The true cost of running your home

Melanie Wright
Written by: Melanie Wright
Posted on: 6 May 2016

Mortgage payments, energy costs, council tax, home insurance, water charges… it can seem as though the list of bills for your property is never-ending.

New research from property website Zoopla has found that more than a third of us don't actually know how much it costs to run our homes, with many of us wildly underestimating our monthly bills. The site has calculated that running costs average £1,505 a month for homeowners and £1,227 for tenants, yet homeowners believe they only spend £812 a month.

Here’s our rundown of all the costs you need to take into consideration, and some of the ways you might be able to reduce them.

Water bills

According to Water UK, the average water and sewage bill for 2016/17 will be £389 a year. You can’t switch your water provider, but you might be able to reduce your annual costs by installing a water meter. If you don’t have one, your bills are fixed depending on your property’s size, regardless of how much water you use.

That means, if you are living alone in a three-bedroom house, you’ll pay the same bill as five people living in the same sized property - even if they use five times the amount of water you do.

Switching to a meter could save you around £100 or more a year, depending on how much water you use. To see if using one could save you money, check out the Consumer Council for Water’s water meter calculator.

Mortgage costs

Your mortgage is likely to be your biggest monthly outgoing, so if you haven’t reviewed yours for several years and you are currently on your lender’s standard variable rate, you might want to see if you could cut costs by remortgaging. For example, based on a typical £150,000 25-year repayment mortgage, monthly payments would cost you £861 on the average standard variable rate of 4.82%.

If you remortgaged to one of the best two-year fixed rate deals at 1.15%, your payments would drop to £576, saving you £285 a month.

Council tax bills

Many councils have hiked council tax bills by around 4% this year, which pushes up annual costs for properties in band D to more than £1,500. You may be eligible for a discount, however, if you live alone, or you are a student. To find out whether you could qualify, or what to do if you think your property is in the wrong council tax band, read our article ’Could you cut your council tax bill?’.

You can usually reduce insurance costs by paying up-front rather than monthly

Insurance premiums

Buildings and contents insurance is essential if you want peace of mind that you have financial protection in place should anything happen to your property or possessions.

You can usually reduce costs by paying up-front rather than monthly if you can afford to. You may also want to think about increasing your excess – the portion of any insurance claim you must pay yourself – to reduce premiums, although remember that it must still be affordable.

Always get quotes from several different providers at renewal time too, so you can be certain your cover is still competitive.

Energy bills

The best energy tariff for you will depend on where you live and how much energy you use, so it’s worth regularly checking you’re on the best possible deal.

You can also reduce your bills by making sure your home is as energy efficient as it can be. For example, according to the Energy Saving Trust, fitting a water-efficient shower head could save a four person household about £80 a year on gas for water heating, plus a further £120 on water bills if they have a water meter.

You can save roughly another £30 a year just by remembering to turn your appliances off standby mode.

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