How Much Home Can I Afford?

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This is a common question from first time home buyers.  When working with home buyers who are just beginning the process, after discussing credit and other information, I like to ask in return:

  • What type of monthly mortgage payment would you be comfortable making?
  • How much money are you planning on using for a down payment and closing costs.

To me, it’s better to solve for your potential sales price rather than finding a home or getting your heart set on a certain sales price first before knowing what you actually qualify for.

For example, Seattle Sally has saved up $75,000 and would like to use $40,000 towards a home purchase.  She has been paying anywhere from $2,200 – $2,000 a month for rent and would like to keep her payment around $2000. 

NOTE: Rates quoted below are from October 2009 and are outdated. If you would like a current mortgage rate quote for your home located in Washington, please contact me.

Beginning with a conventional scenario, a payment of $2038 (principal, interest, estimated property taxes, estimated home owners insurance and private mortgage insurance) with about $40,000 for down payment and closing costs would produce a sales price of $325,000.  This is based on a 30 year fixed rate of 4.625%* (apr 4.790).

A sales price of $365,000 with a 10% down payment and the sellers contributing towards closing costs would produce a payment of about $2283.

The only issue I would have with the conventional financing is that private mortgage insurance is that these days, pmi underwriters are picking all mortgages to pieces.

FHA would provide a total payment of $2076 with about $40,000 for down payment and closing costs and a sales price of $325,000.  This is based on a rate of 4.875% (apr 5.400).

If we have the seller pay most of the closing costs and prepaids, a payment of $2287 would produce a sales price of $365,000 with Sally bringing in approx. $38,000 for down payment and closing.

One thing to consider, beyond more forgiving underwriting, with FHA is that your mortgage will be assumable.  Imagine having a rate of 4.875% a few years from now when rates will most likely be much higher.  If you are a seller competing with other similar home on the market, and you can offer an assumable mortgage at a tempting rate–this will be a serious advantage.   Once inflation happens, mortgage rates will be much higher.

If Seattle Sally’s credit score comes in lower than expected (this is all based on very preliminary information) FHA may become a better option as well.  

*rates quotes are as of 1:30pm on October 8, 2009 and are based on mid credit scores of 740 or higher.  Rates can and do change often.  Follow me on Twitter to see live rate quotes.

For your personal rate quote on a home located anywhere in Washington, click here.

Comments

  1. Rhonda,

    Sound advice. It’s good for buyers to get out and see some homes to get their feet wet, but then it makes the most sense to get pre-approved and comfortable with the financing before looking at a lot of homes.

    My buyers agent showed a property this weekend to a buyer who loved it, but was not in a position to buy it as he was not pre-approved. The day he saw the home an offer came in. If he had wanted to compete with the other buyer for the home, he would have only made the other buyer look good because of the lack of a pre-approval letter.

    Buyers often want to make sure there’s a home out there to fall in love with before they make the commitment to buy. That’s okay, it makes sense to see a few possibilities. But get that pre-approval under your belt, just in case you need it.

  2. Debra, great advice!

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