Whether you rely on instinct or logic in your home search, understanding how much home you can afford makes home hunting more manageable. Watch all the home-hunting shows you like on television, but do not step out your door to look for one of your own until you calculate how much you can afford, and how much you feel comfortable paying for a home.
Locate and collect your last year's tax return, current W-2 work stubs and any 1099 income-earned statements and put them in one pile on a large work table.
Add together all your gross monthly income and write it down on a pad of paper under the heading, "income." Tally up your partner's income and make sure to add it to the total if you want the mortgage in both of your names.
Write down all monthly debts that your currently pay. Include any alimony payments or child-support payments. List car payments you make every month. If you have another property, write down the payments you make. Leave out any rent that you pay for your current residence. Add up credit card payments you make. Total the amount and write it down under the header, "debts."
Subtract your monthly debt total from your monthly gross income total. Divide the resulting number by 3. You can afford housing payments from a mortgage equal to that amount.
Search online lender or real estate websites for affordability calculators. Some include factors such as down payment, loan length and interest rates to approximate what home price your mortgage payment buys.
- Get prequalified for a specific loan amount from a lender. Getting prequalified confirms your calculations and helps lend credibility to any home offers you make. No one commits themselves to a loan with a prequalification letter, though, as lenders require credit checks and appraisals among other requirements before they approve loans.
- You pay lower monthly mortgage payments for a 30-year loan than for a 15-year loan. Low interest rates make your monthly payments lower, and a more expensive home more affordable.
- Interest-only-option adjustable-rate mortgages offer low monthly payments, and make a more expensive home financially feasible, but read all the loan documents carefully to make sure you understand how high your payments might rise once rates increase.
Barrett Barlowe is an award-winning writer and artist specializing in fitness, health, real estate, fine arts, and home and gardening. She is a former professional cook as well as a digital and traditional artist with many major film credits. Barlowe holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and French and a Master of Fine Arts in film animation.