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How Much House Can I Afford? Setting a Mortgage Budget

07/06/2020 - Calculators, Smart Home Buying & Ownership

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How Much House Can I Afford?

Buying a home is a defining life moment. It’s also one of the largest investments you can make. Whether you’re looking to purchase your first home, next home or second home there’s a lot to consider from your budget to how much mortgage you will qualify for.

How much house you can afford depends on a lot more than what your bank will loan you. First, get started by determining those factors and setting a mortgage budget. You can also check out our mortgage calculator, which will help you determine how much your home will actually cost you.

Setting a Mortgage Budget

You might be wondering – How much should I spend on a house? Let’s start by setting a mortgage budget. When setting a mortgage budget, there’s two factors you’ll need to consider: How much house you can afford based on your budget and how much your lender thinks you can afford. The personal criteria are just as important, if not more, than the latter. For example, just because you’re pre-qualified for a million-dollar beachfront condo doesn’t mean you should take out that loan. It’s important to take a deeper dive into your personal financial criteria before signing off on a mortgage.

House Affordability Calculator

Our mortgage affordability calculator can further help you with mortgage affordability.

How Much Should You Spend on a House Based on Your Personal Finances and Lifestyle?

  • Income: Your income is the cornerstone of your mortgage budget, so you should ask some of these questions before signing on the dotted line: Are you living on one income or two? Are you living comfortably with a set budget and have a decent savings built up? You will definitely need a healthy savings, both primary and emergency, before purchasing a home. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, it may not be the time to close on a mortgage loan. You also want to think about your employment situation. How secure is your job? If you’re comfortable with your income and where you see it going in the future, that’s a great sign and the first hurdle to mortgage pre-qualification.
  • Expenses: This is also the time to take a look at your expenses in relationship to your income. This includes all debt and everyday expenses—those that are critical like utilities, food as well as other expenses like student loan debt, credit card payments, car payments and your monthly subscriptions. Make sure you also include any future expenses you anticipate like a new car, vacations and even children.
  • Lifestyle: Purchasing a home is definitely a change of lifestyle. When you’re getting ready to buy a home, you’ll need to save money for a down payment and other fees like closing costs. So, if you’re set on purchasing a home, it’s time to cut back on non-critical expenses and make adjustments to your spending habits. This plays a role in how much house you can afford.
  • Home Ownership Costs: This is also the time to think beyond your future mortgage payment. Home ownership comes with a number of additional costs and usually the larger the home, the bigger the cost. Think maintenance—inside and outside, landscaping, utilities and homeowners association fees. Are you purchasing a fixer-upper that needs work right away? Furniture and décor are also something to take into consideration. So, when determining how much you should spend on a house you should also think about the total cost of home ownership. Still not sure how much you should spend on a house? Discover how much mortgage you can afford with this monthly planner.

How a Lender will Decide How Much House You Can Afford

While you’re working on your personal criteria for affording a home, your lender will take a different perspective when determining how much house you can afford.

Lenders will break down your eligibility into a formula based on four key areas:

  1. Income
  2. Debt
  3. Assets
  4. Liabilities

They will also look at your debt-to-income ratio. This ratio compares your total monthly debts to your monthly pre-tax income. For mortgage pre-qualification, the lower the ratio the better.

Lenders generally use the 28/36 rule, however there could be some flexibility based on product type. This rule measures your ability to afford a mortgage based on gross monthly income, monthly house-related payments and other monthly debt payments.

  • The 28 represents your front-end ratio. That means 28% of your gross monthly income should be used on housing expenses like monthly principal, interest, property taxes and insurance payments. If you have a condo or home ownership association fee, that will also be included in the 28%.
  • The 36 represents your back-end ratio. This is calculated by dividing all recurring monthly payments and debt by your gross monthly income. The back-end ratio includes everything in the front-end ratio and your other debt like credit cards, auto loans, student loans and any other personal loans. If you qualify for a mortgage pre-qualification under the 28/36 rule, you shouldn’t have trouble repaying your loan. However, if you stretch this rule too much, it may be hard to repay your loan and you may want to take a more conservative approach to home ownership.

Your credit score is also part of the lender’s formula. This represents the risk that a lender is taking on if they grant you a mortgage. Applicants with lower credit scores may be approved, but with a higher interest rate. So, if you’re getting ready to purchase a home, start working on your credit score immediately. You’ll also want to avoid any hard credit checks that result from purchasing a car or signing up for a new credit card.

The Mortgage Budget Bottom Line

There’s quite a lot to think about when you’re getting ready to make a large investment like buying a home, and it’s important to break down your finances to make the best decision possible for your lifestyle. The more you know about how to set a mortgage budget, the better. Before making the decision about how much house you can afford, it’s critical to do the math and start saving for your dream home.

Once you’ve made the decision to move forward with a mortgage pre-qualification, be sure to choose a lender with credible history of competitive rates and loan options. You also want to work with a lender that will guide you through every step of the process. WesBanco’s loan officers take a hands-on approach and make the journey easy and stress-free.

Explore WesBanco’s mortgage options and our diverse solutions to navigate the home-buying process.

Learn More about WesBanco’s Mortgage Options:

Explore Mortgage Lending

Content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or financial advice. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of WesBanco.

While we hope you find this content useful, it is only intended to serve as a starting point. Your next step is to speak with a qualified, licensed professional who can provide advice tailored to your individual circumstances. Nothing in this article, nor in any associated resources, should be construed as financial or legal advice. Furthermore, while we have made good faith efforts to ensure that the information presented was correct as of the date the content was prepared, we are unable to guarantee that it remains accurate today.

Neither Banzai nor its sponsoring partners make any warranties or representations as to the accuracy, applicability, completeness, or suitability for any particular purpose of the information contained herein. Banzai and its sponsoring partners expressly disclaim any liability arising from the use or misuse of these materials and, by visiting this site, you agree to release Banzai and its sponsoring partners from any such liability. Do not rely upon the information provided in this content when making decisions regarding financial or legal matters without first consulting with a qualified, licensed professional.

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