The Hidden Costs of Home-Buying

Closing costs ignore the time spent on all the paperwork.


The saga of a first-time homebuyer continues.

After visiting about a dozen homes, my husband and I found one that we liked. It has a great location, renovated kitchen, and even a screened-in porch, which was on our wish-list. So on Monday, we decided to make an offer. Sounds relatively straightforward, right? We picked our price, told our real estate agent, and then... nothing. Our real estate agent informed us that we need to spend about an hour and a half writing the contract for the bid before we can officially make it. The problem is that we couldn't find the time this week with our busy work schedules and various other after-work commitments, so now we're not writing the contract until this weekend. The initial excitement of making our first bid has faded. What if the house isn't even on the market by the time we formalize the paperwork?

This dilemma got me thinking about the true cost of home-buying. It's not just about the money. It's about the time. Our search has already cost us dozens of hours of Internet-scouring, meetings, and home visits, and we're not even close to move-in day yet. I was unable to find any statistics on the average amount of time it takes to buy a home, but it must be at least a week's worth of full-time work. With the median household income around $50,000 a year, that's an additional cost of just under $1,000.

What I don't understand is why we can't eliminate at least some of that cost by simplifying the bidding process. We know the price we want to bid, and there seem to be only a handful of other variables, ranging from inspection to financing clauses. Couldn't we just check a few boxes to convey our preferences, and then make the offer official? Why does it have to be so complicated?

Meanwhile, my fingers are crossed that the home is still available when we eventually make the offer. Otherwise, the paperwork will have cost us a potential home, in addition to all that time.

For more, see:

  • First Time Home Buyers Hit Some Snags
    • Decoding the Mysterious Mortgage Points Game