The Cost of Making Your House a Home: Average Spent in Your First Year of Home Ownership

According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average annual spending on various items (decoration, appliances, painting, repairs, etc.) as of 2007 for single-family detached homes built before 2004 is $8,927. For people who purchase newer homes (built after 2004), the average annual spending is even more in the first year: $12,332.

Doesn’t that seem counterintuitive to you, the fact that people who purchase newer homes spend more in their first year than people who purchase older homes? I would think that older homes would come with much more wear and tear, such as the carpeting in our bathrooms that needs to be replaced with tile, or our ancient AC systems, or all of our original bathroom vanities that are cracked and have mold growing into the cracks (all issues we were aware of before purchasing, and which we will be addressing in the next 12 months or so). Perhaps these new homes are unfinished, and so first-time homebuyers must purchase the appliances. But it might also be that people are just molding the homes to be exactly what they want. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that I have a hunch people are doing this by tacking on extra debt to their lives, either by credit card or mortgage.

What about people who own a home all ready: how much do they spend per year? Turns out they are still spending, on average, $4,420 per year. Anyway you look at it, home ownership can be expensive. (What would be great to know in order to compare with this information is how much people who live in apartments spend per year on things like decorations, appliances, etc. But for now, we just have this data.)

Paul and I are in the category of new home owners in a home built before 2004, which means the average spent in the first year of homeownership by other people in our situation would be $8,927. On the way to picking up a beautiful rug for our formal-living room-turning-into-library from a seller on craigslist, I started to wonder what our own expenses on furniture, decorations, upgrades, etc. have added up to thus far, 9 months into home ownership.

Granted, I haven’t kept track of all house expenditures in anticipation of writing this article, but I can certainly recall most of what we have spent.  To keep this data pure, I am including only items that were purchased solely because we bought a home, and that would not have been purchased if we had stayed in our apartment.

Purchased

  • Appliances: $800 (refrigerator)
  • Plants/Seeds/Landscaping: $200
  • Two Wingback Reading Chairs: $45 (Craigslist)
  • 8”X10” Rug: $50 (Craigslist)
  • Paint/Painting Supplies/Spackle: $300
  • Whiteboard for Office: $20
  • Office Chair: $35
  • Cast Iron Sink: $80 (Craigslist)
  • Energy Efficient Lightbulbs: $25
  • Repairs: $220 (3 service calls to home warranty, two toilet repair kits)
  • New Locks: $100
  • Other Decorations: $300 (bookends, picture frames, etc.)
    • Total Spent: $2,125

So how have we gotten off so easy? Well, there are 3 more months in our first year of homeownership, and we are sure to spend some more money in order to tackle some of the larger projects I discussed above. But there are a number of other explanations for this as well, most of which can be put into the category of choices we have made.

When we purchased our home, we held off on buying mostly everything because we knew we would be getting married soon. Instead of shopping, we added things to our registry list (which was almost just as fun, I have to tell you!). We even held off on purchasing things like shovels, rakes, and gardening gloves and instead put these on our registry, which definitely brought a few chuckles from close friends. This took a lot of patience on our part, but it certainly paid off, as you can see in our list below:

Gifts to Us or Purchased with Gift Card/Monetary Gifts (Wedding)

  • Bar Stools
  • Weedwacker
  • Flatware set, pot and pan set, Dutch oven, Pyrex dish set, slow cooker, etc.
  • Towels, bathroom set
  • Patio Chairs
  • Grill
  • Tools: Reciprocating Saw, Mouse Sander, Rake, Ladder, Shovel
  • Kitchen Appliances: Microwave, slow cooker
  • Bird feeders
  • Nightstands

Another way we saved on many things while still decorating our home to our liking was by purchasing used items. Craigslist has become our best friend of late, and we are also very thankful and grateful to friends and family who have given us their old items they no longer want.

Given to Us by Others

  • Lawnmower
  • Fireplace Tools
  • Washer/Dryer (left by owners and work great so far!)

