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Don't forget about additional expenses that come with owning a home

Down payment? Check. Closing costs? Check. Keys? In hand.

When the only barrier between "owning" and "free and clear" is a monthly mortgage payment, it can be a good feeling. But it can be fleeting, considering the other costs involved with homeownership.

Jerry and Ellen DeBacker say they anticipate spending as much as $50,000 on their new South Hill home after replacing windows, making sense of their second kitchen and completing other renovations. And that's on top of other expenses that come with owning any home.

Whether you're purchasing a new condominium unit or a fixer-upper mansion, it's wise to budget for the following items when determining just how much you can spend on what's likely biggest financial move of your life.

Moving expenses: Unless you have a generous employer, extra-generous friends or merely a shoebox worth of belongings, shuffling from one abode to another costs considerable money. Even if you don't hire a moving service, the cost of boxes, supplies and sheer packing time adds up.

The good news: If you're moving more than 50 miles - and you or your spouse works in the area for 39 weeks in the next year - you could be eligible for a tax deduction. Consult a tax professional or financial planner for details.

Insurance: Most, if not all, lenders require proof of homeowners insurance before agreeing to a loan.

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners most-recent data, the average homeowners-insurance premium in Washington is $603 - the eighth-lowest among states. Nationally, the average is $804.

Policies often change by carrier, and it can literally pay to shop around.

Property taxes: All homeowners pay taxes on their property - but the amount changes, based on the property's assessed value and the amount governments decide to take in each year. In Whatcom County, properties are re-assessed once every four years.

It is possible to appeal a tax assessment, however, by contacting the Whatcom County Assessor's Office.

Second-half property taxes for Whatcom County are due Oct. 31. Exemptions are available for certain income, disability, property and age statuses.

Beware of property-tax quotes for properties found online, as well. They could be outdated.

Homeowner-association fees: Also known as HOA dues, these are monthly costs typically associated with condo ownership. But they also can apply to single-family homes.

Running from less than $100 to more than $500, HOA fees can cover maintenance, refurbishment, utilities, parking and other expenses that association members share.

Utilities: Gas, water and electricity costs usually on are renters' radar. But if you're trading up from a studio apartment to a four-bedroom house, realize that each extra square foot of space carries a cost with it.

Parking: Although parking isn't an issue for homeowners outside the urban core, a dedicated space for your vehicle can be an added expense for purchasing in a condo building - not to mention for some commuters.

Inside stuff: The stainless-steel appliances you couldn't do without? The granite countertop you just had to have, in place of the kitchen's current Formica palette? These renovations also can add hundreds or thousands of one-time costs to your plate. Most home sales include the major appliances inside, and some even toss in furniture - especially for a model unit in a new multifamily building.

Curious? It can't hurt to ask.

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