By Jennifer Riner

Calculating anticipated monthly housing costs before you purchase a new home is part of being a well-educated home buyer. But, the seemingly nuanced expenses that you fail to figure – including your utility bills – can place an otherwise affordable home outside of your budget.


Trulia recently partnered with UtilityScore to calculate the median costs of utilities in various metros and how they impact homeowners’ aggregate budgets. The study showed that nationally, individuals in single-family homes spend $226 per month on utilities, or $1.68 per square foot. Thus, utility costs equal 1.4 percent of the median single-family home value.

A few hundred dollars might not seem like much to some, but these hidden incidentals may limit your buying power depending on where you live and your intended budget. For markets like Oakland or Miami, where housing prices are higher, utilities aren’t as staggering when measured as a percentage of monthly home ownership costs. But, when buying in an affordable city like Syracuse, utilities increase monthly expenses at overwhelming proportions.

Utility Costs in Miami, Florida

Miami residents should anticipate utility costs around the median of $157.17 per month. Based on Miami’s median home price of $297,913, homeowners pay $1,535.04 toward their monthly mortgage – taxes and insurance included. After combining both mortgage and utilities, the grand total equals $1,692.29 per month. Therefore, homeowners in Miami pay an estimated 9.3 percent of housing costs on utilities. Miami is no. 8 on the list of U.S. metros where utilities make up a marginal percentage of the monthly budget.

Utility Costs in Oakland, California

The median home price in Oakland is $692,172, which means homeowners pay around $3,566.52 toward their monthly mortgage with taxes and insurance. The median utility costs in Oakland are $276 per month, consequently increasing housing expenses to $3,842.52 per month. Based on these median costs, Oakland residents can anticipate paying 7.2 percent of their monthly housing dues toward gas, electric and water.

Utility Costs in Syracuse, NY

Unlike Miami and Oakland, Syracuse homebuyers suffer a heftier utility bill as a percentage of overall monthly housing costs. The median home price in Syracuse is an affordable $120,291, bringing the average mortgage, taxes and insurance bill to just $619.82 per month. However, given the median utility bill in Syracuse is $216.75 per month, the actual total monthly bill comes out to $836.57 per month. When thought of as a percentage of total housing costs, Syracuse residents spend 25.9 percent of monthly homeownership bills on utilities. Cities like Syracuse act as substantial proof of why calculating utilities before you buy is key. Disregarding over a quarter of your projected homeownership costs is dangerous, especially when home shopping at the top of your price range.

Winter is right around the corner and homebuyers may be even more cautious of their forthcoming bills. Fortunately, Trulia’s analysis found climate does not have the substantial impact on utilities as predominately presumed. Despite Syracuse’s harsh winters, the median utility costs are almost $60 less than those in Oakland where average temperatures in January near a comfortable 60 degrees.

Rather than focus on the thermostat, consider utility costs in relation to your personal usage, yard size, local taxes and rates. This allows buyers to avoid surprising charges, all while living stress-free (and warm) in their new abodes.

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