What price home can I afford to buy?
The easy answer to this all-important question is simply adding how much you can afford to borrow to how much you have available for your down payment investment.
The total is your maximum affordable home price. (Remember to keep enough cash or credit left over for move-in expenses and an emergency reserve.) The harder answer is how much you are qualified to borrow.
For starters, you can put the most frequently-used lenders' rule-of-thumb to work: the 28% and 36% formulas. This is the test many lenders use to qualify applicants for conventional mortgage loans, though some lenders and mortgage plans apply stricter codes, such as 25% and 33%, especially if your down payment is less than 20% of the sale price.
The 28% test permits you to spend no more than 28% of your gross monthly income on your total monthly housing costs, including principal, interest, taxes and insurance (P.I.T.I.) and condominium fees, if any. For example: 28% of a $3,600 gross monthly income would qualify a buyer for a $1,008 per month payment.
The 36% limit covers both your P.I.T.I. and long-term debts (more than 10 months) such as alimony, regular household expenses (mortgage insurance and/or condominium or association fees), outstanding loans (car, appliances, school), support for children (resident or living separately). For example: 36% of $3,600 would qualify for a $1,296 payment per month.
In our examples, the affordable loan payments for an income of $3,600 per month is a range between $1,008 a month home payment and $1,296 a month combined home and debt payments. (Strict lenders may use only the 28% standard, even with no debts, or ask you to meet both standards.)
In addition to your loan, the cash you have on hand (plus the cash you can acquire) is an important factor. You will need cash for a down payment (ranging from 0-5-10-20% or more of the sale price), closing costs, moving expenses, possible immediate repairs, remodeling, new appliances or furnishings. Also be sure to budget for utilities and maintenance. This take some figuring.
An agent can help translate your affordable monthly payment into a total loan amount. Add this loan amount to your desired down payment amount and you get the approximate range of home prices you can afford.
Your next step is to shop carefully for the loan that will keep your mortgage payments in line with your budget. Different mortgage plans can dramatically affect your monthly payment - and thus the price home you can afford. Also other plans, especially FHA and VA mortgages, may offer you much more liberal qualifying standards - again allowing you more home for your income.