If You Make $50k a Year, How Much House Can You Afford?

By: Michele Lerner Updated By: Ryan Tronier Reviewed By: Jon Meyer
April 11, 2023 - 14 min read

Here’s how to buy a home on $50K a year

If you want to buy a home on a $50K salary, it’s certainly possible. For many borrowers, low-down-payment loans and down payment assistance programs are putting homeownership within reach.

But everyone’s budget is different. Even people who make the same annual salary can have different price ranges when shopping for a new home. That’s because your budget doesn’t just depend on your annual salary, but on your mortgage rate, down payment, loan term, and more.

So if you’ve ever wondered how to buy a home on $50K a year, here’s how to find out.

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>Related: How to buy a house with $0 down: First-time home buyer

If I make $50K a year, how much house can I afford?

A person who makes $50,000 a year might be able to afford a house worth anywhere from $180,000 to nearly $300,000. That’s because annual salary isn’t the only variable that determines your home buying budget. You also have to consider your credit score, current debts, mortgage rates, and many other factors.

Just to show you how much these different variables can affect your home buying power, take a look at a few examples below.

Home affordability by interest rate

Regardless of your annual salary, the mortgage interest rate you qualify for will affect how much house you can afford. For those with a low or moderate income, timing your home purchase when interest rates are low is a great way to increase your home buying budget.

Annual Income Desired Monthly PaymentInterest Rate (30-Year Fixed) How Much House Can I Afford?

The example above assumes a 3% down payment and no monthly debts outside the mortgage. Rates shown for sample purposes only. Your own interest rate and payment will vary. 

Remember, the interest rate a lender will offer you depends on your credit score and down payment, among other factors. So getting a lower interest rate isn’t just a matter of timing the market. It’s also important to present a strong application and shop around for the best deal.

Home affordability by down payment

Your down payment also significantly impacts what you can afford. Most low-down-payment mortgage loans require putting at least 3% of the home value down. As an example, if the home value is $180,000, a 3% down payment would be $5,400.

But the more you pay up front, the more you can borrow.

For example, here’s how much a home buyer making $50,000 a year might afford depending on their down payment savings:

Annual Income Desired Monthly Payment Down PaymentHow Much House Can I Afford?
$50,000$1,790$6,830 (3%)$226,950
$50,000$1,790$13,300 (5%)$248,150
$50,000$1,790$27,140 (10%)$265,040

The examples above assume a 6% fixed interest rate on a 30-year loan, and no monthly debts outside the mortgage. Your own rate and monthly payment will vary. 

Home affordability by debt-to-income ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) measures your total monthly debts against your gross monthly income. In this context, debt includes items such as minimum credit card payments, auto loans, student loans, and even your estimated mortgage payment. However, monthly bills for utilities and streaming services are not considered monthly debt payments.

Mortgage lenders use the DTI ratio to determine how much of a monthly housing payment a borrower can afford. The higher your existing monthly debt payments, the less you’ll be able to spend on your mortgage to maintain a good DTI.

Ideally, you want a 30-40% debt-to-income ratio to qualify for a mortgage loan.

While DTI requirements vary by lender, the percentages below are a good rule of thumb. (We discuss the importance of DTI ratio for borrowers on a $50K salary in more detail below.)

  • Conventional loan: Up to 43% allowed, but 36% to 41% is preferred
  • FHA loan: Generally, 41% to 43% (up to 50% is possible)
  • VA loan: 41% is typical for most lenders
  • USDA loan: 41% is standard for most lenders

For example, say you make $50,000 a year and want to stay at a 36% DTI.

In that case, your total debts can’t exceed $1,500. Here’s how that affects your home buying budget:

Annual Income Monthly DebtsDesired Mortgage PaymentHow Much House Can I Afford?

The examples above assume a 6% fixed interest rate and 3% down on a 30-year mortgage. Your own rate and monthly payment will vary. 

