Your Money > Your Home

Surprise! You need a new roof
Your dream house may cost more to live in than you expected.
December 23, 2003: 3:24 PM EST
By Jean Chatzky, MONEY magazine editor-at-large

NEW YORK (Money magazine) - A $70,000 surprise. That's what my parents got this past fall, in the form of a termite infestation that ate away the inside of three interior walls from the basement to the third floor.

"I'm shocked the bathtub didn't fall through the ceiling," the contractor told my folks. As Jeanne Salvatore of the Insurance Information Institute explained to me, this put them in a bad spot. Termites, along with birds, vermin, rodents and other insects, are never covered under a homeowners policy. But a bathtub that cratered due to a fire would have been.

Granted, this is an unusual example. Salvatore said she couldn't remember the last time she'd been asked about termites. But I've long believed that one of the biggest financial difficulties of being a homeowner is that while it's pretty simple to wrap your brain around your mortgage payment, taxes and insurance, the question of what it costs to actually live in your house is much more complicated.

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