Ideally, you'll want to put 20% down — anything lower and you will have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI), which is a safety net for the bank in case you fail to make your payments. PMI can cost between 0.3% and 1.50% of the mortgage, depending on the size of your down payment and your credit score.
If you're getting a loan from the bank or a mortgage lender, you'll be paying an annual interest rate. This cost varies depending on your income, debt, credit score, down payment, and length of your mortgage, but expect to pay between 3% and 5% each year.
Be prepared for closing costs: appraisal fees, attorney fees, title insurance, property transfer taxes, and inspection fees. These are highly variable, depending on the state you're buying in, but your real estate agent or lawyer will be able to spell them out for you.
You can also use SmartAsset's closing costs calculator — which factors in your location, target home price, and down payment — to get an estimate of closing costs and fees.
Property tax is another unavoidable cost. It's expressed as a percentage of your home's value, and also depends on your location, but as a nation, Americans pay an average of $2,216annually in property taxes, Zillow and Thumbtack found.
If you're buying a condo or apartment, the property tax will be lower, as you don't own the land — however, condos and apartments tend to have association fees to cover the costs of maintaining the building's lobbies, patios, landscaping, pools, and elevators.
Utility costs such as electricity, gas, and water don't come cheap. Factor in an about $3,000annually, the national average according to Zillow and Thumbtack, to cover these expenses.
Particularly if you're moving out-of-state, moving costs — renting a U-Haul or hiring professional movers — can add up. The average cost of an in-state move is $1,170, US News & World Report reports, and if you're moving between states, it'll cost you about $5,630.
Tasks such as house cleaning, yard care, gutter cleaning, and pressure washing add up. US households pay an average of $3,435 each year to outsource maintenance costs. It'll be cheaper to do it yourself, but far from free.
If you're buying a condo or apartment, you won't have a yard to landscape or a driveway to keep in tact — rather, you'll pay association dues to cover maintenance.
Renovations vary household to household and year to year, but plan on setting aside some extra cash for various renovations as they arise. Springing for a kitchen or bath remodel can be a worthy investment, as it often returns more than 100% of the cost, HGTV found. Plus, these are the rooms you typically spend the most time in, and consequently get worn down quicker.
Particularly if you're moving from an urban to suburban area, or vice versa, the lifestyle changes will significantly affect your expenses. "The cost of childcare in different areas ranges, for example," Bernstein notes. "In more urban areas, you have a plethora of childcare options, but when you move further out into the suburbs, your potential pool of options may dry up, and you have to start factoring in commuting expenses."
It's important to consider the intangible costs of suburban life, like gas, a second car, more auto insurance, and childcare, if you're headed away from a city.
The right time to buy a home will be different for every individual and family, but expect more than just a higher monthly payment — be prepared for surprise expenses, and higher repair and update costs.