facebook twitter instagram linkedin google youtube vimeo tumblr yelp rss email podcast phone blog search brokercheck brokercheck Play Pause
How Much Do You Need to Buy a House? Thumbnail

How Much Do You Need to Buy a House?

The answer to this complex question involves not only the initial costs of buying a home, but also your ability to keep up with the long-term financial responsibility of owning it. The process starts with making a list of the features you want in the home. Next, look at the neighborhoods and the surrounding amenities. Then, research the location’s listings and the final selling prices. The information provides a good view of the market’s activity and the cost of the homes in the area.

How Much House Can You Afford?

The typical industry formula is to calculate your potential mortgage against your annual income and current debt. This is called the 28/36 rule, and it determines how much of a mortgage you can qualify for. 

The "28" (known as the front-end ratio) means your monthly mortgage payment (including taxes and insurance), shouldn't exceed 28 percent of your pre-tax income.

The "36" (known as the back-end ratio), means your entire debt load, which includes your mortgage as well as car payments, credit cards, student loans and other monthly debt payments shouldn't exceed 36 percent of your pre-tax income.

Having a formula is nice, however what you can actually afford to buy will vary depending upon where you are buying (your geographic area), your spending habits, the cost of living in your region and your overall financial health.

Out-of-Pocket Costs

Some first-time homebuyers may underestimate the additional costs not covered in the mortgage loan. The out-of-pocket costs include the down payment, home appraisal, cash reserves and a home inspection.

  • Down payment: This can range from three percent to 20 percent depending on the loan type.
  • Appraisal: On average, these can run from $300 to $600. The purpose is to confirm the purchase price does not exceed the market value of the home. The seller may pay this fee. If the home appraisal comes in lower than the purchase price, it may be time to renegotiate.
  • Cash reserves: How much cash you will need to have in the bank is dependent on the loan conditions. It's a safety net for the bank, preventing early defaults on a new loan.
  • Home inspection: This can typically cost between $200 to $400, but it can help identify potential repairs you can require the seller to make before closing.

Total Cash Needed

The total amounted needed may change depending on the lender, your credit and the seller. Let’s say you found a home and made an offer to purchase it for $400,000. In this scenario, you're approved for a 30-year fixed loan and have decided to put 20 percent down. This equates to $80,000, and you will not be required to pay monthly Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). You'll want to have additional reserves that can help cover the loan principal and interest, annual real estate taxes, and insurance, along with two months of mortgage payments. With that in mind, the amount needed to buy that $400,000 could be around $95,000.

Closing Costs

You'll want to be prepared to pay between two percent and five percent of the purchase price in closing costs. Using the above sample,  at three percent your closing costs could reach $10,000 dollars. You could negotiate with the seller to pay all or a portion of the closing costs.

Before you buy, make sure you run your numbers to make sure you're comfortable with your new mortgage payment. Review the terms and conditions of your loan carefully, as they could significantly increase your out-of-pocket expenses. In addition, try to avoid closing delays, which could cost you prorated interest.

This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Twenty Over Ten. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.