Separate from the monthly mortgage bill, would‑be homebuyers should account for other expenses:

  • Insurance.

    Your agent might be able to estimate homeowner's insurance based on the structure you're buying and the coverage you want. Some buyers might also need to consider flood insurance or mortgage insurance with a down payment less than 20 percent of the purchase price.

  • Property taxes.

    Real estate taxes vary by county and municipality area, but 2 percent of the home's sales price is a good rule of thumb for an estimate.

  • Utilities.

    Contact local service providers about average usage costs for water, heat, gas, electricity and other utilities.

  • Homeowner's association fees.

    Get hard numbers for fees, services they include and what an association holds in reserve for emergencies. Such fees can range from a few dollars a year to hundreds per month.

    Once you've taken all these factors into account, you'll be able to embark on your home search with a realistic, practical idea of your purchasing power. Home buying is different for everyone and your search may not correspond exactly to the average costs, times and tasks you see listed here, but if you feel that your finances allow you to move forward, the steps that follow will show you the way.