Homeownership is a big investment. From repairs and maintenance to renovations and using equity, this guide will help you confidently pay for and enjoy your home.

Homeowner Guide

Homeownership is a big investment. From repairs and maintenance to renovations and building equity, this guide will help you confidently pay for and enjoy your home.

Homeownership Handbook

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The Hidden Costs of Homeownership

Understanding Foreclosures

Montage of photos showing someone's hands writing and working with calculator, the others show a "Foreclosure, For Sale" sign in front of a house
Foreclosure Rates in the US

Key Terms

Building & Using Home Equity

How Does a HELOC Work?
How Does a HELOC Work?
Frequently Asked Questions
  • How much does it cost to own a home in the U.S.?

    There are many costs that go into the monthly expense of owning a home, such as your monthly mortgage payment (principal and interest), home insurance, mortgage insurance, real estate tax, and maintenance and improvement costs. The average monthly cost of owning a home is $1,558, based on The Balance’s calculations. Homeownership costs vary greatly depending on where you live, too. For example, the regional average for major cities in California is upwards of $3,300—or $4,556 if you live in San Francisco. By comparison, homeowners in cities such as Detroit or St. Louis may pay below-average homeownership costs.

  • How are property taxes calculated?

    Property taxes are calculated based on a local assessment of your home’s market value, which is typically determined based on nearby sales value comparisons, or a cost or income method. Assessments may be done every year or even once every five years, depending on state and local laws. Once your property is assessed, the value will be multiplied by the local tax rate, also called the “mill rate,” to determine what you owe. Since location impacts property taxes, your property tax bill may be higher or lower than a similar home in another county.

  • Which home improvements add the most value?

    Upgrading the exterior of your home like replacing a garage door, siding, or windows, or adding a deck are some of the most valuable home improvements you can make in terms of recouping spent costs. Minor kitchen remodels may also be a worthwhile investment. Adding a pool, home theater, or over-the-top luxurious items compared to other homes in your market are examples of upgrades that may bring you joy, but may not offer the highest return on investment.

  • What does pre-foreclosure mean?

    Pre-foreclosure is the first stage of the foreclosure process when a homeowner has fallen at least three months behind on mortgage payments. During this stage, the lender will issue a written, legal notice of default, which officially begins the foreclosure process. During this time, homeowners can take action to retain their home and explore forbearance, loan modification, refinance, or short sale.

  • When is it too late to stop a foreclosure?

    After your loan is 120 days past due, it may be too late to stop foreclosure, but the sooner you communicate with your lender about your financial situation and learn what your options may be, the better. The only time it’s too late to stop a foreclosure is when the property is sold at an auction and the deed is officially transferred.

  • How do I prepare my home before I sell it?

    The first step of getting your home ready to sell is making a plan for how to clean, repair, and present your home to potential buyers. To help buyers envision themselves living in your home, start by cleaning clutter and making visible, minor repairs like burned out lightbulbs, holes in the wall, and leaky faucets. Doing so will make a good first impression on interested buyers.

Renovating Your Home

Collage of home renovations in progress
How To Pay for Home Renovations

Refinancing Your Home

Home Equity Loans: The Pros and Cons
The Pros and Cons of Mortgage Refinance

Explore Homeowner Guide

real estate agents vs. realtors: Both, realtors and real estate agents, must pass agent licensing requirements in their state. Realtors have gone one step further and passed the NAR Code of Ethics course to become members of the National Association of Realtors. Real estate agents are not members of the NAR, often because they don’t do enough business to justify the expense of membership.
Real Estate Agents vs. Realtors: What's the Difference?
An attorney discusses a sale with his clients
What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do (and Do You Need One)?
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