Mortgage 101: Four Numbers That Affect Your Homebuying Power

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/1/16 3:49 PM

Topics: Home Buying

Buying a home is exciting! But before you start thinking of your preferred home style or how many bedrooms and bathrooms you’ll need, you’ll want to pay attention to these four areas that determine just how much buying power you’ll have.


Your Mortgage Rate

Homebuyers have been enjoying historically low mortgage rates for the past several years. Did you know the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate in the 1980’s was 12.7 percent?

Mortgage rates fluctuate constantly, and even a relatively small bump in rates can change your purchase power circumstance. For instance, let’s say you financed your home purchase with a $200,000 30-year fixed rate home loan with a 3.75 percent interest. Your monthly principal and interest payment would amount to $926.

If your rate increased to 4.25 percent, the monthly principal and interest payment would increase by nearly $60.

Your Credit Score

You credit score is used to determine how risky of a borrower you are, which is why borrowers with higher credit scores typically receive lower interest rates.

Having a low credit score doesn’t necessarily mean your dreams of buying a home are out of reach, but if your loan type partly determines your interest rate based on your credit score, it could limit your buying power.

Your Down Payment

Contrary to popular belief, you no longer need the status quo 20 percent down to buy a home. In fact, there are some loan options that will finance 100 percent of your home purchase. On the flipside, there are some benefits to applying a 20 percent down payment if you can swing it.

With a 20 down payment you can eliminate the need and cost of private mortgage insurance, which is typically required for homebuyers who finance with less than 20 percent down. Private mortgage insurance rates are determined by which loan program you choose to use and your credit score.

A higher down payment can also lower the interest rate offered to you and in some markets, give you a competitive edge against other buyers.

Your Debt

While student loans, auto loans, credit card debt, etc. aren’t uncommon for homebuyers to have, they can limit your approved purchase point.

Most lenders recommend that your mortgage payment, including principal, interest, taxes and insurance (homeowners and private mortgage insurance, if applicable), be less than 28 percent of your gross monthly income. This is known as your front-end ratio.

Your lender will also analyze your debt-to-income ratio, or back-end ratio, which includes your monthly obligations like credit card minimum payments, student loans, alimony, child support and car loans along with your principal, interest, taxes and insurance. Lenders ideally want this to be at or below 36 percent of your gross monthly income.

So let’s say your total household gross monthly income is $6,250 ($75,000/year). Ideally, your total mortgage payment alongside your other monthly debt payments should be in the ballpark of $2,250 or less.

Regardless, there are a lot of factors that determine your loan eligibility and your purchase power. Before you jump ahead to selecting potential homes to purchase, meet with a lender for a pre-approval or loan commitment.

Want to know more about what it takes to buy a home? Download our free Mortgage 101 Handbook for everything you need to know about the homebuying and financing process.

Download: Mortgage 101 Handbook

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