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June is National Homeownership Month. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recognizes this month as a time to celebrate the American dream of owning a home. While record low interest rates and recent tax credits for first-time homebuyers have enticed many families to turn their dream of homeownership into a reality, the hidden costs of homeownership can sometimes catch families off guard. Preparing for the hidden costs of homeownership, especially for first-time homebuyers, is a wise financial move.

The financial experts at Money Management International (MMI) understand that knowledge is the key when investing in a home. It’s more than a place to live; it’s a financial asset, a place to raise a family, and an investment in the community. Below are tips for buying, maintaining, and protecting your largest asset.

Home insurance - Homeowner’s insurance often costs quite a bit more than renter’s insurance, because it covers the home, in addition to your personal property. Depending upon where you live, you may also need to purchase supplemental insurance for hurricanes, floors, tornados, earthquakes, and other natural disasters that are not covered under your standard policy.

Maintenance and repairs - Owning a home means that you are responsible for the upkeep. These costs can add up quickly, especially in an older home with older systems and appliances. Expect to spend some money on routine maintenance every year. Keeping an emergency fund for unanticipated repairs is also a smart idea. Keeping up with routine maintenance will help your home maintain its value.

Utilities - Prepare to spend some additional money on utilities, including water, garbage collection, heat, and electricity. With more space, it’s likely that even the bills you paid when you rented will be higher in your new home.

Homeowners' association fees - Find out if you will have to pay homeowners’ association fees. Many communities have a homeowners’ association, commonly called an HOA. An HOA is typically tasked with maintaining common areas and enforcing deed restrictions. Membership in a community HOA is often mandatory and members are charged a monthly or annual fee.

Home furnishings - You’ll probably need, or at least want, to purchase furniture and décor items for your new home. Most people, when purchasing a new home, decide to paint, upgrade the décor, purchase new furniture, and buy new linens.

“When purchasing a new home, factor in these items to your total budget to make sure that you are completely financially prepared for homeownership, “ said Cate Williams, vice president of financial literacy for MMI. “By doing this, you’ll rest assured knowing that you are purchasing a home that you can comfortably afford.”

About Money Management International

Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit-counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958. MMI’s counselors are both HUD certified to deliver housing counseling services, including delinquency mortgage counseling, and approved by the EOUST to deliver bankruptcy counseling and education. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24/7 by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call 800.762.2271 or visit www.MoneyManagement.org.

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