Surprise Costs Of Building A Brand New Home

Building a home is an exciting adventure.

Like buying a resale home, it is a major purchase that requires serious thought and analysis prior to pulling the trigger.

Some people might be surprised by some of the hidden costs of purchasing or building a brand new home.

My wife and I recently went through the home building process ourselves, so we thought we’d share what we learned both through our research and experience.

Here’s what you need to know.

The Starting At Price Isn’t What You’ll Pay

The first thing we learned when we considered building a new home is that the starting price you see on brochures is not what you’ll pay. You’d think there would be an option to get a house for exactly the starting price, but it’s pretty difficult to come across.

For instance, our builder only allowed a small subset of floor plans to be built on the non-premium lots. Of course, our floor plan wasn’t included.

There were two additional lots you could build any floor plan on, but they were in the worst location possible. In the end, we ended up paying five figures for a lot with a better location. It was a lot of money, but it was totally worth it.

Then comes the customization of your home. The base price comes with base grade everything. That includes carpet in almost the entire home and many finishes you wouldn’t want in your home.

Our builder had only one base level counter top choice, a dark green/brown granite that we hated. Instead, we had to pay a couple thousand dollars to upgrade our counters to something we could live with for as long as we live in our home.

Just to give you an idea, here are just some of the things we paid to upgrade. Some were reasonably priced while others were expensive. However, redoing them after the fact would have been even more expensive.

  • Cabinets,
  • Countertops,
  • Flooring, including laying tile in a pattern,
  • Tray ceilings,
  • Expanded shower,
  • Attic storage,
  • Adding a sliding glass door,
  • Appliances (and the fridge wasn’t included at all),
  • Electrical outlets, switches and extra lights,
  • Plumbing a sink in our laundry room and
  • Door hardware

Closing Costs Aren’t Included

Like buying a resale home, you’ll have to pay closing costs. Sadly, the builder wasn’t willing to pay for all of our closing costs like some sellers do.

So, we had to pay thousands of dollars in closing costs in addition to purchasing our home. Thankfully, we were able to negotiate a few discounted closing costs using our builder’s contractors, such as the survey.

Costs Keep Piling Up After Closing

If you think you’re done spending money after you close on your brand new home, you’re sorely mistaken.

Remember how I said we only paid for upgrades that were reasonably priced or difficult to change after we moved in? That means we saved some upgrades to do ourselves after we moved in. They weren’t always cheap.

In our case, I went ahead and replaced all of our sink faucets to a style we liked. I also changed out the lights in all of the bedrooms to ceiling fans, since we do live in Florida.

Our builder only used bright white CFL bulbs in homes, so we switched all of our lighting out to soft white LED lights as well.

To make things even more expensive, there are some things your new home won’t come with. For us, our home didn’t come with a refrigerator which is one of the more expensive appliances.

Additionally, almost no new home comes with blinds or window coverings. Thankfully, we don’t have a house right behind us so we only had to add window coverings to a few rooms before we moved in.

Depending on where you live, some homes don’t even come with landscaping or grass. In our case, our home was landscaped, but we’ll have to add both a fence and gutters to our home in the coming months.

After you close, you’re going to have to get the utilities transferred to your name. Our builder gave us five days to do so.

You’ll likely have to pay each utility an activation fee and some will require deposits or charge installation fees. We had to turn on our water, sprinkler water, electricity, natural gas, cable and internet.

These costs will easily add thousands of dollars to the cost of moving into a brand new home.

Making Your Home Your Own

After we moved in and unpacked most of our belongings, we realized some of our stuff wouldn’t look right in our new home. Thankfully, all of our furniture fits where we wanted it to go.

That said, we still have many decorations and other items that will need to be changed out.

Additionally, we moved into a bigger home. That means we currently have some rooms that aren’t fully furnished how we’d like them. Those furnishings will cost us hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

We’re not in a rush, though, so we have time to find good deals as well as find pieces we really want.

As you can tell, building or buying a brand new home comes with some extra costs that may not come with a resale home. It usually comes with all of the same costs as a resale home, too.

What is important to realize is it takes a significant amount of research to figure out how much your new home will cost you in total once everything is said and done.

Make sure you spend that time before you sign the contract to build your new home to make sure you can really afford the journey you’re about to embark on.

We love living in our newly built home. I’m not the type of person that worries if someone lived in a home before I did or not.

What I do love is the fact that all of the major pieces of our home, such as the floor plan, flooring, wall colors and more permanent aspects are all how we want them.

