It is the perennial question for every first-time homeowner. How much house can I afford? As with so many life-changing decisions, there is no one right answer to this common query, and the size of the home you buy, and the mortgage you take out, will depend on several critical factors.
If you want to know how much home you can afford, you need to ask yourself the right questions. Even more importantly, you need to provide yourself with honest answers to those queries. Here are some things you should be asking as you get ready for the transition from renter to first-time home buyer.
• What is my current income? Is that income secure, or is my job in jeopardy? Your ability to pay the mortgage will depend on visibility of income, making the answer to this question extremely critical.
• How much disposable income do I currently have? How much of that disposable income can I devote to the costs of home ownership? Owning a home is more than paying the mortgage, and you will need to set money aside for repairs, upkeep, and other essentials.
• Do I have money for a down payment? The more you can put down, the smaller your monthly mortgage payment will be. Even if you can do it, financing 100% of the purchase price could make your mortgage payment unaffordable.
• How much do I want to devote to savings, investments and other essentials? Putting all your money into the roof over your head could leave you dangerously undiversified and put your financial future at risk.
• What is my credit score? What steps can I take to raise it quickly? A low credit score can mean a higher interest rate on your mortgage or even an outright denial. If your credit score is less than optimal, paying down debt and taking other steps to raise it will be to your advantage.
• What other debts do I have? Taking on a big mortgage payment when you have other debts can be risky, so take a hard look at your monthly expenses and your balance sheet. It may be worth putting off the home purchase until you have paid your other debts.
• Am I willing to shop for a lower priced home if it means a more affordable mortgage payment? You may need to give up some wants or consider a different neighborhood to find a home you can more easily afford.
Shopping for your first home can be an intimidating process, but knowing how much home you can afford will make that process easier and less stressful. The real estate agent and mortgage broker will have their opinions about home affordability and optimal mortgage payments, but in the end, your considered opinion is what counts.