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9 Hidden Home Maintenance Costs That Can Blindside First-Time Buyers

March 16, 2019

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So you’re a first-time buyer who just closed the deal on your new home and moved in. Finally, you can breathe a deep sigh of relief. After all, you managed to pony up a down payment, closing costs, and other sundry expenses. Provided you make your monthly mortgage payments, you’re fine and dandy on the finance front … right?

Not quite. Because owning a home means you have to maintain it—and maintenance costs money to do right. Expenses that you may not have considered are bound to crop up after you’ve bought the house. Some are one-offs, but others will come back around regularly. Overlook them at your peril, since neglect may just lead to even bigger breakdowns that will cost you more down the road.

Want to know what lies ahead? (Hey, it’s better than being blindsided.) Check out these hidden expenses that first-time buyers often overlook.

1. New locks

Cost: $100 to $350, plus installation

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 ASAP.

“I don’t think people are thinking about who else has a key: the babysitter, dog walker, mother-in law,” says Elizabeth Samti, a real estate agent for Weichert Realtors in Cherry Hill, NJ. “People aren’t conscious about how many keys could be floating around out there.”

2. Tree trimming/removal

Cost: $75 to $4,000, depending the height of the tree

You remembered to budget enough to purchase a lawn mower and an edger, or maybe you set aside money to pay for a lawn maintenance service. But did you remember tree maintenance? Many first-time home buyers don’t, and 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 that pesky stump removed, too, expect to cough up several hundred more.

3. HVAC maintenance

Cost: $70 to $100 twice a year

Twice-a-year maintenance on your HVAC system can prevent expensive emergency repairs in the future. Even brand-new systems need check-ups, 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, Samti recommends signing up for a yearly service contract. These contracts typically include two check-ups a year, and may also offer perks like priority emergency service or a small discount if repairs are needed. The price of a year-long contract depends on its terms, but tends to run around $150.

4. HVAC filters

Cost: $10 to 25 a month

Also on the HVAC note: “The whole system works better if you change your filter once a month,” says Samti. Basic filters won’t break the bank, but filters with allergy reduction elements typically have a higher price tag. To save money, Samti suggests 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.

5. Duct cleaning

Cost: $450 to $1,000, depending on the size of the home

If you purchase a previously lived-in home, contaminants in the ducts can be a major problem for allergy suffers. Samti recommends 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 environmental factors.

6. Fire extinguishers

Cost: $20 to $75 per extinguisher

In some states, home sellers are required to keep a fire extinguisher within 5 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 in. But if your newly purchased home doesn’t include a fire extinguisher, Samti suggests buying at least one to store in the kitchen.

7. Smoke/carbon monoxide detectors

Cost: $12 to $80 per unit

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, Samti recommends installing smoke detectors in every bedroom in your home—even if they’re not required by law.

8. Pest control

Cost: $50 to $250 for initial treatment

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, according to Ed McGettigan of Exterminating Company of America in Audubon, NJ.

As for rodents, the cost depends on how many critters are crawling around your home.

“Since there are various methods of removing rodents, the fees for each method will vary, but expect to pay at least $75 for an initial visit from any pest control company,” McGettigan says.

9. Fireplace cleaning

Cost: $75 to $175 depending on the length of the chimney

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, according to Samti.

“Even if you think you’re not going to use it, get the fireplace cleaned,” she says. “It’s such a fire hazard. You have no idea how long stuff has been in it.”

The post 9 Hidden Home Maintenance Costs That Can Blindside First-Time Buyers appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

The Wild Secrets Buyers Learned About Their Homes After the Deal Had Closed

March 6, 2019

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Imagine buying your dream home, moving in, and then discovering a shocking secret lies within that no one bothered to reveal to you before closing. It happens more often than you might think! Inspections and seller disclosures are part and parcel of the journey toward closing on a home, but sometimes things slip through the cracks—or just aren’t covered by disclosure requirements.

What sorts of things, you ask? We tapped real buyers for stories about the craziest things they learned about their homes after the sale had closed. From a snake breeding ground to a secret well, here’s what they said—and what the laws say about whether or not the seller should have spoken up.

Snakes in the garage

Nyssa Calkin figured she knew the house she was buying pretty well. After all, it was just a quarter-mile from the house where she grew up in Callicoon, NY. But after seven months in her new home, she had a slithery surprise knocking at her door.

“We have a snake nursery in our basement and garage,” Calkin says. “Every August/September, we are picking up dozens and dozens of baby garter, ringneck, and Eastern milk snakes to put outside. My 10-year-old daughter tries to talk me into keeping every single one of them!”

Did the seller have to disclose this? According to Aaron Hendon, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty in Seattle, if the seller knew about the snakes, it should have been shared.

“If there are defects the seller knows about, they will likely put themselves in legal jeopardy down the road by withholding that information,” Hendon says.

Pests—whether they’re snakes, termites, roaches, or other creepy-crawlies—typically fall under the definition of a defect.

Someone died there

Hannah Murphy couldn’t figure out why her home had been sitting on the market for six months before she bought it, but the Columbia, TN, resident thinks she understands now.

“We found out the woman living there before us died in the basement,” Murphy says. “She fell down the stairs and broke her neck, and her daughter found her the next day. We had no idea until our friend—who knew the woman’s daughter—told us after he came to our new house for the first time.”

Murphy and her husband found the story sad, but said it wouldn’t have changed their mind about buying.

“It didn’t bother me much because there was nothing sinister that had happened,” she says.

Did the seller have to disclose this? Believe it or not, a death in the home is not always something sellers have to share as laws vary by state, Hendon says. In fact, only a few states require the seller to disclose a death in the home, and most have a limit on the time frame. In California, for example, a seller needs to share information about a death that occurred only within the past three years.

Hidden wishing well

When Vanessa Reeves and her husband moved into their Narrowsburg, NY, house, they knew there was a Sheetrock wall in the basement. What they didn’t realize was that there was something behind it.

“A couple of months after we moved in, the Sheetrock started crumbling, and our very own wishing well was exposed,” Reeves says. “It’s a gorgeous, hand-laid, 6-foot-wide-by-9-feet-deep well; fresh, crystal-clear, cold water right at my fingertips all year round!”

Did the seller have to disclose this? Material facts about the property are supposed to be shared as part of the disclosure process, Hendon says, and a secret wishing well in a hidden room could have actually been a bonus to lure buyers.

Freeze! FBI!

Unbeknown to Jill Wiener, the barn on her property had a criminal history.

“My barn was cocaine headquarters—manufacturing and such,” Wiener says of one of the outbuildings that came with her old farmhouse in Callicoon Center, NY.

“The story, as I can piece it together, is that the house was rented out by the previous owners to people from Colombia, and they were processing cocaine in my barn. The FBI tracked a shipment of ether (which is used in the manufacturing process) from California to a remote location down a long driveway in upstate New York. They set up shop in a shell of a house up the hill and across the road.”

Should the seller have disclosed this? The laws on crime disclosures vary by state, Hendon says. In Oregon, for example, if a home was once a drug lab, it can be sold only with full disclosure. Courts in Pennsylvania, on the other hand, have ruled that sellers don’t have to disclose any crime that occurred on the property.

The post The Wild Secrets Buyers Learned About Their Homes After the Deal Had Closed appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.