How Much Can you Really Afford?
“Can we afford it?” That’s the first thought that comes to mind when shopping for your next dream home. Fortunately it’s an easy question to answer if you consider your lifestyle, financial goals, expenses and mortgage eligibility.
There’s more to life than just paying the mortgage and other living expenses. Hobbies, entertainment, vacations, family adventures, and charitable causes are also important. Don’t be house poor. Think of your “lifestyle” as another bill you must pay—to yourself.
Your new home is not just a place to live. It’s also an investment. Make sure it fits with your overall investment plan, which may also include retirement savings, education funds, emergency cash, and more.
The mortgage isn’t your only home expense. You must also calculate insurance, utilities, taxes, maintenance and other costs. Amenities, such as a pool, can turn your home into an oasis. But, you must be prepared for the upkeep costs. If you’re buying an older home, expect repair and maintenance costs to be higher.
Your mortgage eligibility is determined by your current income, debt level, employment history, and credit rating. Lenders use this information combined with estimates of your new home property taxes and heating/cooling expenses to determine the largest mortgage they can offer you. Be careful. Since lenders make money based on interest on the total mortgage amount, they naturally want to get you approved for the highest amount possible. Remember that although you may qualify for a $400,000 mortgage, you may not want that level of debt. It will depend on your lifestyle, financial goals and estimated home expenses. Home affordability is like a jigsaw puzzle. You need to put all the pieces together to get a clear picture of how much home you can afford.
Mortgage Payments Can Be Deceiving
You see a great home. You pull out your mortgage calculator and start punching in the numbers. The estimated monthly payment is displayed on the screen. You think, "Yep, we can afford that!"
It's easy to be seduced by a mortgage payment calculation. However, mortgage payments aren't the only costs of owning a home. You also need to consider:
- Property taxes
- Home insurance premiums
- Electricity costs
- Maintenance (especially a factor in older homes.)
If you don't, you could end up spending hundreds of dollars more per month than you originally expected.