Buy a Home
Ready to take the plunge?
Til Debt Do Us Part host Gail Vaz-Oxlade tells you just how much house you can really afford.
If you’re considering buying your first home, you may feel fear, or even dread, at the idea of making such a huge commitment. Be brave and read on.
How much can you afford to spend?
One rule of thumb you can use to see how much you can afford is to multiply your gross annual income (your income before taxes) by 2.5. So if you make $60,000 a year, you’d be able to afford to spend $150,000 on a home. Include only income you’re sure you will receive—so no bonuses and no “potential” commissions.
How large a mortgage payment can you handle?
The safest way to find out exactly how much you can afford to spend and what your payments will be is to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Most mortgage pre-approvals offer an interest rate guarantee for anywhere from 30 to 90 days. With interest rates on the rise, this is a very good thing. But to get the guarantee, you’ll have to close the house and have the mortgage funds disbursed within the guaranteed period. If the period expires, the guarantee is gone.
Another nice side benefit of a pre-approved mortgage is that it makes your offer to purchase that much more attractive to the seller. However, and this is a big HOWEVER, despite the implication, just because you're pre-approved doesn't mean you’re guaranteed financing. The lender can still say no if the home you’ve chosen doesn’t meet their lending criteria. What would you do if your banker then turned around and said, “Sorry, you’re not approved”? According to your offer, you must close. Failure to do so would result in foregoing your deposit (and how long did you scrimp and save for that?) and opening yourself to legal action. So you must still make your offer conditional on financing.
The idea of home ownership can be gut wrenching, but standing in the middle of a yet-to-be-furnished living room and yelling, “Yippee, it’s mine!” is phenomenally exhilarating. If you do your homework and make sure you’re not over-extending yourself, managing the monthly payments should be no more difficult than coming up with rent.
Written by: Gail Vaz-Oxlade, host of Til Debt Do Us Part
Print out Gail's budget sheets to use at home and get control of your finances.