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Lurking Beneath Home Prices: Hidden Costs

Frustrated home hunters have watched U.S. home prices surge from a median of $327,100 in the fourth quarter of 2019 to $436,800 in the first quarter of 2023. With the focus on rapidly rising prices, it’s easy to forget the “hidden” costs of homeownership, including property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, utility payments and maintenance.

According to a recent Zillow study of housing costs in the first quarter of 2023, the median amount of these auxiliary expenses in 39 large U.S. metro areas was $14,155 a year. Among those metros (where sufficient data was available), San Francisco had the highest annual hidden costs (a median of $22,791), while Las Vegas had the lowest ($9,886).

Overall, maintenance was found to require the greatest median outlay ($6,413 a year), followed by utilities ($3,216), property taxes ($2,827) and homeowner’s insurance ($1,699). Taxes varied the most, from an annual median of $9,145 in New York City to just $1,055 in Pittsburgh.

To build the list, researchers used each metro’s median real estate tax and home value, as drawn from the Zillow Home Value Index. Insurance costs were calculated at 0.5 percent of value. Utility costs were derived from 2022 state averages, while phone bills and streaming-service costs were sourced from Forbes reporting. Zillow collaborated with Thumbtack, a site connecting contractors with homeowners, to determine local costs of maintenance and essential repairs, such as fixing appliances, house cleaning (including carpets, chimneys, gutters, grout and windows), lawn care, roof maintenance and yard work, among others.

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