15 U.S. Cities With High Hidden Homeownership Costs

Upset homeowners
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Buying a home remains a cornerstone of the American dream. But if you think homeownership is cheap, you are living in a fantasy.

Homeownership comes with many hidden costs that first-time buyers often overlook. And these costs are higher in some places than others.

Home inspection software company Spectora crunched the numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest American Housing Survey to reveal the hidden costs of ownership in the 15 most populous U.S. metropolitan areas.

These expenses, which Spectora dubs “the costs no one tells you about,” are:

  • Utilities
  • Property taxes
  • Home insurance
  • Homeowners association (HOA) fees
  • Commuting costs

Following are those 15 cities that can deliver a financial sucker punch to homeowners unprepared to dig a little deeper into their wallets.

In 13 of these cities, the total median cost of hidden homeownership expenses exceeds the national median of $875 per month, and the other two cities aren’t far behind that.

15. Phoenix

Aerial view of Phoenix, Arizona
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Total median cost of hidden homeownership expenses: $819 per month

Arizona’s largest city is a beautiful place to be in the winter. But summers are scorchers, which might help account for Phoenix’s median utilities cost of $332 per month. That is the sixth-highest median utilities cost among the cities on this list.

Phoenix has the lowest median homeowners insurance premium of the cities on this list, though, at $58 a month.

14. Atlanta

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Total median cost of hidden homeownership expenses: $823 per month

The capital of Georgia has a median utilities cost of $325 a month, right behind that of Phoenix.

On a brighter note, the median property tax cost in both Atlanta and Phoenix is just $150 a month. That’s the lowest of any of the cities on this list.

13. Detroit

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Total median cost of hidden homeownership expenses: $880

Motor City fares well on this list in that none of its hidden expenses is particularly costly. In fact, it ranks last for median HOA fees, at just $25 a month.

Detroit has faced a lot of economic challenges over the years, but that hasn’t dented the pride of its citizens. Fully 30% of Detroit residents rate their neighborhood satisfaction as a 10 out of 10 on the American Housing Survey. That’s the third-highest ranking of the cities on this list.

12. Dallas

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Total median cost of hidden homeownership expenses: $965 per month

Down in Dallas, home insurance will cost you a bit more — a median of $83 a month. That ranks as the fifth-highest median home insurance cost among the cities on this list.

Other costs in Dallas are relatively low, including a $42 median monthly HOA fee that ranks as the second-lowest among the cities on the list.

11. Houston

Riding bikes in Houston
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Total median cost of hidden homeownership expenses: $971 per month

Home insurance is even more expensive in Houston than in its fellow Texas city Dallas. Homeowners here pay a median premium of $96 a month, ranking it No. 3 among the cities on this list.

10. Seattle

Lake Union in Seattle, Washington
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Total median cost of hidden homeownership expenses: $982 per month

At a median cost of $368 a month, utilities in the Emerald City rank No. 3 among all cities on this list. Median monthly property taxes of $350 place Seattle No. 5 in that category.

Adding insult to injury, just 21% of Seattle residents rate their neighborhood satisfaction as a 10 out of 10. That’s the worst ranking of any city on the list.

9. Riverside, California

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Total median cost of hidden homeownership expenses: $1,004 per month

If you decide to move to Riverside, prepare yourself for outsized HOA fees. At a median of $125 a month, the California metro ranks seventh among cities on the list for that expense.

Riverside residents — and California citizens in general — are largely dissatisfied with where they live. In Riverside, just 25% rate their neighborhood satisfaction a 10 out of 10. That places Riverside 12th in that category, just ahead of Los Angeles (24%) and San Francisco (23%).

8. Miami

Brightly colored Miami home.
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Total median cost of hidden homeownership expenses: $1,027 per month

Miami’s median monthly home insurance premium of $119 gives it the dubious honor of being the costliest place to insure a home of any city on this list. And at $228 a month, Miami’s median HOA fees rank fourth among cities on the list.

But those expenses have not soured Miami residents on the pleasure of living in a tropical paradise — 35% rate their neighborhood satisfaction at 10 out of 10, tops among all cities on the list.

7. Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.
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Total median cost of hidden homeownership expenses: $1,066 per month

Utilities are costly in the nation’s capital, with the monthly median of $367 ranking fourth among cities on the list. In the other categories, Washington finishes near the middle of the pack.

6. Los Angeles

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Total median cost of hidden homeownership expenses: $1,082 per month

Los Angeles does surprisingly well on this list. For example, its median monthly home insurance cost of $67 earns it a respectable 10th-place ranking.

The City of Angels is something of a little devil when it comes to quality of life, however. Just 24% of its residents rate their neighborhood satisfaction at 10 out of 10, which places L.A. 13th out of the 15 cities on the list.

5. Philadelphia

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Total median cost of hidden homeownership expenses: $1,089 per month

The City of Brotherly Love doesn’t shower a lot of affection on its homeowners. At a median of $350 a month, the bite of Philadelphia property taxes ranks No. 6 on the list.

Philadelphia ranks near the middle of the pack on other hidden homeowner expenses.

4. Chicago

Chicago urban residential street
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Total median cost of hidden homeownership expenses: $1,103 per month

Move to the Windy City, and your dreams of low property taxes will blow away fast. Chicago ranks fourth on the list for median property tax costs, at $400 a month.

Median HOA fees of $180 a month put Chicago at No. 6 in that category.

3. San Francisco

Homes in San Francisco, California
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Total median cost of hidden homeownership expenses: $1,271 per month

The City by the Bay is a famously expensive place to live, and at $500 a month, its median property tax costs rank San Francisco No. 2 among cities on this list. It also has high median monthly HOA fees of $270, good for No. 3 on the list.

But here’s a surprise: The median cost of utilities in San Francisco ranks dead last at $246.

2. Boston

Boston, Massachusetts street scene.
Sunny Chanruangvanich / Shutterstock.com

Total median cost of hidden homeownership expenses: $1,463

Just about everything is expensive in Beantown. It has the highest median utilities cost ($439 monthly) and ranks in the top five in three other expense categories.

But people there still love their city, with 32% of residents rating their neighborhood satisfaction at 10 out of 10, good for second place on the list.

1. New York City

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Total median cost of hidden homeownership expenses: $1,574

Everything is bigger in the Big Apple, including the cost of hidden expenses for homeowners.

The Big Apple ranks first in median monthly HOA fees ($358) and median monthly property taxes ($600) among the 15 cities on the Spectora list.

Still, 29% of residents rate their neighborhood satisfaction at 10 out of 10, which is good enough to tie with Washington, D.C., for fifth on the list.

What are some of the hidden expenses in your city? Reveal those secrets in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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