How Buying a Home Left Me with $9.5K in Unexpected Debt
Last year, I packed up my belongings, converted my first home into a rental property, and chose to settle 50 miles away to be closer to my parents. My husband and I chose a $179,000 house in Hellertown, Pennsylvania, as our second home. This wasn’t our first time buying, so we were aware we’d spend a bit more money over the sticker price. We’d need to buy a few new appliances (and add in closing costs, of course)—but after planning it out, I thought it was going to cost $5,000 more, at most. We lived in a house, we were moving to another house—what could be so expensive?
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But by the time I sat down at the settlement table, I was so tickled with the visions I had created in my head of our new future that I had missed a very important part of the picture, the price tag of our dream home was changing—and a lot of it wouldn’t be paid over the span of 30 years.
The house we chose was on a dead-end street with a cute park and an elementary school within walking distance. And unlike other ones we looked at, it didn’t make me want to tear it down to the studs and start over from scratch. However, there were flaws: We would need to build one bathroom and enclose the carport to make more living space.
We thought that our low mortgage payment and no credit card debt to speak of would allow us to quickly save up, make these renovations, and create our dream home. However, you know what they say about best laid plans. Nine months into living here, we haven’t saved much, done any renovations, or changed the home, really. What we have done, though, is rack up nearly $10,000 in credit card debt.
What happened, you ask? Here’s how that debt came to be:
The previous owners had taken almost all of the appliances with them, so after we left the signing table, we went to Home Depot. There we bought a $2,500 refrigerator, a $600 dryer, and a $500 washing machine. We had planned for this expense, and with the credit card we had opened specifically for these items, I happily made our first purchases for our new home.
THE TICKER: + $3,600 in appliances = $3,600
Two days later, I was dropping cash again on the moving company. I quietly paid them $2,000 while trying not to wake the baby who had slept in my arms throughout all of the moving day chaos.
THE TICKER: + $2,000 in moving fees = $5,600
We inherited some furniture but we still needed to get some more of our own. There was a DVD organizer (our old one got broken years before, so we decided not to move it) for $300 and everything for my home office (four bookcases and a desk) for around $500.
THE TICKER: +$800 for furniture = $6,400
OUTDOOR MAINTENANCE TOOLS:
We also had to buy a mini storage shed to store our generator and our lawnmower for around $400, plus we had to buy a lawnmower for $300.
THE TICKER: +$700 = $7,100
We had to buy new locks for the doors because, in our family, the first thing you do after you move is replace all of the locks that were left by the previous owners. This way there is no worrying about who might still have a key to your home. That came out to an extra $150.
THE TICKER: +$150 for locks = $7,250
We had spent the last few weeks before moving making use of all the things that had been long forgotten in the back of the freezer and on top of the cabinets, so another $500 went to outfitting the kitchen with all new food and staples. That first weekend, I was too tired to do anything but parent and unpack, so we spent roughly $200 on takeout.
THE TICKER: $700 in food = $7,950
We had 15 windows throughout the house that let in all the natural light I loved so much. But each of the 15 windows needed both curtains and curtain rods. Even when I bought the bare minimum in the hardware department, I still spent over $1,000. I didn’t want our new neighbors to get to know us any faster than either of us would have liked.
THE TICKER: +$1,000 for curtains = $8,950
Of course, any moving situation comes with a glut of smaller purchases (and trips to Target and Costco). I just checked my credit card statement and found that about $500 of our newfound credit card debt comes from small things like a new mattress pad ($50) and decorative shelving (also $50).
THE TICKER: +$500 = $9,450
Nine months after closing, I now have close to $10,000 in credit card debt I didn’t have before we moved. Though I planned to rack up purchases for a new house (I even opened a credit card just for this purpose with a low interest rate and a hearty rewards program), I still felt sticker shock when the first statement came. My husband and I will be paying an additional $800 a month for the next year or so on top of our mortgage to get rid of our balance. All those small purchases really add up.
Fortunately, we’re not destitute. We have other income streams and investments that help offset the additional costs. I work as a freelance writer and still have a rental property generating additional income. But I must say: If I had taken the additional monthly payment into consideration when we were originally house hunting, I might have chosen a different house—maybe one that wouldn’t need an updated bathroom and carport on top of all these expensive purchases, too.