Among the most common questions from a home buyer is "How much home can I afford?" The answer, not surprisingly, is "it depends".
There are no concrete rules for how much home you can afford, or how big your mortgage should be. In part, this is mortgage lenders will calculate your maximum home purchase price differently from how you might calculate it yourself using a mortgage calculator or other online tool.
There are two approaches to home affordability and each takes today's mortgage rates into account. Let's examine both methods.
When you ask a bank to calculate your maximum home purchase price, the bank will give very little consideration to your existing home hunt, or any properties on which you've considered making an offer.
Rather than using a specific home for its calculations -- or even a specific sales price -- the bank will consider your annual income and your annual debts, then calculate what the maximum-sized mortgage payment is that could be added to it without raising your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio above allowable limits.
Once the banks has found your maximum approvable mortgage payment, it uses today's mortgage rates to "back in" to the maximum allowable loan size.
Note, though, that this method of determining how much home you can afford is based on maxing out your debt-to-income ratio, which may not be advisable. The DTI-based formula won't show what you should pay for a home -- it will show you what you could pay for a home.
Banks will check your debt-to-income ratio in two parts -- the front-end ratio and the back-end ratio.
The first component of the debt-to-income ratio is the "front-end ratio". Front-end ratio compares the expected monthly housing payment to a buyer's monthly income, where "housing payment" includes all of the following obligations :
There is no maximum limit for a front-end ratio, but lenders prefer to see front-end DTI of 28% or less. In other words, banks prefer that 28% or less of your total monthly income allocate to your housing payments.
You can still be approved with a front-end ratio greater than 28%, but it's a little less usual.
The second component of debt-to-income ratio is the "back-end ratio". Back-end ratio compares not the monthly housing payments against a buyer's monthly income, and all other monthly payments, too.
Back-end ratio accounts for all of the following monthly obligations a home buyer may have :
In general, banks want to see a back-end ratio of 36% or less, however, having a DTI over 36% will not disqualify your loan application automatically. Many lenders allow up to 45% debt-to-income.
As a home buyer, you can rely on a bank to tell you how much home you can afford, or you can figure your maximum home purchase price on your own.
In many cases, your bank will approve you for a more expensive home than you want to purchase. This is because banks will approve you to your maximum home price using a 45% debt-to-income ratio.
When you spend 45% of your income monthly, it doesn't leave much cash for saving, investing or living, let alone paying taxes.
Therefore, consider the other approach to the "How much home can I afford" question. Determine the maximum monthly payment you'd like to make each month, and then, using today's mortgage rates, work that figure backward to find your maximum mortgage loan size.
For example, if you budget for a monthly housing payment of $2,500 with two percent annually going to taxes and insurance, assuming the current 30-year mortgage rate is 4%, the math "worked backwards" reveals a maximum home purchase price of $385,000.
This method can be far more effective to keeping within a budget as compared to letting the bank set your price.
To answer "How much home can I afford?", ultimately, requires a buyer to know today's mortgage rates. Mortgage rates affect monthly payments which, in turn, affect your budget.
Get today's mortgage rates here. Rates are available at no cost and with no social security number required to get started -- plus, there's no obligation to proceed.
The information contained on The Mortgage Reports website is for informational purposes only and is not an advertisement for products offered by Full Beaker. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the policy or position of Full Beaker, its officers, parent, or affiliates.
Thomas D. Software Developer
As a first time home buyer, The Mortgage Reports has been the only voice that I can trust, and the expertise has been helpful.
Marie M. Real Estate Agent
I have been a Realtor for more than 30 years and enjoy The Mortgage Reports. It's terrific to learn something new almost every day.
Amit D. Research Scientist
The Mortgage Reports gave me valuable information, tips, and advice which helped me to acquire a home with the lowest mortgage interest rate. Keep up the good work!
2015 Conforming, FHA, & VA Loan Limits
Mortgage loan limits for every U.S. county, as published by Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)