Finally, we repurposed many items from other time periods in our lives, and also from what the previous owners left behind, such as the curtains and curtain rods in the library, large brick stones in the landscaping, the chimera (which I have always wanted one!), etc.

As I mentioned previously, Paul and I have several large projects ahead of us in order to update our home that straddle both categories of need and want, so it is very possible that when all is said and done, we will have spent around $8,927 in our first year as well. In fact, we don’t have carpet or a floor in our master bathroom at this moment! But we will be using our heads to save the utmost money, while not skimping on quality. In the next 12 months we will most likely be replacing an AC unit (and are waiting on the Cash for Caulkers bill to pass in order to take advantage of a tax credit), and updating our master bathroom. This will entail tiling the floor and shower— which we are going to do ourselves—painting, and purchasing a new double vanity. We also have a sub floor in the upstairs bathroom that dips down about 2 inches from the rest of the floor, so we will need to contract that out, and then will put new tile on top. Finally, we will be updating the bathroom downstairs with new paint, new tile, and a new vanity. These projects will certainly add to our total of $2,125. However, each of these projects will be paid in cash, will add value to our home, and I am sure we will still come in under the $8,927 average.

How can this help you? Perhaps you are getting married within a year or two. Think about the kinds of things you would want to have in your home, even if you are not looking to buy a home for a few years. You can always store these items in your apartment/garage/parents’ home, and save yourself a lot of money for when that day comes that you are ready to purchase. In my family everyone gives everyone a gift at Christmas. So, to help each other out a bit, sometimes we tell people what it is we would like, which you could start doing (if this is how your family works) in order to store these things for your first home. Trade things between you, friends, and family so that you can relieve your space of what you no longer need or want while helping others so that they do not need to purchase new items, and vice versa. Utilize places like Craigslist and Freecycle, where you can score some great items at amazing prices. And best of all, use your smarts and come up with alternative ideas to heading out to the store for that next item you need/want.

How close have you gotten to the average in your first year of home ownership? What are some ways you have figured out to save money?

11 comments… add one

  • Angela

    One HUGE way to save money is to buy the “oops” paints at Home Depot. They are gallons of paint that did not come out quite like they were supposed to and are only $5 a gallon. My mother painted her entire 2500 sq. ft. house for about $100 and still had paint left over. Now, her’s is not the norm because she is an interior designer and amazing with color therefore she can mix the oops paints together and achieve the color she wants.

    If you do the math though, a gallon of paint averaged $19 a gallon and will paint one 10×10 room, or 100 sq. feet. She used about 25 gallons worth of paint which, at regular price, would have cost her about $500. She saved about 80%!!! Go mom!!!

    Another place to save money is in curtains. Plain panels are super easy to make – it is really just four hems. The hardest part is pinning it square. Any kind of material can be used really and you can use flat twin sheets to line them and pa-pow – beautiful custom curtains.

    I had a 2500 sq. ft. house in Virginia and decorated the entire thing – paint, rugs, curtains, bedding, etc. for under $500. So much of it is just learning to be creative and not being afraid of experimenting.

    I could go on and on with things mom has taught me on how to save money but I won’t take up more space :)

  • I bought my condo new, but The Wife had lived on her own for years so we spent a lot less than the average in our first year.

  • We spent $735 the first year and about $9000 in the two years after that. Thanks for making me think about all the generosity of our family and friends! I’m going to do a mirror post on 6/21 that’ll link back here and break down our costs. Thanks!

  • Angela: Thanks for all of the info! Your monm sounds like one frugal chick:). We don’t have curtains yet (except two left from the last owners that are in our style anyway)…so maybe I should take you up on your idea!

  • Hello Evan! Thanks for your comment–that is fortunate that she came into the relationship with lots of belongings:).

  • Budgeting in the Fun Stuff: I am glad I could inspire you. Generosity by everyone saves everyone money:). Have a great weekend!

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