Finding the right property at an affordable price can sometimes be a challenge. When it comes to deciding just how much home you can afford, there are two kinds of expenses you’ll need to consider – the ongoing or ‘carrying’ costs of the home, and your closing costs.
The first step in determining your carrying costs is to get pre-approved for a mortgage. By pre-qualifying for a mortgage, you can find out up front what your maximum mortgage payment might be, even before your home search begins.
Your lender will look at your earnings, credit history and any outstanding debt, and help you determine what size loan you qualify for, at what rate, and what your regular mortgage payments would be. Being pre-qualified offers another advantage, since it puts you in a stronger negotiating position when you go into an offer with pre-approved financing.
Once you’re pre-approved, the next step is determining what you actually want to spend on your mortgage payments. Remember, your pre-approved mortgage establishes the maximum amount of loan you’d qualify for, but you may decide that you want to aim at a smaller loan, with a lower payment.
Be realistic and think about your lifestyle. Although it may seem feasible to handle a sizable mortgage payment at first, keeping it up may eventually require cutting back on other expenses, such as clothing, or entertainment. Make sure that if you plan to make any concessions in these areas, you’re prepared to live with your decision until there’s a change in your income. Owning a home can give you a tremendous amount of pleasure and personal satisfaction, as long as you plan for adequate resources to enjoy it with some peace of mind.
With your estimated mortgage payment in mind, the next step is to determine your total carrying costs. Add up all your estimated monthly costs, such as the mortgage payment, property taxes, insurance, heating costs and other utilities. Then add a figure to cover yearly maintenance and upkeep. Consider both the interior and exterior of the house, as well as the garage, driveway, landscaping and all other aspects of the property when you arrive at this figure.
When preparing your budget, be sure that you also make allowance for a “contingency fund” to cover unexpected expenses such as a major repair or the replacement of a large ticket item, such as an appliance. Life sometimes has a way of surprising us, and you don’t want to start out with a budget that’s so tight, there’s no room for the unexpected.
Stay tuned for Part two of “How much home can you afford?” – Closing costs and moving expenses.