Your lender decides what you can borrow but you decide what you can afford.
Lenders are careful, but they make qualification decisions based on averages and formulas. They won’t understand the nuances of your lifestyle and spending patterns quite as well as you do. So, leave a little room for the unexpected – for all the new opportunities your home will give you to spend money, from furnishings, to landscaping, to repairs.
Historically, banks use a ratio called 28/36 to decide how much borrowers could borrow. An approved housing payment couldn’t be more than 28 percent of the buyer’s gross monthly income, and his or her total debt load, including car payments, student loans, and credit card payments, couldn’t be more than 36 percent. As home prices have risen, some lenders have responded by stretching these ratios to as high as 50 percent. No matter how expensive your market though, we urge you to think carefully before stretching your budget quite so much.
Popular financial radio host, Dave Ramsey, goes into more detailed steps for calculating how much you should spend on a house (5 Steps to Buying a Home That Won’t Bust Your Budget). His rule of thumb is to keep your mortgage payment – including property taxes & home owners insurance – to no more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay.
Deciding how much you can afford should involve some careful attention to how your financial profile will change in the upcoming years. In the long run, your own peace of mind and security will matter most.