Don't Be Surprised by Expenses of Homeownership

couple in front of their first home
couple in front of their first home

When Katie Cody bought her first home, she thought she knew everything there was about taking care of one. As a spokesperson for Lowe's, the national home and hardware chain, she was steeped in the ins and outs of home maintenance.

But even she wasn't prepared for everything that comes along with a first home--the work or the hidden costs. "I had no idea how much is involved in yard work, especially during the summer months," she said from her office in Mooresville, N.C. "Besides cutting the lawn every week, you have to mulch, and plant, and trim. There are just so many things I never thought of."

Most first-time homebuyers are focused on saving for a down payment and qualifying for a mortgage, and once they get past those financial hurdles, they think they are home free. But, say experts, as the owner of a first home -- whether it is a newly built home or a charming 1930s bungalow -- you need to think beyond that first mortgage payment when determining how much money you need to have available.

"Most financial experts say to have three to six months worth of mortgage payments in an emergency fund," says Michele Lerner, a real estate expert and author of "Homebuying: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time."