When you first buy your own home, you need to adjust to dealing with all the things that were previously dealt with by your landlord or family members. If you’re not alert to that fact, you can find yourself swamped by costs that you didn’t take into account, and this gets some first time buyers into serious trouble. Most people will figure out that they need to pay for home insurance, council tax, fuel bills and internet provision, but there can be additional costs that are hard to predict or easy to overlook. Getting a clear picture of these can help you to organise your finances more effectively so that if you do need to find extra money, you’re able to do so.
If you get home insurance, that should mean you’re protected against the cost of anything material going wrong with your home, right? Wrong. Exactly what is covered will depend on your insurance policy, so make sure you read the small print when shopping around for a provider. Very few home insurance policies cover rotting timbers in a structure, and to make matters worse, the presence of dry or wet rot is hard to detect during a normal survey – it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to sue if the survey you arrange (or, in Scotland, the home report commissioned by the seller) doesn’t mention it.
With rot, the sooner you act, the less the cost will be. The most common place for it to develop is underneath the floors in bathrooms and kitchens, so checking these spaces as soon as you move in reduces your overall risk. Wet rot is comparatively easy to treat and though it’s a significant expense will usually only set you back for a year or two. Dry rot, alas, can easily run into tens of thousands of pounds. There is no way to treat it yourself – you will need to bring in professionals. Having a certificate guaranteeing that it has been dealt with, however, can maintain the value of your home afterwards because the treatment is long-lasting.
Even if your home is in perfect condition, there can still be problems with the ground that it stands on. Most insurance policies cover subsidence but there is always an excess charge to pay by the policyholder if a problem does arise. Some companies consider sinkholes or crumbling cliffs to be Acts of God which they can’t possibly cover. That means it’s a good idea to know something about the geology of the area you plan to move to. Are there old mine workings there? Is fracking or other heavy engineering work to be carried out nearby? Have other nearby buildings had subsidence problems? If subsidence does occur, it needs to be treated quickly. This can involve making structural repairs to your home and pumping the ground full of concrete underneath (underpinning) to hold it up.
Compared to the above problems, the infestation of your home by rodents or insects may seem unpleasant but not all that serious. It can, however, have serious consequences. Mice and rats can tunnel through walls and gnaw beams, creating structural problems. They can also chew through wires and cables, creating a fire risk. Insects can destroy the wooden structures in your house. Any kind of infestation also increases the risk of infectious disease so it can be a serious health risk, especially if there are young children in your household. Although you may be able to trap the occasional mouse it’s very difficult to get rid of an infestation on your own. Cleankill provide a professional service with a quick turnaround that lets you deal with the problem in one go instead of battling against it for months.
Renovating your home always requires some expenditure, however, depending on where you live, there could be additional costs. That’s because in some areas the exterior and even some interior features of your home are subject to being classified as ‘listed’ by the local authority. That requires any changes to be in keeping with the heritage of the street or neighbourhood. If you’re thinking of doing renovations, check for any regulations like that before starting work because you might need permission to do so. You might be obliged to use particular materials or stay within the limits of a specific style, which could require bringing in a specialist.
When moving in, most people imagine that they’ll always be using their homes in the same way, but that’s not necessarily the case. Personal physical mobility can change with age, illness can affect anybody, and you never know when you might have an accident. You may also need to make changes to keep your home safe for children, pets or an elderly relative who comes to live with you. If you think ahead about how you could go about this, you’ll be able to adapt much more quickly if you need to and you’ll be able to do so at a substantially lower cost. Local councils can sometimes help in situations like this, but they tend to be slow to do so, meaning that you may still need to bear the cost of interim solutions.
Neighbours and factoring
If you live in a flat in a shared building, you’ll have joint responsibility for the shared parts of that building and your own home could be affected by problems with the foundation or roof that are also the responsibility of other residents. If you have a property manager, they will look after routine maintenance and deal with extracting money from the other residents in order to ensure that essential repairs are carried out, but you’ll have to pay a monthly fee for this as well as putting in your share of the money when problems occur. If you don’t have a manager, you’ll need to be ready to negotiate with your neighbours yourself in order to make sure that your home is properly protected – even if they’re reluctant to pay their share.
It’s never possible to see every additional cost coming, which is why you really need to keep a rainy day fund once you become a property owner. Make sure it gets topped up again as soon as possible after you’ve used it. The more you can pay up front, the less you’ll have to pay overall and the more secure your home will be.