I am willing to do the minor projects I mentioned above, but there are no major home renovations in our future. To me, that’s worth the price of building a brand new home.

Are you considering building a new home? What costs surprised you? Have you built a new home in the past? Share your experiences below so others can avoid forgetting about any major costs I may have missed.

 

Is Buying A New Honda Odyssey Cheaper Than Buying Used?

The first car I ever bought myself was a brand new car.

At the time, the car industry was having a rough time and offering substantial discounts on new cars.

Recent model used cars were difficult to find. Even when you did find them, they were barely cheaper than a new car.

I figured this was a fluke and bought a brand new car for what I thought would be the only time in my life.

I was wrong.

Why We’re Shopping For A New Car

My wife’s car is 10 years old and still has plenty of life left in it, but we recently added a new family member which has made us rethink our current vehicles. While both of our cars work great for quick trips around town, we no longer have a great car for road trips.

We could all fit, but it’d be a tight squeeze with all of the baby gear we have to take with us on vacations. If we wanted to bring the dog, we wouldn’t have enough room in our car.

Ultimately, we decided it’s probably time to purchase a minivan. After all, cars are for utility, not for looking cool.

Used Honda Odysseys Are More Expensive Than New Honda Odysseys

Fast forward to today and I’ve come across a very similar issue where new cars are cheaper. While we haven’t pulled the trigger on a car yet, we’re strongly considering the Honda Odyssey.

Based on the preliminary research we’ve done, buying a used Honda Odyssey would actually be more expensive in the long run than buying a brand new Honda Odyssey. Here’s how I calculated the numbers that led me to my conclusion.

How To See If A New Or Used Car Is Cheaper

Assuming you’re calculating the costs of buying a new vs used car of the same exact make and model car, here is an easy way to calculate which is cheaper.

First, find the total cost of buying the new car and the total cost of buying the used car.

Make sure to include all fees, taxes, charges and interest if you’re financing. Next, determine the total expected life of the car for your situation in both years and mileage. Now that you have this information, you can run the numbers.

To calculate the total cost of the new car, take the total new car price and subtract the expected value at the end of the vehicle’s life. In our example, the out the door cost of a 2016 Honda Odyssey EX-L was roughly $35,000.

To get the cost of the vehicle at the end of its life, go to KBB.com and pick your car but subtract the number of years you expect to own it.

For instance, we expect to own a new van for 9 years and 150,000 miles, so we quoted a 2006 Honda Odyssey EX-L with 150,000 miles which sells for $4,826 as a private seller. Then take the new price and subtract the end of life sale price to get the total cost.

The total cost of the new vehicle itself would be $30,174 in this case.

For the used vehicle, I found a 2014 Honda Odyssey EX-L for sale for roughly $29,500 out the door with 35,508 miles. The expected value at the end of life was calculated at $3,814. The total cost of the used vehicle itself would be $25,686 in this case.

Total Dollar Cost Isn’t The Number You Should Use

Clearly, in total cost, the used car is cheaper. However, when you consider the true determining factor, cost per mile, things may be different.

In this instance, we’d get 150,000 miles of life out of the new car for a total cost of 20.116 cents per mile. We’d only get 114,492 miles of life out of the used car for a total cost per mile of 22.434 cents per mile. In this case, the used car is more expensive.

Yes, there are other costs to consider such as fuel mileage, maintenance costs, insurance costs, etc. The list could go on for quite a while. However, in the big scheme of things it seems like buying a new car still might be cheaper in the long term over buying a used car.

Did you think a new car could be cheaper than a used car? Have you ever run the numbers and come to a similar conclusion?

 

Should You Buy Or Rent A Home? This Secret Will Help You Decide

The buy versus rent debate is currently a hot topic when it comes to housing and personal finance.

Personally, I think too many people get too caught up in the numbers.

Yes, numbers are important, but there is something even more important. Buying or renting a home is a lifestyle choice in addition to a financial choice.

You shouldn’t make your decision on only one of these factors.

You must consider both.

Financial Decisions

Renting and buying a home are two totally different beasts when it comes to money. Renting offers a fair amount of financial certainty for your housing expenses.

You will know exactly how much your rent will be for the period of your lease. You won’t likely have to pay much else for your basic housing costs.

When you buy a home, your mortgage payment will stay close to the same if you have a fixed rate mortgage. Of course, it may increase or decrease based on changing real estate taxes and insurance rates.

Additionally, if you have a variable rate mortgage, the payment can change as interest rates change.

Utility expenses are another large cost that are associated with your housing. If you rent, you might luck out and have some of your utilities included in your rent. However, if you buy a home, you’re stuck with all of the utility bills in most cases.

