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The unexpected costs of owning a home

March 31, 2023
min read

You know that as a homeowner, you’ll need to budget for mortgage payments. But what about the other monthly fees you'll face?

Woman using calculator and looking at laptop

If you’ve never owned a home before, you may be wondering how to budget for one.

“It’s important to understand the extra costs that come with owning a home,” says Sheena Rodriguez, a Personal Banking Advisor at Cambrian.

“You might think, ‘If I pay this much in rent, I can cover this much in mortgage payments.’ But depending on where you live, your rent may not include utilities or maintenance. And those expenses can add a lot to your monthly payments.”

When you buy a house, what do you pay monthly? We’re looking beyond mortgage payments to see what other expenses you’ll have.

From utility bills to property taxes, here’s how to prepare for the hidden costs of owning a home, with advice from Sheena Rodriguez.

Monthly costs of owning a home in Manitoba

Your mortgage payments will certainly be a large chunk of your monthly costs. But some first-time home buyers focus too much on the mortgage alone and overlook the other expenses associated with home ownership.

Here’s a list of recurring fees you’ll pay as a homeowner:

Home insurance

They say that your home is the biggest purchase you’ll make in your lifetime. With that in mind, you want to do everything you can to protect it.

But how do you prepare for the unexpected?

One way to do that is with home insurance. And if you have a mortgage on your property, home insurance is required by law in Manitoba.

“Without home insurance, you’re responsible to cover any of the damages that could happen to your house—from flooding to fires,” says Sheena.

“If you don’t have home insurance in place, you may have to pay thousands out of pocket to repair your home.”

How much will your insurance cost? That depends on many things, but essentially, it boils down to how likely you are to make a claim.

For example, older homes typically cost more to insure because they need repairs more often, whether that’s a new roof or an updated electrical system.

Property taxes

When you own property in Manitoba, you must pay taxes on it.

Property taxes help pay for public services, including garbage and recycling collection, road maintenance, and schools. The cost varies based on the value of your home and the municipality you live in.

“Property tax is one of those costs that most people don’t expect,” says Sheena. “It may be expensive or feasible depending on the area of town you’re living in.”


As a renter, you may pay for some utilities already, but your landlord probably covers part of the costs.

As a homeowner, you must pay for 100% of the utilities. These include:

  • Water
  • Hydro (electricity)
  • Natural gas
  • Cable/Internet

Your costs will vary based on your usage, the size of your home, and the type of heating and cooling system you have.

“Every dollar counts when it comes to your heating bill,” says Sheena. “To save money, try turning down the heat and wearing warmer clothes in the winter.”

Emergency repairs

Pipes freeze. Appliances break. Roofs leak.

As a renter, whenever something breaks down, you can call your landlord to request a repair.

But as a homeowner? It’s on you to fix whatever’s broken, whether it’s your washing machine, hot water tank, or your roof. And when you need to fix something in a hurry, the cost is usually higher.

“When you buy a home, there could be unexpected repairs right off the hop,” says Sheena.

Need help saving up an emergency fund? Here’s what Sheena suggests:

“Re-evaluate your spending habits and try to separate needs from wants.”

“For example, do you eat out for lunch instead of making it at home? Instead, use up the groceries you already have, and put the money you would’ve spent on lunch in a savings account for an emergency.”

Yard maintenance

In Winnipeg, your lawn care routine will look very different depending on the time of year.

If you plan to do the work yourself, you’ll need to budget for the cost of a lawnmower, shovel, or snowblower.

Alternatively, you could save time and pay a lawn care company to do it for you—but this will be more expensive.

Take a look at what either route will cost you and see which one makes the most sense for your budget.

General maintenance

When you’re renting, your home maintenance costs are minimal, if any. But as a homeowner, it’s a different story.

You’ll routinely pay for things like…

  • HVAC & hot water tank maintenance
  • Replacing furnace filters
  • Cleaning air ducts
  • Replacing window screens and weather stripping
  • Fixing plumbing leaks

And the list goes on!

Each home is unique, so it’s difficult to estimate the amount or frequency of maintenance costs. But it’s good to keep this in mind as you figure out your budget.

Condo fees

Move into a condo? You’ll need to pay monthly condo fees to support the reserve fund and help maintain common areas in the building, such as the parking lot, gym, or lobby.

And if you own a condo, there’s another expense you could face: special levies.

Also known as special assessments, this is when your condo building faces an unexpected repair that the reserve fund won’t cover.

Each unit owner must pay a portion of the special levy to cover the costs, whether it’s a broken elevator, a new roof, or an exterior repair.

When you own a condo, try to set aside savings in case any special levies pop up.

Preparing for the costs of home ownership

Let’s make sure you’re financially ready to own a home. Here’s how to get your finances in shape first:

Consider paying off debt first

Before you take the plunge into home ownership, you may want to pay off any outstanding debt you have first.

Having less debt will make it easier to get approved for a mortgage (which we’ve covered in-depth in our blog about mortgage stress testing). And once you’re a homeowner, a low debt load makes it easier to manage your payments.

From credit cards to student loans and car payments, try to pay down any outstanding debts you have before you buy a property—or put together a budget plan for how you’ll do so.

That way, you won’t stretch your budget too thin between all your payments.

“If you don’t have a plan to get out of debt before purchasing, I would recommend paying down your debt first. If you do have a plan in place, and your finances support it, then maybe you can take on a house,” says Sheena.

Account for fluctuating interest rates

Your mortgage payment amounts will change over time. They could go up or down depending on the interest rate at the time, and whether you have a fixed or variable rate mortgage. This is something to consider when you’re putting together a monthly budget.

Look for a roommate

One way to reduce the monthly costs of owning a house in Manitoba? Consider finding a roommate. You can use their rent to pay down your mortgage and give you some financial breathing room.

Budgeting for the real cost of owning a home

“For first-time home buyers, we want to ensure you’re in a good financial position before taking on such a large loan,” says Sheena.

“We can help you understand your budget and your finances before you become a homeowner.”

One of our Cambrian Advisors would be happy to meet with you and talk about what you can do to get yourself ready for home ownership. To book a meeting, contact us today!

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