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How to Plan for the Hidden Costs of Buying a Home

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Buying a home requires more than just a down payment. There are plenty of costs associated with buying real estate that you might not expect while you’re scrolling through listings. To know how much you can spend on a home, you’ll need to plan for not only your mortgage payment but closing costs, monthly charges like homeowners association or co-op maintenance fees, property taxes, homeowners insurance, and utilities.

These extras can tack on a significant amount to your monthly housing costs, making them important to take into account before you set your sights on a particular property—it might look affordable at the outset, but be located in a place with high property taxes or come with a hefty HOA fee.

RealEstate.com, a new site from Zillow, is designed to help you search for homes based on what you can afford when all of those hidden costs are factored in. It crunches the numbers to tell you what your total monthly costs would be.

a table of data analyzing the hidden costs of buying a home, such as monthly HOA fees, taxes, etc.
Estimated monthly cost per month for a home for sale in Nashville, broken down by mortgage payments, HOA fees, and other costs.
Screenshot via RealEstate.com

Being able to see at a glance how much property taxes and HOA fees for a particular home might cost could make you rethink whether or not you can afford to live there. For instance, looking at a $400,000 home for sale in Nashville, you could expect to pay around $1500 a month in mortgage payments with an $80,000 down payment. But your actual monthly costs would be around $2100, accounting for $80 in insurance, $377 in property taxes, and $172 in utilities per month. And that doesn’t count the $5000 you’d need to plan to pay in closing costs just to buy the home.

Other real estate markets might cause you even more sticker shock. Looking at a $359,000 listing in Brooklyn, the monthly mortgage payment would only be $1337 with a $71,800 down payment, according to RealEstate.com. But between $300 for estimated property taxes, $100 for homeowners insurance, $400 for HOA fees, and $200 for utilities, the actual cost for the home would be around $2300 a month. Plus there is the one-time closing cost: an estimated $13,550.

Remember to factor in these hidden costs when you’re looking for a home:

CLOSING COSTS

Closing costs include your broker's payment, appraisal and inspection fees, escrow costs, legal fees, application processing fees, and more. Those pest inspections aren't free, after all. Closing costs differ from state to state, but they typically run around 2 to 5 percent of the purchase price of a house or apartment.

HOA FEES

If you’re buying a condo, an apartment in a co-op, or a home in a gated community, chances are you’ll have to join the homeowners’ association. The monthly fees you pay to the HOA go toward maintenance and upkeep of the building or common areas, like elevators, sidewalks, parking garages, and landscaping. If the roof of your condo building starts leaking, your homeowners’ association fees will cover it, for instance.

PROPERTY TAXES

Property taxes can cost you quite a bit, depending on where you live. In Los Angeles County, for instance, all property owners pay at least 1 percent of the assessed value of their home, plus taxes levied by specific cities within the county. In Illinois’s Cook County, you’d be paying an average tax rate of just over 2 percent—about $5000 a year on a $250,000 property.

HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE

You'll definitely want to get homeowners insurance, which will typically cover you if your roof gets destroyed by a tornado, if your plumbing breaks and floods your basement, or if someone breaks into your house. Insurance quotes depend on multiple factors, including the value of your home, your insurance claim history, and the deductible you choose. And like other aspects of buying a home, this can vary a lot by geography, especially since some homes are naturally more likely to fall victim to hurricanes or earthquakes. According to the financial website ValuePenguin, the average cost of homeowners’ insurance in 2017 is around $166 a month in Florida, for instance, while Nevada homeowners pay an average of $60 per month for insurance.

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Hate Waiting at Baggage Claim? Here's How to Make Sure Your Suitcase Arrives First
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Air travel involves plenty of waiting, from standing in long security lines to preparing for takeoff. And even after you land, your trip is stalled until you locate your luggage on the carousel. Luckily for impatient fliers, there are several ways to game the system and ensure a speedy suitcase delivery once you step off the plane, according to Travel + Leisure.

To score true VIP luggage treatment, ask the representative behind the check-in counter if they can attach a “fragile” sticker to your bag. Suitcases with these kinds of labels are often loaded last and unloaded first. (Plus, they receive the type of kid-glove treatment that ultimately helps them last longer.)

Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need a new tag each time you fly. If it looks old, or was issued by a different airline, the crew might not pay attention to it, according to Condé Nast Traveler. Also, consider upping your suitcase game, as quality, hard-shell bags look like they contain delicate or important items. Their appearance—along with the fragile sticker—will inspire baggage handlers to give them special treatment.

Another trick that can shave a few minutes off your wait time is making sure you're the last person to check in, instead of rushing to be first. If you can't resist getting to the airport early, try asking if you can check it at the gate. This could make your bag one of the last on the plane, and thus one of the first taken out. This method isn't surefire, however, as loading and unloading systems vary among flights.

And if all else fails, Thrillist advises that you try upgrading your flight. Some airlines give priority to bags that belong to elite travelers and business class, meaning they’ll be stored separately from other luggage and come out first. Good luck! No matter what happens, at least you can't have it worse than the lady who had to wait 20 years for her bag to show up.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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How to Stop Instagram Photos From Automatically Posting to Facebook
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If you have Instagram photos you don’t mind sharing with your aunts, exes, and former high school classmates, Facebook is the perfect place to post them. But some pictures are better suited to more intimate audiences: For those scenarios, you’ll want to unlink your Facebook from your Instagram account. The Daily Dot put together a simple how-to guide.

To keep your Instagram photos from automatically showing up on your Facebook profile, head to the Instagram app. Go to your profile, tap the gear icon next to Edit Profile, and then scroll down to the Linked Accounts option under Settings. If every photo you share through Instagram is published on Facebook, you should see Facebook highlighted in blue with a checkmark next to it under Linked Accounts. After tapping this, hit the Unlink Facebook button and Unlink a second time when the app asks you to confirm your decision.

Once that’s taken care of, any new posts you share through Instagram will only be seen by your Instagram followers (unless your account is linked to Twitter or some other social media site, in which case you can follow the same steps above). To undo this action, just return to Linked Accounts and tap Facebook to join the two accounts again.

This is a smart way to limit your social media presence or curb potential damage if hackers ever access your Instagram. But if you’re looking to distance yourself from Facebook because of issues you have with the site itself, simply unlinking it from Instagram won’t cut it. Facebook owns Instagram, so any information you post to either profile goes to the same place. There are better ways to control how Facebook handles your personal data. Read this to learn more about the social media giant’s ad targeting practices and what you can do about them.

[h/t The Daily Dot]

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