How to buy a home on $50K a year

As you can see in the examples above, two borrowers earning $50,000 a year could have very different home buying budgets. To figure out how much house you can afford, you need to factor in your income, debts, down payment savings, and projected housing costs like homeowners insurance and property taxes.

Remember, principal and interest on the mortgage aren’t the only costs you’ll pay each month as a homeowner. Luckily, you don’t have to do all that math on your own. You can use an online mortgage calculator to estimate your monthly mortgage payment. Try one that includes property taxes and homeowners insurance.

Why debt-to-income ratio is important

While many factors impact the amount you can borrow, your debt-to-income ratio is essential to the equation. DTI ratio compares your monthly gross household income to the monthly payments you owe on all your debts, including housing expenses. The standard maximum DTI for most mortgage lenders is 41%.

To achieve a 41% DTI ratio with a $50,000 annual income ($4,167 per month), you couldn’t exceed $1,700 a month in housing and other debt payments.

The less you spend on existing debt payments, the more home you can afford. And, vice-versa.

$50K salary and $400 in monthly debt payments: 

  • Say $400 of your monthly debt payments go to a car loan, a student loan, and minimum payments on your credit card debt. In this case, you would have $1,300 to spend on housing
  • With a $20,000 down payment and 6% interest rate, you could probably buy a home for a maximum price of around $200,000 and still have a $1,300 monthly payment

$50K salary and no monthly debt payments:

  • If you had no existing monthly debts, you could spend $1,700 a month on your mortgage payment and still keep a 41% DTI
  • In this case, your home buying budget would increase to about $255,000 — even with the same $20,000 down and 6% interest rate

The above scenario adds an additional $100K in home buying power. This is a result of reducing your existing monthly expenses — not an increase in your annual salary.

This is why paying off as much debt as possible should be a part of your homeownership journey.

Front-end ratios vs. back-end ratios

As you shop around between mortgage lenders, you may come across the terms front-end ratio and back-end ratio. Both are versions of the debt-to-income ratio. Essentially, they’re just another way to measure how your income and cash flow affects your monthly housing payment.

  • Back-end ratio: Works like your debt-to-income ratio, which we discussed above. It compares your existing monthly debt payments, including your mortgage, to your monthly gross income
  • Front-end ratio: Measures your housing costs alone as a percentage of your gross income. If you aim for a front-end ratio of 28%, earning $50,000 a year, you could spend at most $14,000 a year on housing. That’s about $1,167 a month

As you make your own calculations, remember that your gross monthly income is the amount you earn before income tax or medical insurance deductions. For most people, gross income is a bigger number than take-home pay.

Home affordability and your PITI percentage

Lenders use all of these percentages, along with your debts and income, to form a picture of your home buying budget that they call PITI.

PITI is an acronym that describes:

  • Principal: How much of your loan’s principal you can pay each month
  • Interest: How much interest you will pay to borrow each month
  • Taxes: Property taxes you will pay to own a home
  • Insurance: Monthly costs to insure your home (and mortgage, when applicable)

If your new home has an HOA, the dues will also be included in this calculation. Read more about PITI and how it affects how much home you can afford on $50K a year.

8 Tips to increase your home buying budget on $50K a year

The average cost of a home in the U.S. is $366,900, according to the National Association of Realtors. However, expect to pay more for your dream home in high-cost housing markets like New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Seattle, Denver, and Dallas, to name a few.

With such high home sale prices, it’s important for first-time buyers to increase their home buying power. Here are several steps you can take to do so.

1. Increase your down payment

If you have the cash, you may want to up your down payment to 10% or 20%. A larger down payment raises your maximum home price, which may be enough to buy your desired home. If you don’t have the cash, keep in mind that you can ask relatives for gift money.

You can also apply for homebuyer assistance programs from state and local government programs that provide down payment and closing cost funds. Your eligibility for these programs may vary based on your personal finances.

