I’m Thinking of Buying a House How Much Does It Cost Per Month On Top of the Mortgage?

I read an interesting discussion recently about the costs of owning a home. A person was surprised that his friend had to pick up a second job to pay the bills after buying a house and wanted to know if the cost his friend quoted per month was normal. It led me to go back through our bills to find out how much we pay a month to run our house on top of the costs to pay off the mortgage.

How Much Do You Budget to Pay for Hydro, Natural Gas, Water, Property Taxes and Insurance per Month for a Detached House?

We live in a large city in Ontario but we don’t live in Toronto. Our house is detached, fairly old, but not particularly large.

The costs for things like electricity vary quite a bit from month to month, so I’ve taken our annual costs and divided them by 12, rather than report an actual month by month number. Most companies won’t annualize your costs, though, so be prepared to have some months where your bills are much higher than others.

In 2017, our home cost us

  • $124 Electricity / Hydro
  • $48 Water (including Storm Water and Waste Water charges)
  • $94 Natural Gas (including to burn for the water heater and for the pilot light in a seldom used fireplace insert)
  • $405 Property Taxes
  • $82 Home Insurance

How Much Should I Budget Per Month to Run Our House?

So our total costs for heat, hydro, water, property taxes and insurance add up to:
$ 753 per month.

Add in a typical cost for cable TV, internet, home phone and cell phones and you’re easily at almost $1000 per month. I didn’t include those because it would be easier to reduce or eliminate those costs than the ones I’ve included.

You can compare our costs to those reported by others for 2017 for homes around the GTA on this RedFlagDeals forum post.

What Else Do I Need to Budget For?

Other costs that might have been included in your rent are for:

  • Cable TV
  • Internet and Home Phone

Other common costs for home owners include:

  • Annual and perennial plants and shrubs
  • Landscaping consumables like wood chips, mulch, yard waste bags or bins, new soil, fertilizers, bird seed, insecticides for lawn grubs, ants or wasps
  • Gasoline or Transit, if you need to start commuting to work
  • Household Tools and Consumables, including snow shovels (which break and get stolen), yard work tools, building and repair tools, vacuum cleaners, ladders, lightbulbs, mops and brushes, buckets
  • Minor Decorating On-going Costs, including for re-painting, draperies or blinds, area rugs, furniture, art work
  • Big Ticket Maintenance, including a new roof, new windows or doors, a new furnace and air conditioner, new appliances
  • Big Ticket Renovations, including re-tiling and re-fitting bathrooms, the kitchen, new flooring (carpets, hard wood or tiles)

You need to estimate each of these costs, divide it by how many years you have to save up to pay it, and then include that amount of saving and spending in your monthly budget.

For example, you won’t necessarily have the $7000 for a new roof every 15 years if you haven’t saved the $40 a month for 15 years to pay for it.

What Other Home Expenses Do Some People Pay for?

  • Lawn and yard maintenance, including annual aerating, fertilizing
  • Snow removal
  • Gutter cleaning
  • Driveway sealing
  • Window washing

Can I Carry a Home For the Same as My Rent Payment?

Unless you are renting one seriously over-priced place, you probably can NOT expect to own a home for the same monthly cost as you pay for rent. I enjoy owning a home but I do not think it saved me any money!

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Will a Scorcher Summer Ruin Our Budget for Electricity Or Will It Just Be the Astronomical Rate Increases?

We don’t have an energy efficient home. We have old windows and only one new door and you can feel the drafts around your ankles in the winter. We do keep an eye on our electricity usage, though. We have power bars on our TVs, microwave, stereo, computers, router and various other appliances. Still, when I got our June hydro bill I started to wonder what to expect if we have a record-breaking heat wave this summer especially if it arrives along with yet another huge increase in the rate per kWh.

Will Dropping the Number of kWh We Use Dramatically Drop Our Hydro Bill?

Maybe. Our bill is not just based on the amount of electricity we use. It also includes delivery charges, costs for the infrastructure, costs for regulatory charges, for who knows what, and debt retirement charges, which probably include the original debt on building the generating station at Niagara Falls. Some of these are based on the kWh used but I’m not sure that all of them are.

Why Is Our Ontario Hydro Bill So High for 2016?

The most obvious increase in price for our residential electricity costs in 2016 is a change in government sleight-of-hand. We’d been getting a 10% “discount” from a previous election promise. That’s over now, so we saw an immediate 10% increase in our bill.

The nasty part of the “discount” is while our electricity costs appeared to be temporarily reduced we still have to pay that amount either in increased taxes or in future electricity “debt retirement” charges—worse, we might even have to pay more as interest fees!

And let’s not forget we also pay HST. That was almost $30 on the most recent bill!

There have also been some painful rate increases as well. They’ve been much higher than the rate of inflation estimated by the federal government. I’m sure it hurts those on pensions such as CPP which are increased only at the artificially low cost of living increase calculated by the feds.

It hurts us even more as this is the third year with NO raise or cost of living raise at work. Yes, our take-home pay has been losing ground to inflation for three years now with no end in sight. That’s good training, of course, for retirement when only our CPP and OAS will be indexed. That’s also why I prefer some of our future retirement income to come from dividend-payers who increase their dividends to at least keep pace with inflation.

Should We Use Our Air Conditioner If We’re Already Spending Too Much for Electricity?

Every year I tell the kids that they should be grateful if we use the air conditioner at all. We didn’t have a/c when I was growing up and I can vividly remember sweltering. The best (or worst) benefit (or drawback) of air conditioning is that it drops the humidity significantly.

That can be a real blessing when the humidity is up near 100% and it’s also pushing 35-40 C.

How Do We Reduce Our Electricity Costs for Air Conditioning our House?

We usually only run our air conditioner from 7 p.m. till 7 a.m. We try to drop the temperature to somewhere in the low 70s between midnight and 5 a.m. The temperature then gradually climbs all day and it can get pretty hot by the early evening.

This compromise has helped keep the cost of the electricity to run the unit to something tolerable. It means the load is during the “off peak” hours which have the lowest rate at 0.087 $/kWh. That’s less than half of the prime time rate.

Air Conditioners also run best when their is a good differential between the temperature of the outside air and the temperature of the inside air. At night, in theory, it’s cooler outside, allowing the air conditioner to run more efficiently than at, say, high noon.

So for now, we’ll keep using the air conditioner. But I hope I don’t regret it when we get our next bill!

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