When you first go shopping for a town home, loan budgeting—figuring out how much a comfortable monthly mortgage payment would be—pretty much dictates the price range you will be considering. Some listings do the lion’s share of the home loan budgeting work for you through a ‘payment options’ box that provides a thumbnail mortgage payment calculation. You enter a percentage for the down payment, amount, and the type of loan—and at the speed of light it calculates an estimate for the monthly payment. Those that also include the latest property tax bill and an insurance estimate come up with a pretty definite picture of how affordable a given property will be.
An associated cost that home loan budgeting alone doesn’t address is the additional operating cost every homeowner runs into—the maintenance figure. Since those costs are dependent on the type and condition of the property, most experts just advise future homeowners to anticipate 1% of the purchase price per year…a transparently made up number. There are a couple of approaches that can improve on it.
The first way is to invest in a home warranty, which has a set cost. Home warranties are the forms of insurance that cover the repair or replacement of covered items. This can be a relatively economical way new area homeowners can buy some budgetary peace of mind while familiarizing themselves with the ins and outs of their new area home. But it’s also an occasion where it’s particularly important to read the fine print—the only way to be clear on what is covered, what is not, and what the deductibles are. It’s also important to get an idea of who the subcontractors will be.
The other way to get a bead on likely future maintenance outlays is to anticipate likely major replacement costs. Wood shake roofs, for instance, should last about 30 years, while fiber cement shingles last five years less (and rough weather conditions can lop years off those life expectancies). Wood floors last a century, as can marble and slate—while carpet usually needs to be replaced every eight to 10 years.
When it comes to included appliances, most local homeowners will agree that today’s models just don’t seem to last as long as they used to. It may be because electronics have added improved functionality…or it may be a result of flimsier manufacturing. At any rate, the National Association of Homebuilders’ research tells us that dryers (both gas and electric) have average life expectancies of 13 years—as do cooktops, electric ranges, and fridges. Washing machines last an average of 10 years; while microwave ovens last 9 years—as do dishwashers and compact refrigerators. Freezers last 11 years, garbage disposals, 12…but (uh-oh!) trash compactors average only 6. If the previous owner can furnish original warranties or purchase slips, it should be able to come up with a ballpark idea of when to expect replacement outlays.
Home loan budgeting will deliver the all-important mortgage payment amount, but it’s prudent to leave ample some budget for the other inevitable expenses. But first things first—and calling me is a good way to start. Finding a town home to fit all your requirements (including the budgetary ones) is, after all, job One!