Important Utility Considerations Before Submitting an Offer on Your Dream Home
After months of searching and many heartbreaks and disappointments, you’ve finally found it – your dream home. But not so fast – have you considered important (but hidden) aspects like utilities? They can reveal significant additional costs or inconveniences.
No one wants to think about utilities, how much they’ll cost, and where they’ll get them, so they get overlooked. That is exactly why you should consider these aspects before you even make an offer.
First thing’s first
Before you can even think of putting in an offer on a home, there are some general utility-related concerns you should be looking into, namely how much you’re likely to pay, on average and whether that works for your budget, and what appliances you have. Those impact your consumption and bills more than you know.
How much will your utility bills be?
First thing’s first – how will utilities factor into your overall budget and into your monthly budget. In their excitement and lack of experience, first-time buyers, especially, neglect to take into consideration all costs of this enormous transaction. The mortgage payment is just one of the monthly costs associated with a new home.
To that, you need to add maintenance, repairs, taxes, possibly an HOA, and yes, utilities. Depending on how high that monthly cost is, it might just render your dream home unaffordable.
Make sure that you check on the average bills and consumption for the area for each utility to get a good idea of what you can expect each month.
What kind of appliances do you have?
Something lots of buyers overlook is that there are other factors influencing how much they pay for utilities outside of consumption. Did you know that the type of appliances you have, as well as their age and how well maintained they are can impact your consumption and bills?
Before you put an offer in on that house, have a think about appliances – your fridge, washing machine, or your drier. Do they come with the house? Do you have to buy them? Can you afford new ones, or do you have to buy them second-hand? If they’re older, how efficient are they? Will they be an energy drain?
Always try to get the latest generation appliances that are the most energy-efficient. It’s also a good idea to upgrade to smart versions of various common appliances, from smart energy meters to smart thermostats and lightbulbs. That switch alone can save you hundreds of dollars a year, which can make the difference between affordable or not.
Make sure all major utilities work for you
Utilities are one of the more boring aspects of buying a new home, but they can really be a major deal-breaker if they don’t suit your needs or your budget. Check all your major utilities off your list.
Check your water pressure
The average buyer doesn’t pay much attention to the water supply when they’re looking for homes – it’s not among the big features like location or natural light that buyers normally concern themselves with. But have you ever moved into a new place, only to go in for a shower and discover that your water pressure is abysmal? Sometimes, a change in faucet or plumbing can help turn things up a little, but most of the time, it is what it is, and it depends on the provider.
When viewing homes, especially “the” home, always check the water pressure, both in the bathroom and the kitchen. If it’s subpar, it’s time to do a little digging and find out who the provider is, if there are any other providers, and if you can switch to someone else. A lot of the time, it’s the city that providers the water, so switching is next to impossible.
You’ll also want to look into average bills and how often you’re going to pay. Is it a monthly bill? Do you pay quarterly? Twice a year? Is it already covered by your property tax? Factor in potentially large bills before you sign on the dotted line.
Look into energy providers
Another boring utility no one wants to think about is electricity, as well as gas. Find out who is the energy provider for the area you’re interested in. Do they just cover electric, or is your gas also provided by them? Do you ever need gas? Do they come on separate bills, or a large joint bill? Are they the only providers in the area, or can you switch to someone with more competitive pricing? Depending where in Chicago you are located, more often than not, there is a sole provider for the area, so make sure you look into it before buying.
Don’t get stuck with slow internet
In a world where we spend so much time at home, work and go to school at home, and are online or watching TV 24/7, utilities like the internet, cable, and your phone are essential. That’s why it’s recommended that you check out the coverage in the area you’re potentially moving to. Chicago has some pretty great options for cable and internet, but it depends on the city and the neighborhood.
Some areas will only be serviced by certain cable companies, or the internet speed offered by providers won’t suit your needs. In that case, this can very well be a deal-breaker on your dream home.
Don’t forget about waste disposal
Garbage disposal and pick-up may be at the very bottom of your list, but it’s one of the most essential utilities. You don’t want a world where the garbage collectors aren’t on time or reliable. So, put it on your list of priorities. A lot of the time, the city is in charge of garbage collection, so it may be that the only thing you need to do is look up the pick-up schedule. But you may also be in charge of seeking out your own private company.
There are various waste management companies to choose from, and you’ll have to think about your needs and that’s going to cost you. General waste, recycling, and composting may have different collection days, different bills, and you may be required to pay separately for additional trash cans. Something to look into before you’re locked into a property with seriously overpriced or mismanaged waste removal.
Is there a utility easement on your property?
Every once in a while, you may run into a property that has a utility easement. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, you want to be aware of it, especially if this is your dream house. You see, a utility easement comes with some stipulations that utility companies are free to come on your property at any time necessary, for an undetermined amount of time, in order to facilitate utility work. We’re talking about digging up pipework, working on cable lines, etc.
Needless to say, the work can be very disruptive, and you may find yourself with complete strangers roaming your property for days at a time, without the right to ask them to leave. They may never come over, or they may be there all the time, depending on what work needs to be done. You need to look into it and determine whether or not it’s a deal-breaker for you before you make any permanent decisions.
What’s the bottom line?
No one makes utilities a priority when looking for a home, but if you’re not careful, you may end up with unpleasant surprises that sour the deal on your dream home. When looking at Chicago properties, keep in mind the extra costs, potential headaches, and the day-to-day impact that utilities can have on the home. You may just realize that they’re deal-breakers for what you thought could be your dream home.
Article written by Victoria Standridge