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The unexpected cost 85% of new homeowners face after they close the deal, and how much it sets them back

"I don't let any of my buyers buy a house unless they do an inspection."

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The vast majority of new homeowners face an unpleasant surprise: More than four-fifths of them, 85%, have had to fix at least one problem they didn't know about when they bought the place. 

That's according to a new survey from the real estate website HomeAdvisor, which polled 1,900 homeowners this fall. All bought their homes within the last five years and 55% of the properties in question were under 20 years old.

New homeowners spent an average $7,080 to fix the previous owners' mistakes, and 1 in 3 said the issue was so bad, they wouldn't have bought the home if they had known about it beforehand. 

The most common repair issues for new homeowners

Some of the most common repairs involved electrical (40%), drainage (39%), and roofing (37%). "Other homeowners reported dealing with waterproofing, tile repair, cigarette smell, insulation, mold, and bugs," according to HomeAdvisor's report.

Problems were most likely to be discovered in bathrooms, kitchens, and bedrooms.

Save money for unexpected repairs in your new home

Given how often new homeowners encounter unexpected repairs, experts advise not putting all your savings toward the down payment and closing costs. You may need extra cash on hand for home maintenance.

Ideally, retain your emergency fund with "3 to 6 months of cash reserves," says Mark La Spisa, a certified financial planner and president of Vermillion Financial. "There's a lot of little hidden costs that most people kind of forget about" when you buy a home, he says, or "gotchas" for which cash is helpful.

Leigh Marcus, a real estate agent in Chicago, agrees: "I tell our clients they should budget about 1% of the purchase price per year for home maintenance." Keep building those savings so you're better able to handle bigger repairs or replacements that come up over the years.

'I don't let any of my buyers buy a house unless they do an inspection'

It's crucial to get an inspection before you buy, real estate agents warn. Even though some homeowners have been waiving that option in order to close the deal, it's not a smart step to skip since it provides a chance for an expert to evaluate potential problems that could cost you. 

"You never want to forgo an inspection. Ever," Sue Riley, a real estate agent in Northern New Jersey, told Grow. "There's a lot of hidden things that can come up, and you don't want to be on the losing end of that."

The inspection helps you "acknowledge what's wrong" with the property, and then take steps to remedy that before closing, says Robert Erickson, a real estate agent in Los Angeles. That might entail negotiating a reduction in the home price or a credit for needed repairs, or stipulating that the seller will make repairs before you close.

If the seller won't agree to any of those options, you may need to decide to walk away. "I don't let any of my buyers buy a house unless they do an inspection," says Erickson.

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