The Numbers

I’m a numbers guy. Not in the mathematician sense, but in that I won’t commit to a purchase until I can see how it’s going to play out before I do it. For most situations that’s pretty easy, look at the price of the item. Do I have enough money? Yes. OK, I can buy it. With this house stuff, it’s proving to be a lot more difficult.

Real estate listings show the annual taxes, so those are easy to calculate (at least for the current year, who knows what they will change to) and I can get a rough estimate for what a mortgage payment will be (of course rates vary and I’ll have to get an actual quote for the exact figure) but what’s tough for me to figure out are the recurring operating expenses like electricity, water, heating oil (if necessary), garbage collection, communications (phone, cable TV, Internet) and Insurance.

After digging through the provider websites I have a rough idea of what a monthly communications bill could be, depending on the package I’d choose, but figuring out the cost for electricity, water and heating oil seems like a shot in the dark. I can find rates per unit, but that doesn’t help when I don’t know what an expected usage would be. I was fortunate enough to have my parents show me what it costs to operate their house on a monthly basis, so I have at least one piece of data to work with, but their house is bigger than what I’m looking to buy, so I don’t know that it’d be an accurate measure. If it is, I’ve got my work cut out for me because when I look at my three biggest monthly expenses I get this

  • Food
  • Utilities and Taxes
  • Mortgage Payment

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the problem is, when I look at my current income, I can only afford to pay any two of those three, and realistically I need to pay all three or buying a house isn’t going to happen. Even if I have a good down payment, if I can’t afford the monthly recurring costs, I’m shooting myself in the foot. I’m going to continue to save up for a down payment, but until I can see that the monthly expenses are something I can handle I’m not going to waste a Realtor’s time or have credit inquiries done.

Money is an intensely personal topic, so while I know that asking everyone I know what their monthly bills are would give me a ton of great data to work with and come up with averages, it would probably also really upset people to be asked. If you’d like to help, I’d really appreciate it. I’m trying to get a feel for the following costs, per month.

  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Heating Oil or Natural Gas
  • Garbage Collection

If you’d be willing to post those in the comments along with the approximate size of your house and the town where you live, that’d be great. If you think I’m missing something, I’d love to know that too. If sharing it publicly isn’t something you’re comfortable with, I completely understand, just leave me a comment and I’ll email you with my contact information.

Thanks again for your help, this house buying stuff is proving to be quite a lot to process.

6 thoughts on “The Numbers

  1. I own a 1500 square foot home in Allentown.
    I pay 150 a month for electric. I have electric heat, hot water and central ac.
    Water is 75 every quarter.
    No heating oil or gas.
    Garbage is included in or city taxes, as is recycling so nothing for that either.

    If you add your taxes and insuran
    ce to your monthly mortgage it makes it easier, you don’t have set money side for those every month and pay a lump sum. Good luck!

    • Thanks, Matt.

      I’m leery about letting an escrow company handle taxes and insurance. I hear all kinds of horror stories about them messing things up. I’d rather handle it on my own. Setting money aside isn’t a problem for me.

  2. I owner occupy a multi-unit in North Bethlehem. Trash is not included here. My hauler charges $25/month for my 2 rows. You might get that reduced… if you shop around, sign up for a longer contract and/or pre-pay. Hope this helps!

  3. I just went from renting an apartment on west side of Bethlehem in a multi-unit complex to living in an old house downtown Bethlehem right off Main St with my bf (we are renting a house owned by his parents.)
    The west side is a great place to live – Prospect Ave and W Market St have a lot of really great houses. I love where I live now but you pay a bigger price to live closer to downtown / closer to Moravian.
    Water – this is for the hot water which is gas, so UGI – about $12/month
    Electricity – PPL, about $85/month (give or take $10)
    Cable – RCN, negotiated it down to $92/month for cable and high speed internet, no HBO or major extras but we do have on demand. Still comes out to $100 or more with taxes and 1-2 on demand movies per month.
    Trash – $34/month. Annoying but maybe it’s the price in a nice neighborhood? Not sure. They pick it up once a week and are always reliable- I’ve heard bad stories about Bethlehem trash but this has been a positive experience.
    Heat – this is oil heat. I am dreading what it will cost come winter…luckily we like it cold. From asking around, I heard it’s usually under $200/month.
    Other expenses to consider – Soon we will have to pay school taxes but I am not sure exactly how much those are.

    • Thanks Amanda! Definitely some great info there. The trash collection fees that you and David mentioned seem in line with what other people are reporting for Bethlehem. It would be nice if the city could get its act together in that area. It seems like that’s one thing that Allentown is currently doing better than Bethlehem.

  4. We’re in a new townhouse (as in we built it in 2008) in Allentown (though its in Parkland school district, not too far from PJ’s on Tighlman, its considered Upper Macungie). Our house is 1857 sq feet.

    Water is ~$32 every 3 months
    UGI – we have gas heat, so during the summer months out UGI bill is normally about $8 (due to the hot water), during the winter it can go up to about $120 on the colder months Jan/Feb (we generally keep it anywhere betwee 68-72 in the house, it was on the warmer side last year since Ethan was so little, so it was a bit higher then normal)
    Electric…this varies, its obviously higher during the summer months…currently its about $120, during the winter though it tends to drop down to about $60
    Trash is $87 a quarter (we pay in March, June, Sept and Dec)
    Sewer $85 a quarter
    as far as a food bill goes…i definitely recomend getting the sunday paper, comparing prices and cutting coupons! 🙂 i saved $45 on a shopping trip a few weeks ago, and earned $.40 worth of gas points with giant…

    something to consider as well…our house is newer which most likely means it has higher quality windows and insulation then an older house…those may effect your heating & electric (A/C) bills…

    We did escrow our taxes…and i’m able to log-in with out lendor online to make sure they get paid…

    Our school taxes last year were $2438, the county taxes were $752 and the city taxes were $143, our homeowners insurance is also $541 (we have it through state farm packaged with our car insurance)

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