Chicago has some of the highest hidden homeownership costs in the country, report says

by Claire Fountas


Potential buyers often judge a home’s affordability by looking at list price or mortgage rate alone. However, it’s crucial to take additional, more overlooked costs into consideration before purchasing a property. According to a recent Zillow report, Chicago has some of the highest hidden homeownership costs in the country.

Zillow paired with Thumbtack and UtilityScore to determine which common but hard-to-spot costs Americans most often find themselves paying. The companies then ranked U.S. metros by how steep these costs are there. Chicago came in at No. 10 on the list of the highest hidden expenses, as homeowners in the Windy City spend around $10,423 each year on these fees — a considerable amount higher than the $9,080 national average.

Hidden fees include various unavoidable costs that still often come as a surprise to first-time buyers, such as property taxes and utilities. According to the report, Chicago homeowners spend a yearly average of $7,833 on these fees. But additional maintenance fees can also creep up on buyers, as 96 percent of homeowners make some type of improvement to their home after purchasing it, according to Zillow’s 2016 group report on consumer housing trends. Thumbtack found Chicago homeowners can anticipate paying around $2,589 per year on average for services such as carpet cleaning and yard work.

The importance of comparing needs with wants

Researchers encourage potential buyers to be honest with themselves about what additional features they need in a home, as well as to avoid overestimating their budget. If you have older children who will leave for college in the near future, for example, you might want to think twice about forking over extra money for that new in-ground pool. According to the report, more than one-third of American buyers go over their budget when buying a house. However, it’s easier to avoid doing so with proper research on how to balance amount of use with maintenance costs.

“Before starting a home search, take a good look at your finances to determine a monthly payment range you can comfortably afford,” Zillow chief economist Svenja Guddell said. “While that big back yard or larger home may be appealing, it is important to consider how much maintaining those spaces could cost you.”

Metro Estimated Median Home Value Total Commonly Overlooked Costs Total Hidden Maintenance Costs Total Hidden Costs of Homeownership
United States $199,200 $6,059 $3,021 $9,080
Chicago, IL $210,200 $7,833 $2,589 $10,423

Source: Zillow, Thumbtack, UtilityScore

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