The benefit of owning a home is the fact that you can make your home more efficient with regards to heating, cooling, electricity and water usage if it is a smart financial move.

As a renter, it wouldn’t make sense to make these improvements as they’d likely be cost prohibitive. They wouldn’t pay off before you had to move again.

Yard maintenance is sometimes covered in your rent as a renter and could potentially be included in homeowners association fees if you own a home.

However, this particular cost will vary widely depending on your specific situation regardless of whether you’re a renter or you buy your home.

Regular home maintenance is almost always paid for by your landlord if you’re renting. If you own your home, you need to make sure you can afford all of the maintenance that is necessary or your home could end up losing value quickly.

Once you take all of these factors into consideration, you should have a good idea if buying or renting will be cheaper on a monthly basis. If buying ends up cheaper, remember that you’ll have to include money for a down payment and closing costs as well.

Even with all of these financial considerations, you still need to consider the lifestyle choice you’d be making when you choose if you’ll rent or if you’ll buy a home.

Lifestyle Decisions

Unfortunately, the better financial decision doesn’t always make sense when you consider your lifestyle.

The secret that will help you make a sound decision about whether to buy or rent is matching your finances with your lifestyle. Owning and renting a home are two very different lifestyle decisions.

If your lifestyle doesn’t fit your choice, you could end up in a world of hurt, financially speaking.

The first lifestyle choice is the length of time you’ll live in a home. If you’re not sure where you’ll be in one year, let alone five years from now, then you’re most likely better off renting a home.

You can sign short leases and minimize the financial impact a mobile lifestyle would have on your wallet.

However, if you’re certain you’ll be in a particular area for decades, you might want to put down roots and avoid the costs of rent increases. After all, moving every couple of years sucks when your landlord doesn’t want to renew your lease.

If you hate yard work and performing maintenance tasks around the house, renting will definitely fit your lifestyle better. Since these things aren’t normally the responsibility of the renter, you’ll alleviate that stress on your life.

If you live for having the perfect yard, you probably would want to own the home so you don’t spend a ton of money fixing up a yard before the landlord decides not to renew your lease.

As you can see, deciding whether to own or rent a home isn’t a simple decision. It takes a lot of reflection on your situation to determine what is best for you. Don’t let others bully you into a situation you aren’t comfortable with. Do what’s best for you!

What do you think about the buy vs rent debate? Which side to you fall on, or do you run the numbers for every scenario?

Are Homeowners Associations Good Or Bad? It Depends!

Homeowners associations (HOAs) or Condominium Associations often have a bad image.

The first thought that normally pops in someone’s mind about HOAs are the strict neighborhoods that fine you for any tiny violation of the neighborhood covenants.

Why?

It seems everyone has a horror story from either themselves or a friend who had something not go their way.

But are HOAs really as bad as you always hear? Let’s explore!

Different Types of HOAs

Not all HOAs are the same. There are a wide variety of homeowners associations that offer a huge range of different services. You could have an HOA that simply makes sure that everyone follows the covenants that keep the neighborhood up to a certain standard.

Alternatively, you could have an HOA that offers everything under the sun including a clubhouse, golf course, pool, gym and they might even maintain all of the landscaping in the neighborhood.

Due to the wide variety of potential amenities, HOA fees can range from just a few bucks a month to hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month.

Some fees, especially in condo associations, even include utilities such as basic cable, internet, phone, electricity, water and trash. You’ll need to do the math yourself to figure out if the financial cost of an HOA fee is worth it to you.

HOAs Don’t Just Charge Money For Services

The sole value of an HOA isn’t in providing services at a charge. They enforce covenants that can help ensure that the homes and areas within the neighborhood or condo are kept up to a certain standard.

This can greatly increase the value of homes within a neighborhood when you eventually sell your home.

HOAs Can Be A Huge Pain

If you’ve decided that HOAs provide enough value for you financially, then you need to consider one of the biggest complaints about HOAs. A HOA has a set of covenants that everyone in that neighborhood must follow.

These covenants can restrict anything from what colors you’re allowed to paint your house to how you use your home and your yard.

They can regulate whether or not you can build a fence. If you can build a fence, they can regulate what materials you must use and what color it will be.

Your HOA can control where you park and how many cars you can park in your driveway. They can restrict you from being able to park boats, RVs or other recreational vehicles on your property where others can see them.

They can even require you to keep your trash can out of sight from the road!

Some people absolutely hate having someone else tell them what to do. Before you buy any home that has covenants and restrictions, be sure to read through all of the documents and fully understand them.