2. Pay down some of your existing debt

The minimum payments on your credit accounts determine your debt-to-income ratio. By paying down your credit card debt or eliminating a car payment, you can qualify for a bigger home loan. For example, in the scenario above, reducing your monthly obligations by $200 could increase your maximum price from $234,000 to $270,600.

3. Use a piggyback loan to put 20% down

Another strategy that could help increase your budget is to finance your home with two different home loans simultaneously. This strategy is known as an “80-10-10 loan” or “piggyback loan.”

An 80-10-10 mortgage means you’d get:

  • A first mortgage for 80% of the home’s cost
  • A second mortgage for 10% (usually a home equity line of credit)
  • A cash down payment of 10%

This gives you the benefit of having a bigger home buying budget (thanks to the larger down payment). It also eliminates the need for private mortgage insurance (PMI), usually required on conventional loans with less than 20% down.

4. Buy a home with a conventional loan

It’s possible to get a conventional loan with a down payment as low as 3% of the purchase price. What’s more, that down payment can often be covered with down payment assistance, a grant, or gift funds from a family member. Just note that to qualify for a 3%-down conventional loan, most lenders require a credit score of at least 620 or 640. For those with lower credit, an FHA loan might be more appealing.

5. Buy a home with an FHA loan

FHA-insured loans allow a 3.5% down payment as long as the applicant has a FICO score of 580 or higher. Those with FICOs between 500 and 579 must put 10% down.

However, FHA mortgage insurance can make these loans more expensive. They require both an upfront premium and a monthly addition to your loan payment. Still, FHA allows for much higher debt-to-income ratios compared to conventional loans. Sometimes you can use up to 50% of your before-tax income or more toward your FHA loan payment.

Alternatively, you could always refinance out of the FHA loan later to eliminate these mortgage insurance fees.

6. Improve your credit report

Conventional (non-government) loans often come with risk-based pricing, meaning if your credit score is lower than 740, you’ll pay a higher interest rate. Mortgage insurance costs also increase as your credit score decreases. These rising costs chip away at your housing price range.

This step-by-step guide may help you get a lower interest rate and monthly mortgage payments by improving your credit. It could also help you to afford your dream home. You’ll also stand a better chance of qualifying for a loan program with a higher debt-to-income ratio if your score is higher.

7. Negotiate with the seller

There is no reason you can’t ask for seller contributions instead of negotiating for a lower purchase price. Depending your mortgage type, the seller can contribute 3% to 6% of the home price in closing costs.

This can make all the difference when you want to buy a new home and stop renting. Seller contributions can cover closing costs, buy your interest rate down to a more affordable level, or make a one-time payment to cover your mortgage insurance.

Remember that sellers in hot real estate markets are less likely to grant concessions. But if they’re motivated to sell quickly or the home inspection reveals issues, you may have room to negotiate.

8. Consider buying a multi-family home

One strategy first-time homebuyers often don’t consider is to purchase a multi-family home instead of a single-family one. By purchasing a duplex, triplex, or fourplex, you can live in one unit and rent the others out. This gives you access to primary residence loan programs with low rates and closing costs. But you also get the advantage of rental income to help pay your mortgage. You can even use a low-rate VA loan or FHA mortgage as long as you live in one of the units.

Preapproval will confirm your home buying budget

One of the easiest ways to find your price range is to get a preapproval from a lender or mortgage brokerage.

Preapproval is like a dress rehearsal for your actual mortgage application. A lender will assess your financial situation without making you go through the full loan application. They’ll examine your annual salary, existing debt load, credit report, and down payment size.

This can tell you whether you’re qualified for a mortgage and how much home you might be able to afford. You could also learn whether you can afford a 15-year loan term or stick with a 30-year mortgage. A pre-approval can also show whether you’d be better off with an FHA or conventional loan.

Finally, your preapproval letter shows you the added monthly costs of homeownership, such as home insurance, real estate taxes, HOA fees, and mortgage insurance if necessary.

