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Beyond the basics: 7 hidden costs of moving

Home being packed up for a move.
FStop Images - Caspar Benson/Getty Images

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When you buy a home, you have a host of new costs to think about. Besides the mortgage, there’s homeowners insurance, property taxes, maintenance and repairs and more. Like most people, you’ve likely budgeted for the typical costs of moving, such as movers and packing supplies. However, it’s the less obvious costs that tend to take new homeowners by surprise once they relocate. Before you start unrolling the packing tape, here are several unexpected costs of moving to consider, along with estimates on what you can expect to spend on each task.

  1. Building fees
  2. Professional house cleaning
  3. Painting
  4. Utilities
  5. Lawn care
  6. Groceries and takeout
  7. Vehicle registration, insurance, etc.

1. Building fees

If you’re moving into a condo or apartment building, there may be fees associated with the move. “Many buildings charge a fee for the services they provide,” says Nancy Zafrani, general manager of Oz Moving & Storage, which has locations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida and California. “(This can cover services like) supervising the move or setting up the service elevators when their tenants move in or out. Make sure this fee is accounted for in your moving budget if your building requires it.” These move-in fees shouldn’t be confused with homeowners or condo association fees, which are separate.

  • Cost: $300 to $500

According to industry experts, an apartment move-in fee can range from $300 to $500, depending on the building and location. Fees can rise with the number of stories in a building.

2. Professional house cleaning

When you’re settling into a new space, a deep clean is a must. You might want to hire a professional to save time and make sure the job is done right. Typically, cleaning companies charge by the hour or based on the amount of square footage. Getting your new house, townhouse, condominium or apartment thoroughly cleaned will help you feel at home and take some stress off of your shoulders.

  • Cost: $116 to $235

The average house cleaning service cost is $169, but homeowners report spending anywhere from $116 to $235, according to estimates from HomeAdvisor, a home service matching company. Pricing varies based on location, the size of your home and how many hours it might take to clean it.

3. Painting

Ideally, your new home would have been freshly painted before it went on the market, but that’s not always the case. Painting before you move into a new home is typically easier, because there’s no furniture or decor to move. You can cut costs by doing the work yourself and paying just for the paint and materials. But it might take you a while to complete if you’re juggling moving tasks, too, and nothing looks as crisp and clean as a pro paint job.

  • Cost: $1,000 to $3,000

Paintzen, a painting contractor company, charges between $1,000 and $2,000 for a standard one-bedroom apartment; the price can go up to $3,000 or more depending on the size and complexity of the space. Elements like baseboards, moldings and trim may also increase the price.

4. Utilities

No one wants to be without modern necessities like running water, gas and electricity. Internet access and cable might also be very important, especially if you work from home. You’ll need to factor in the costs of having those services hooked up well before move-in day, so you’re not left in the lurch. This is particularly true if the previous owners had the utilities disconnected when they moved out.

  • Cost: variable

Utility companies may charge a service fee to reconnect water, gas or electricity that was shut off by a previous owner, but this can vary. Check with your local utility providers to get estimated start-up costs, as well as estimates for monthly service. For internet service, the average price is about $40 per month, and installation fees can be $100 or more, according to a report from Allconnect, a Bankrate sister site owned by Red Ventures.

5. Lawn care

If you’re moving into a home where there’s a yard to take care of, make sure to factor lawn care into your moving budget. “The cost of lawn care is often underestimated,” says Susan Bozinovic, a Realtor with Century 21 Town & Country in Troy, Michigan, and a Certified Relocation Specialist. “Homeowners may presume that the cost is a one-time fee to purchase a lawnmower. Wrong.” In fact, you might need to spray your new lawn for weeds and fungus, as well as fertilizer or grub applications, she adds. In HOA communities, the cost of lawn care may or may not be covered in your HOA fees, so be sure to check carefully.

  • Cost: $135 per month

According to HomeAdvisor, homeowners spend an average of roughly $135 per month on lawn mowing and maintenance. That fee can vary depending on the types of treatments a lawn needs.

6. Groceries and takeout

You may be thinking, “I have to eat anyway, so why is this a cost of moving?” However, a new move can make your typical grocery bill spike temporarily. And you may even opt for takeout for a while if your dishes and cookware are still packed away. “Who feels like cooking when you are packing, unpacking and living out of boxes? People typically see their food expenses go way up in their first week after moving, since their kitchenware may still be packed in boxes or because they are busy transitioning to their new home,” Zafrani says.

  • Cost: variable

This will vary, obviously. But you might want to add an extra couple hundred dollars to your food budget for the first month in your new home. That way, if you’re too exhausted to cook — or you just want to treat yourself — you won’t break the bank.

7. Vehicle registration, insurance, etc.

Here’s one that’s easy to forget: You need to update your car insurance, registration and driver’s license with your new home address. And if you swap states, you’ll need to shell out for new license plates as well. Depending on your area, you may also have small additional costs, like emissions testing. This may not change your insurance rates right away, but since insurers use your zip code to assess risk, you may see a rate increase when you renew your policy.

  • Cost: variable

Vehicle registration and license fees vary widely by state, according to MyMove, a Bankrate sister site owned by Red Ventures. The costs are mostly nominal, but they can add up. So check with your local DMV to see how much you can expect to pay.

Bottom line

When you move to a new place, you’ll inevitably encounter surprise expenses. Leave some wiggle room in your budget to help offset some of the unexpected costs of moving. You can save money by putting in some sweat equity and tackling some items on your own. However, be realistic about how much you can take on — and what’s better left to the pros — to ensure a smooth and seamless move.

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