Once you buy, you’re bound to them and must follow the rules.

HOAs Can Be A Blessing In Disguise

HOAs aren’t all bad. While they restrict you from doing certain things, they also restrict your neighbors from doing the same things.

If you can’t stand living in a neighborhood with boats, RVs and trash cans in sight of the road, an HOA may be perfect for you! If you can’t stand bright orange and purple homes in your neighborhood you can find one that won’t allow crazy paint colors.

These restrictions create a certain level of uniformity that can increase home values if you don’t mind playing by the rules. That’s in addition to the benefits of the amenities!

Overall, if you can find an HOA that aligns with your values, I think they’re a great deal. Just make sure you’re ready to play by all of the rules in case you have a nit picky board that will blast you for every small violation.

What’s your stance on homeowners associations? Do you love them or hate them? Do you have a horror story or a great story about a condominium or homeowners association to share?

Top 4 Secrets To Help Sell Your Used Car For More Money

4 secrets for selling your used car for more moneyThere comes a time in most cars’ lives when their owner decides it is time to move on.

When most people make the decision to move on to a new (or new to them) car, they focus on the new car and completely ignore their old faithful car that they will soon be parting with.

That is a MAJOR mistake that can easily cost you thousands of dollars.

Don’t Forget About Your Old Car

When everyone is focusing on their new cars, they’ll likely just trade their old car in for anything that sounds reasonable.

Some people will even trade it in for less than the blue book trade-in price because they just want to get rid of it.

Car dealerships love this because it makes them lots of money. However, with a little bit of effort, and I mean just a little, you can keep this money for yourself. Sometimes it can be thousands of dollars for just a little bit of effort.

How To Get Maximum Value For Your Car

When you decide it is time to move on to your next car, you’re stuck with the way you’ve treated old car up until this point.

The car might be immaculate or your car might be in horrible shape. Either way, there are a few things you can do to get the most value from your car that you can.

Clean Your Car Up

My first tip is very key in getting the most money out of your old car. You should thoroughly clean both the outside and inside of your car.

Go as far as cleaning out the engine compartment and the trunk. Pretend you’re a detailer and clean out all of the little spots you’ve let get dirty over the past year.

When people see how clean your car is, it’ll be one less thing for them to use to negotiate against you on price.

Take Outstanding Pictures of What Matters

Now that your car is as spotless as it is going to get, take some amazing pictures of it. Don’t just take one or two pictures of the outside of the car. Take pictures of all of the highlights of the car and all of the things that matter most to car buyers.

I’d take a couple of pictures of the outside of the car and a couple pictures of the cabin in general.

Next, I’d make sure to get a picture of the odometer, any custom or higher end features, the rims and/or tires (if they’re nice) and anything else that will make someone want to buy your car.

Think like a car buyer, not a car seller.

Make An Awesome Listing Description

Now that you have the pictures ready, sit down in front of your computer and write an awesome listing for your car.

Make sure to list the model year, make, model, any options packages, odometer reading, any recent or major preventative maintenance performed and anything else that makes your car stand out.

Next, think about what questions you’d have if you were buying your old car. Make sure you answer all of these questions in the listing. This will save you time with phone calls and tire kickers.

When you have someone call they’ll hopefully be serious after all of the details you’ve already provided.

List Your Car For More Than What You Think You Can Get

Most people look up their car on Kelley Blue Book (KBB) to get a value for selling to a private party. They accept the KBB number as a gospel and list their car for that amount of money. BIG MISTAKE! You should never, ever do this.

You should go check KBB and see what they say the value is for a car in your condition, but instead of listing it at that price you should list it for more. People like to negotiate and this gives you room to lower your price to the KBB price, if necessary.

However, if you get a ton of responses for your ad, you might not need to lower the price at all. You can always lower your price on future postings, but you can’t very easily raise the price if you have a ton of interest because people would laugh at you.

Earning Extra Money On Your Car Sale Is Easy

If you take just a little bit of time, put effort into cleaning your car, take awesome descriptive pictures, make an awesome car sales description and research your price point, then selling your car yourself can earn you hundreds or thousands of dollars above the average used car trade-in.

Why wouldn’t you want to put that money in your pocket? You could use it to pay off debt, invest it for retirement or spend it on a fun vacation for the family. Trust me, a little bit of time and effort can make a big difference in the price when you’re selling your used car.

Have you ever sold one of your old cars yourself? Do you have any additional tips to share?

Photo by: The National Roads and Motorists’ Association Text added by: Lance Cothern