From Insurance to Landscaping, Homeowners Are Paying More for Just About Everything
Buying a house is expensive these days. But paying for one you already own? That’s no cheap task either.
Homeowners are getting hit with higher costs from all angles. Take Eric Hegwer, a homeowner from Leander, Texas, for example. He saw his home’s assessed property more than double this year. That would be good news if he was looking to sell or take out a home equity loan, but he's not. "This means my taxes will also go up a lot, which is something I just wasn’t prepared for so quickly,” Hegwer says.
Meanwhile, Terri and Kurt Grosse, homeowners in Las Vegas, just saw their monthly homeowners association dues increase by 18%. And Jack Pinard, who lives in Dunstable, Massachusetts, has seen his repair and maintenance costs skyrocket. He recently paid $26,000 to repair his home’s septic system — $11,000 more than it would have cost him pre-COVID. It also required a seven-month wait due to labor shortages.
“Costs to renovate and maintain a home have jumped exorbitantly,” Pinard says. “Finding qualified contractors to do work can be nearly impossible. We called 23 contractors before one even agreed to bid on the job.”
And the worst part: These are only a few of the rising costs of homeownership. Are you considering buying a home? Already own one? Here’s where you can expect to pay more this year — and what’s behind the upswing.
Homeowners are seeing insurance premiums rise two-fold right now — first, on their home insurance policies, and second (at least for those in certain parts of the country), on flood insurance.
In February, home insurance premiums were up as much as 27% annually, depending on the carrier and state. The reasons for the hike are many, but primarily, it’s because rebuilding a home is getting more expensive.
“Most home insurance policies are written with a ‘replacement cost’ endorsement that pays the amount of money it costs to put the home back in the condition it was in before the damage took place,” says Ted Olsen, vice president of human capital development at Goosehead Insurance in Grapevine, Texas. “Due to labor shortages and supply chain constraints, it’s now costing a lot more money to make repairs than it did a few years ago. The $50,000 kitchen renovation you made back then might cost over $100,000 today simply due to higher labor and material costs.”
Increased climate risk is also to blame. The U.S. saw 97 "natural catastrophes" in 2021 — events defined by the Insurance Information Institute as ones causing at least $25 million in damages. Total insurance property losses due to these events topped $92 billion in 2021 — up from $84 billion in 2020 and $41 billion in 2019.
“Over the last few years, there have been a record number of events — hurricanes, fires, hail events, tornadoes,” says Ken Gregg, CEO and founder of insurance company Orion180. “These have driven up losses for insurance companies, which causes their internal loss cost for pricing to increase.”
If you’re dealing with higher insurance premiums, improving your credit score, keeping your home in good condition, adding a home security system and opting for a higher deductible can help keep hikes to a minimum. Shopping around with different insurers is wise too.
“Check around with other carriers,” says Suzi Dailey, a real estate agent with Realty ONE Group in Laguna Niguel, California. “You may be surprised at the rates other carriers charge. I had been with the same carrier for over 10 years. I decided to check with some other insurance companies — and much to my surprise, I was able to save almost two-thirds the cost.”
Floor insurance costs are also on the rise. Traditional homeowners policies won't cover flood damage in areas with a high risk of flooding events (hurricanes included). So in these regions, homeowners need separate flood insurance policies to protect from flood-related damage. Often, they're even required to have this coverage by their mortgage lenders.
Most of these flood insurance policies are issued through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, which just implemented new risk assessment procedures last month. The move has caused premium hikes for a large swath of homeowners. According to an analysis by real estate brokerage Redfin, 81% of policyholders will see an increase. In Texas, Florida and Mississippi, it's 90%.
“There has been a sharp increase in catastrophic weather events over the last decade, and longer-term weather patterns and climate change will exacerbate this trend,” says Bill Martin, president and CEO at Plymouth Rock Home Assurance in Boston. “As the climate changes, the likelihood of such events increases, and insurance premiums rise.”
Unfortunately, there’s not many homeowners can do about their flood insurance costs. Those rates are standardized by FEMA, and premiums are calculated based on your home's location, replacement cost and structural features.
