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The hidden costs of home ownership are surging for Americans

In this Oct. 6, 2020 file photo, a real estate brokerage sign stands in front of a house in Norwood, Mass. Sales of previously-occupied homes fell for the fourth straight month in May 2021, as soaring prices and a limited number of available properties discouraged many would-be buyers. (Steven Senne, File/AP)

New York (CNN) — The price for owning a home is rising rapidly – and we’re not just talking about mortgage payments.

US homeowners are now paying an average of $18,118 a year on property taxes, homeowners’ insurance, maintenance, energy and various other expenses linked to owning a home, according to a new Bankrate study.

That’s nearly the cost to buy a used car and represents a 26% increase from four years ago when it cost $14,428 annually to own and maintain a home.

All of these variable expenses are on top of the fixed cost of a mortgage, including property taxes, homeowners insurance, energy costs, internet, cable bills and home maintenance.

The findings are another reminder of how much more expensive life has become since Covid-19.

New data released on Wednesday underscored the pressure Americans are feeling from housing-related expenses.

Even as items such as food and gas have gotten cheaper, shelter increased 5.4% year-over-year in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s well above the overall inflation rate of 3.3%.

Many Americans would like to buy a home but have been unable to because home prices have spiked to record highs and mortgage rates remain elevated. The housing market is historically unaffordable.

But even the ones fortunate enough to have bought a home over the past few years are grappling with sticker shock over the cost of maintaining it.

The per-month cost of owning and maintaining a home has gone from $1,202 a month in 2020 to $1,510 now, Bankrate found.

Jeff Ostrowski, analyst at Bankrate, told CNN that the main drivers of the spike in homeownership expenses are the cost of maintenance and insurance.

Home insurance premiums have surged in recent years, in part because of extreme weather.

“My homeowners insurance doubled, with no notice – nothing,” said Jennifer Schauer, who bought her home in Novato, California, in 2021.

Schauer said some of her neighbors lost their homeowners insurance coverage altogether because of the mounting threat of wildfires in the region.

“My neighbors said I was lucky our insurance just doubled and it wasn’t canceled,” she said.

Home insurance rates jumped 11.3% nationally last year alone, according to S&P Global. The US homeowners insurance industry lost $101.3 billion last year as severe storms, hurricanes and wildfire did significant damage. And high inflation made it that much more expensive to rebuild properties.

Schauer, who has two children and works in a high school as a paraeducator, also recently found out her home needs $10,000 worth of plumbing repairs.

“The housing market was so competitive when we bought, that to get this house we waived the homeowner inspection. We bought it as is,” she said. “We knew the plumbing was old but it’s falling apart.”

To make ends meet and deal with the unexpected costs of homeownership, Schauer is taking on extra hours at school as a substitute teacher, accepting help from family to pay for her son to get tutored and cutting costs by avoiding eating out and canceling her home cleaning service.

Schauer isn’t alone among Californians grappling with high hidden costs of homeownership.

The average cost of owning and maintaining a home in California is $28,790, according to Bankrate, second among all US states behind only Hawaii.

The top five is rounded out by Massachusetts ($26,313), New Jersey ($25,573) and Connecticut ($23,515).

By contrast, Kentucky ($11,559), Arkansas ($11,692) and Mississippi ($11,881) had the lowest hidden costs of homeownership, according to Bankrate.

Since Covid, the hidden cost of homeownership has climbed most rapidly in three states: Utah (44%), Idaho (39%) and Hawaii (38%).

Of course, the silver lining for homeowners is the fact that home values have gone up significantly since 2020.

Those gains have padded the net worth of millions of Americans. Median inflation-adjusted net worth swelled by 37% between 2019 to 2022, according to the Federal Reserve.

The real estate boom also gives homeowners additional financial flexibility, letting them borrow against the value of their homes to pay for unexpected costs, finance the cost of education or upgrade their homes.

Still, Ostrowski, the Bankrate analyst, said the findings should be a “reality check” for first-time homebuyers.

“A lot of first-time buyers think of the closing table as the finish line,” he said. “But in another way, it’s just the starting line for all these new expenses you’ll be responsible for.”

Ostrowski said buyers must budget for these hidden costs of homeownership when they are trying to determine how much they can afford to spend on a mortgage.

“You may have thought you were done scrimping and saving when you got enough for a down payment,” he said. “But once you own, you have to set aside money for these unexpected costs.”