One of the most popular questions that home buyers ask real estate and mortgage professionals is “How much home can I afford?”
It’s a normal question to ask, but it’s not the most effective way to plan your finances.
Banks will almost always approve you for a home loan in excess of your household budget.
The more appropriate question is: “How much do I want to spend on housing each month?”
By focusing on a home’s payment instead of its list price, home buyers exert more control over their short- and long-term financial goals. List price is only one piece of the monthly payment puzzle.
The cost of owning a home month-after-month is the sum of multiple expenses:
- The mortgage payment
- The real estate taxes on the property
- The condo/management fees to an association (if applicable)
- The cost of homeowner’s insurance
- The cost of mortgage insurance (if applicable)
In other words, because monthly payments are combination of costs, buying a home based on its list price does very little to help plan a budget. A home selling for $300,000, for example, may cost a homeowner anywhere from $1,800 to $3,000 monthly.
This is why “How much do I want to spend on housing each month?” is a better starting point than “How much home can I afford?”.
Home affordability comes from more than just the list price.