Home affordability is on the forefront of house hunters' minds. But just how much house you can afford depends on market conditions, your financial health, how much money you have saved, and more.
Mortgage calculators are a useful tool to understand how these factors can affect your budget. However, they’re only as accurate as the information you provide.
Your down payment is the portion of your home’s purchase price that you pay up front. It’s a one-time lump sum that has important implications for your monthly mortgage payments: The more money you put down, the less you have to borrow from the lender. The less you borrow, the less you’ll have to pay back each month, including interest.
As you explore your mortgage options, experiment with a down payment amount to understand just how much (or how little) you need to put down to buy your dream home.
The principal is the amount of money that you’re borrowing from the mortgage lender to purchase your home. This is typically the purchase price of the home minus your down payment (but sometimes closing costs can be rolled into the principal).
A mortgage, like many other loans, collects interest. Your interest rate is the percentage that your lender charges for borrowing money. At the beginning of your loan, the majority of your payments typically go towards paying down the interest. As your loan matures, a greater portion of your monthly payments will go towards your principal.
Many people take out a mortgage with a fixed interest rate that doesn’t change, but you can also get an adjustable-rate mortgage where the rate, and in turn your monthly payment, fluctuates throughout the life of the loan.
Unlike with renting, homeowners are responsible for paying property taxes on their home. Lenders typically lump property taxes into your mortgage payments and pay them to the government on your behalf.
If you’re buying in a large city, keep in mind that state average rates are likely lower than what you’ll end up paying. This is because state averages factor in rural tax rates, which are typically lower than those of cities.
Homeowner’s insurance protects your property and assets from known hazards and damages, and it is typically required by your state or lender. Insurance premiums are rolled into your monthly mortgage payments and rates can vary greatly depending on your home’s location, age, value, and history of claims.
If you put down less than 20% of your home’s purchase price, your lender will likely require you to get private mortgage insurance. This policy protects your lender in the event that you are unable to repay your mortgage, but it is typically a smaller cost and borrowers can stop paying it once they reach a loan-to-value ratio of 78% to 80%.
If you’re buying a house in a neighborhood with a homeowners association, you’ll be charged additional fees, another important expense to consider when determining how much house you can afford.
How much house you can afford comes down to your monthly payment. So how can you lower your mortgage? Here are some tips to get your started:
Interest rates and other terms and conditions of your mortgage will vary lender to lender. Apply for preapproval at multiple lenders before deciding who you want to work with to ensure you get the best deal.
The monthly payments on a 15-year loan compared to a 30-year loan will be much higher. If your monthly payments are too high, try extending the repayment period to bring down costs.
Borrowing less means repaying less. If your monthly payments are too high, try putting down a larger down payment. This can also reduce the burden of private mortgage insurance (PMI), which can bring up monthly costs.
Mortgage rates are affected by a myriad of factors, like current market conditions, but also by things you can control, like the terms of the loan, and your financial health. Each lender will evaluate the borrower differently, so it’s best to shop around for the best rates.
To qualify for a mortgage, you’ll be assessed based on the following by an underwriter:
To prepare for getting a mortgage, gather a list of a few potential lenders, and then collect your proof of income, credit documentation, and account statements for any assets or debt you have. Apply for preapproval at all of your selected lenders to shop around for the best rates. Carefully review the terms and conditions of each before deciding who to work with.
Get approved quickly with Orchard Mortgage. Completing an application takes as little as ten minutes.