How to buy a home on $50K a year? FAQ

How can I buy a home with a $50K salary?

The home buying process is fairly standard, regardless of salary. You’ll carry out a home search using sites like Zillow or Redfin, hire a real estate agent, and apply for a home loan. If approved, you’ll arrange a home inspection, title search, and homeowners insurance before doing a final walkthrough on your closing date.

How much house can I afford on $50K a year?

You can generally afford a home between $180,000 to $250,000 (perhaps nearly $300,000) on a $50K salary. But your specific home buying budget will depend on your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and down payment size. As an example, if you make $50K, have less than $200 in monthly debt payments, and have $13,000 down — you can afford a $248,000 home with a 30-year fixed-rate loan at 6 percent.

How much house can I afford with an FHA loan?

The Federal Housing Agency (FHA) offers mortgages with loan limits of up to $472,030 for a single-family home in most areas of the U.S. That limit jumps to $1,089,300 in higher-cost areas of the country, including San Francisco, San Diego, and Philadelphia. FHA loans also offer flexible approval guidelines for borrowers. You can qualify with a minimum credit score of 580 and a down payment of 3.5 percent. However, you’ll also pay mortgage insurance premiums for the life of the loan. So budget accordingly.

How much house can I afford with a VA loan?

If you’re an eligible service member or veteran, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs may offer you an affordable mortgage with no purchase price limit. Better yet, a VA loan has no down payment requirement whatsoever. And, if you do choose to put money down, you won’t pay mortgage insurance if it’s less than 20 percent.

How much house can I afford with a USDA loan?

The USDA’s rural development program offers eligible buyers mortgages with no purchase price limits. The program has strict guidelines for the location of the property being purchased. And, you’ll also need to meet household income eligibility, credit score minimums, and other lender requirements. If you qualify, you stand a good chance of being able to afford more house with the USDA loan than with a conventional one.

How much do I need to make to buy a $300K house?

To purchase a $300K house, you may need to make between $50,000 and $74,500 a year. This is a rule of thumb, and the specific salary will vary depending on your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, type of home loan, loan term, and mortgage rate. Still, with a 3.5% down payment on a 30-year fixed-rate loan at 6 percent, you should be able to afford a $300,000 house with an annual salary of $74,500.

What are the monthly payments on a $300K house?

The monthly payment on a $300,000 house is in the ballpark of $2,000 a month. Your specific housing payment will depend on your credit score, loan type, loan amount, and down payment size. But with $20,000 down on a 30-year fixed-rate loan at 6 percent, you can estimate a $300K house costing you about $2,000 each month.

What are today’s mortgage rates?

Mortgage interest rates are on the rise, according to market data from Black Knight. But locking in a rate today could save you money down the road. When you’re ready to begin your home buying process, experiment with a home affordability calculator. Doing so will help you see how down payment and interest rates will affect the amount of money you’ll need to buy a home. Check out available programs from several lenders to see how much house you can afford.

Michele Lerner
Authored By: Michele Lerner
The Mortgage Reports contributor
Michele Lerner, author of New Home 101, is an award-winning freelance journalist with more than two decades of experience. Her work appears in The Washington Post, New Home Source, Fox Business, MSN, Yahoo, Realtor.com, and more.
Ryan Tronier
Updated By: Ryan Tronier
The Mortgage Reports Editor
Ryan Tronier is a personal finance writer and editor. His work has been published on NBC, ABC, USATODAY, Yahoo Finance, MSN Money, and more. Ryan is the former managing editor of the finance website Sapling, as well as the former personal finance editor at Slickdeals.
Jon Meyer
Reviewed By: Jon Meyer
The Mortgage Reports Expert Reviewer
Jon Meyer is a licensed mortgage loan officer (NMLS #1590010) with over five years in the lending industry. He currently works as a loan officer at Supreme Lending in Mill Valley, CA (NMLS #2129) and as an expert adviser for The Mortgage Reports’ editorial team.