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If you’re in the market for a new home, chances are you’ll have to compromise at some point along the way. Maybe you’ll have to commute a little farther than you’d like in order to get the best value for your money. Or perhaps you’ll forgo a huge backyard to be closer to the city.
And when it comes to finances, you might find a disparity between how much house you want and how much house you can purchase given your gross monthly income and other factors.
Home loans are made against your ability to repay. While the mortgage loan is secured against the house, it is really made against your income. That’s what mortgage lenders look for — income to offset liabilities.
Simply put, the amount of income you need to purchase a house will vary by your payment comfort level, including any other monthly debt obligations you might have.
Mortgage payment: Principal, interest, property taxes insurance and mortgage insurance, if needed
Consumer debts: Minimum payment obligations on things such as auto loans, credit cards, student loans, personal loans and installment loans
Other debt obligations: Alimony and/or child support or any other court-ordered repayment obligations
Running the math
Here’s a simple formula to calculate the amount of income you’ll need to purchase a home:
Target mortgage payment + consumer debts ÷ .36 = Gross monthly income needed to qualify
Most lenders limit your debt-to-income ratio (how much of your monthly income pays debt) to between 36 percent and 45 percent. While the exact ratio varies by lender and loan type, it’s best to base your calculations on the lower end to ensure that you won’t overextend yourself financially.
So, if your target mortgage payment is $2,000 per month and you have consumer debts of $300 per month, you will need $6,388 gross monthly income to offset your housing expenses and consumer obligations.
Your down payment is another important factor in determining how much income you’ll need to buy a home.
Consider the following loan scenario using a purchase price of $300,000 (assuming no other debts) and the current rates on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace.
- Down payment: 5 percent ($15,000)
- Interest rate: 3.26 percent
- Approximate mortgage payment: $1,770
- Gross monthly income needed: $4,916
So at the end of the day how much income you need to purchase a home is predicated on your monthly income, consumer debt obligations and down payment.
Impact of debt
For every dollar of debt, you will need double that in income. So if you have a $300 car payment, you’ll need at least $600 per month or more in income to offset that debt.
Debt erodes income, and less income translates to less purchasing power.
So, does buying a home make sense?
Yes, so long as the amount you can borrow for your desired purchase price is in sync with your debt obligations and, of course, your down payment.
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Scott Sheldon is a senior loan officer and consumer advocate based in Santa Rosa, California. Scott has been seen in Yahoo! Homes, CNN Money, Marketwatch and The Wall Street Journal. Connect with him at Sonoma County Mortgages.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.