh of relief. Right?

Not quite, because owning a home means you have to maintain it—and maintenance costs money to do properly. Here, realtor.com discusses some of the expenses you might not have considered.

1. New locks

Once you’ve signed on the dotted line, you get to take the keys to your new home—but before moving in with all your stuff, you should get those locks changed as soon as possible. The cost? $100 to $350, plus installation

2. Tree trimming/removal

You likely remembered to budget enough to purchase a lawnmower and an edger, or maybe you set aside money to pay for a lawn maintenance service, but did you remember tree maintenance?

If your property has older trees on the grounds, tree trimming or removal can cost a pretty penny. For instance, having a tree completely removed can average $4,000 or more.

And if you want a stump removed, too, expect to pay several hundred more. The cost? $75 to $4,000, depending on the height of the tree.

3. HVAC maintenance

Twice-a-year maintenance on your HVAC system can prevent expensive emergency repairs in the future. Even brand-new systems need checkups, as most warranties require regular maintenance.

The cost of HVAC maintenance depends on the payment plan you select. If you choose to pay a technician each time he comes to your home, you can wind up paying up to $100 per visit. Instead, consider signing up for a yearly service contract. 

These contracts typically include two checkups a year, offer perks like priority emergency service or a small discount if repairs are needed, and tend to run around $150. The cost? $70 to $100 twice a year.

4. HVAC filters

The HVAC system works better if you change your filter once a month. Basic filters won’t break the bank, but filters with allergy reduction elements typically have a higher price tag.

To save money, try buying filters in bulk or subscribing to a monthly filter delivery service, which will drop a filter right at your door when it’s time to be changed. The cost? $10 to 25 a month.

5. Duct cleaning

If you purchase a previously lived-in home, contaminants in the ducts can be a major problem for allergy suffers. Consider paying for a one-time duct cleaning in homes where the previous owners had pets, especially cats.

The National Air Duct Cleaners Association points out that the duct cleaning cost for an average-sized home varies depending on a number of factors, such as the number of ducts, level of contamination and environment. The cost? $450 to $1,000, depending on the size of the home.

6. Fire extinguishers

In some states, home sellers are required to keep a fire extinguisher within five feet of the kitchen when their house hits the market, so there’s a chance there will be one waiting for you when you move into your newly purchased home.

But if it doesn’t include a fire extinguisher, you’ll probably want to buy at least one to store in the kitchen. The cost? $20 to $75 per extinguisher.

7. Smoke/carbon monoxide detectors

New homes usually come equipped with modern smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that are hardwired, but previously owned homes may contain older, battery-operated detectors that are way past their prime.

 In addition to replacing any outdated detectors, you’ll want to install smoke detectors in every bedroom in your home—even if they’re not required by law. The cost? $12 to $80 per unit.

8. Pest control

Even if you paid for a pest inspection before purchasing, you can still end up with an army of ants marching across your kitchen counter in the spring.

An initial treatment to exterminate ants can cost $50 to $75, and your exterminator will typically charge around $40 for each additional month he needs to continue treatment.

As for rodents, the cost depends on how many critters are crawling around your home. The cost? $50 to $250 for initial treatment.

9. Fireplace cleaning

If you purchase a previously owned home that includes a fireplace, you’ll need to pay to get both the fireplace and chimney cleaned. While a home inspector visually inspects the chimney’s structure, he’s not a specialist in its cleanliness.

Even if you think you’re not going to use it, get the fireplace cleaned because you have no idea how long stuff has been in it. The cost? $75 to $175 depending on the length of the chimney.

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