The hot housing market is also sending property taxes upward for most homeowners. Property taxes are based on the value of a home, and since home values have jumped steeply in recent years (up 19% in 2021 alone), homeowners’ tax burdens have increased as well.
“Property taxes are tied to property values,” says Jaclyn Bild, broker associate at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. “In this appreciating real estate market, property taxes will rise hand-in-hand with home values.”
While it’s too early to tell how much taxes will increase this year — those bills won’t come out until early next year, the typical homeowner saw their taxes increase about 2% in 2021 and 5.4% in 2020. In some metros, they rose by 10% or more last year (Nashville’s uptick was 27%!)
To reduce these higher taxes, homeowners have a few options depending on where they live: Typically, they can protest the home’s value with their local appraisal district, file a homestead exemption or both.
Homestead exemptions reduce the home’s assessed value by a certain amount ($25,000 in my county here in Texas), and they also set a maximum increase in tax value (10% annually in my case). That way, even if your home increases exponentially in value — like Hegwar’s did, you won’t feel the brunt of those higher taxes all at once.
Here's an example. Say my local appraisal district assigned my home a value of $400,000 last year. They think it's worth $480,000 now. With that 10% homestead cap in place, I could only be taxed on a value of $440,000 — a 10% increase over my home's taxed value the year prior.
Homeowners who itemize can also deduct up to $10,000 in state and local taxes (including property taxes) on their federal tax returns but talk to your accountant if you’re considering this strategy. It means forgoing the standard deduction, which may or may not work in your favor.
Repairs and upkeep
Maintaining a home is getting costlier too. According to the Home Care Price Index report from home repair platform Thumbtack, the average cost of home maintenance is up 8% from 2021, clocking in at around $5,000 per year on average.
The costs are getting so out of hand, a recent survey shows nearly nine in 10 homeowners are now delaying home repairs.
“The cost of home insurance, home repair and home improvement are all increasing along with prices in most of the U.S. economy,” says Adam Kornick, president of home services platform Porch.com. “Inflation and supply chain issues have been particularly noticeable in the prices of these items for some time, and it isn’t clear when the prices will level off.”
As Kornick indicated, the rise boils down to a few factors. First, there's inflation. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the cost of building materials — including things like drywall, concrete, and lumber — has jumped 8% since the start of the year and nearly 30% since 2020. Paint prices are also up — about 21% (for interior) and 30% (for exterior).
There’s also a shortage of contractors. This drives up labor costs and causes extended project delays (see Pinard’s seven-month septic tank wait).
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High energy prices aren’t just hitting consumers at the gas pump. Homeowners also see them trickle down to their utilities, resulting in higher gas and electric bills.
Natural gas prices are up 22% compared to last March, and electricity costs have increased 11%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even water is getting more expensive (up 4% and 6% over the last two years, respectively).
There’s little homeowners can do about these prices other than reduce consumption, shop around for their provider or consider buying or leasing solar panels. Dailey also recommends installing a water leak detection device — like the Flo by Moen — which can prevent unknown leaks from running up your bill.
“These can more than cover their cost by identifying if you have a slow leak in your home or alerting you to a more costly emergency leak which helps a ton on water bills,” she says.
Other rising costs
And the list goes on. As Grosse can attest, HOA fees are also rising in some places. That’s due to several factors, including higher insurance, landscaping and pool service costs — typically big expenditures for managed communities.
Landscaping, in particular, is getting notably more expensive. Professional landscapers are dealing with higher fuel prices (to power mowing equipment, namely) and higher-cost fertilizers (some are up more than 120% in the last year), among other factors. These costs, ultimately, get passed down to the consumer.
“Small projects and even general maintenance projects are taking longer and costing more money now,” says Bianca D’Alessio, director of new development for Nest Seekers International. “Appliances and furniture costs are also significantly higher, coupled with tremendous supply chain issues and delays.”
The wait for some appliances is months-long in many cases, and prices aren’t much better. According to the latest Consumer Price Index, furniture prices are up 10% over the last year.
“The best strategy for mitigating or preparing for these costs would be to price out multiple vendors and plan out your projects as far in advance as possible,” she says. “Anything seasonal like pool installation and landscaping, plan those out for the next season now.”
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