When you apply for a mortgage, you will have to qualify to be able to borrow. Typically, lenders require you to spend no more than 28% of your monthly income to repay the combined total of your mortgage loan, property taxes, and homeowners’ insurance. For example, if your gross pay is $54,000 a year, or $4,500 a month, your housing expenses could be up to $1,260.
Most lenders also consider your other financial responsibilities, including car payments, personal loans, college loans, and other debts. They don’t want these expenses—plus your housing costs—to be more than about 36% of your monthly income. In short, they want to be sure you’ll be able to pay your mortgage before they let you borrow.
Using a Real Estate Agent
A real estate agent can provide valuable assistance in buying a home. An agent knows what’s available in a particular neighborhood, what the price trends are, and how current asking prices relate to actual sales prices.
Most lenders also consider your other financial responsibilities, including car payments, personal loans, college loans, and other debts.
You can look for an agent the same way you look for a financial planner or other professional. Ask your friends and family for recommendations, check out your local resources and various real estate websites, and interview several people before you decide on the person to work with. It could turn out to be an extended relationship, and you want it to be a productive one.
Traditional real estate agents and the real estate firms that list homes for sale are paid by the seller and represent the seller’s interest. That doesn’t mean that, as a buyer, you can’t establish a good relationship with sellers’ agents or use them to find a home at a price you can afford. Some buyers, though, prefer to hire buyers’ agents to represent their interests and negotiate the sale price and contract terms.
Renting versus Buying
Because purchasing a home is a huge investment, you need to take the time to weigh the benefits of renting versus buying a residence.
Renting may be a smart financial move for these reasons:
- You probably won’t pay property taxes and upkeep directly though your rent may reflect these expenses.
- With no money tied up in real estate, you should have more cash or savings to invest, producing more growth in value than owning real estate.
- You run no risk that the value of your property will decline.
- Renting gives you more mobility to take advantage of a job opportunity in a different area.
Buying a home has its advantages as well:
- You can deduct the interest on your mortgage and your local property taxes on your tax return, which can reduce your taxes and free up cash for investing.
- You build equity as you pay off your mortgage, increasing your share of the property’s value.
- You may be able to borrow against your equity and deduct the interest payments on the loan.
- If your house increases in value over time, you may make a profit when you decide to sell.
- While the effects are harder to measure, owning a home has enormous emotional and psychological advantages.