HOW MUCH HOME CAN A FIRST TIME BUYER AFFORD?
Budgeting Your Carrying Costs
Finding the right property at an affordable price can sometimes be a challenge, especially for first time house buyers. When it comes to deciding just how much home you can afford, there are two kinds of expenses you’ll need to consider – the ongoing or ‘carrying’ costs of the home, and your closing costs.
The first step in determining your carrying costs is to get pre-approved for a mortgage. By pre-qualifying for a mortgage, you can find out up front what your maximum mortgage payment might be, even before your home search begins. Your lender will look at your earnings, credit history and any outstanding debt, and help you determine what size loan you qualify for, at what rate, and what your regular mortgage payments would be. Being pre-qualified offers another advantage, since it puts you in a stronger negotiating position when you go into an offer with pre-approved financing.
Once you’re pre-approved, the next step is determining what you actually want to spend on your mortgage payments. Remember, your pre-approved mortgage establishes the maximum amount of loan you’d qualify for, but you may decide that you want to aim at a smaller loan, with a lower payment.
Be realistic and think about your lifestyle. Although it may seem feasible to handle a sizable mortgage payment at first, keeping it up may eventually require cutting back on other expenses, such as clothing, or entertainment. Make sure that if you plan to make any concessions in these areas, you’re prepared to live with your decision until there’s a change in your income. Owning a home can give you a tremendous amount of pleasure and personal satisfaction, as long as you plan for adequate resources to enjoy it with some peace of mind.
With your estimated mortgage payment in mind, the next step is to determine your total carrying costs. Add up all your estimated monthly costs, such as the mortgage payment, property taxes, insurance, heating costs and other utilities. Then add a figure to cover yearly maintenance and upkeep. Consider both the interior and exterior of the house, as well as the garage, driveway, landscaping and all other aspects of the property when you arrive at this figure.
When preparing your budget, be sure that you also make allowance for a “contingency fund” to cover unexpected expenses such as a major repair or the replacement of a large ticket item, such as an appliance. Life sometimes has a way of surprising us, and you don’t want to start out with a budget that’s so tight, there’s no room for the unexpected.
After you’ve determined what your carrying costs will be, you’re almost there. The other expenses you’ll need to take into consideration are the one-time-only costs, such as your closing costs and moving expenses.
Closing Costs and Moving Expenses
After you’ve estimated your mortgage payment and other ongoing costs for carrying your first home, you’ll also need to consider the one-time expenses associated with the purchase of a property. This includes your closing costs, as well as your moving expenses.
Be aware that there is no set rule for what’s included in closing costs, or how they’re calculated. Closing costs can vary significantly from property to property, but may include home inspection fees, appraisal fees, title search, survey costs, home insurance and lawyer’s fees. Some of these costs may be shared with the seller, while others are payable by the buyer only. Your Coldwell Banker
agent can give you helpful advice about specifying a cost-sharing agreement for some of these related costs within your offer to purchase.
You will also be required to reimburse the seller for a proportionate share of specific housing expenses that have been pre-paid by the seller and continue after your closing date. These pre-paid expenses usually include property taxes and utilities, and the amount is typically equivalent to only a few months service. Your real estate lawyer will give you an exact accounting of these expenses upon closing, so be sure to discuss this with your lawyer in advance, so you will have sufficient funds available to cover these costs at that time. After these one-time adjustments are made, and the transfer of ownership is completed, you will pay for such expenses directly in future.
In addition, you’ll also have to budget for your relocation costs when moving. This could include such costs as a moving company truck and labor, packing charges, boxes and wrapping materials, or rental of a vehicle or trailer if you’re doing all or part of the move on your own. There can be a wide variation of costs for these types of services, so you should start planning well in advance, and obtain comparative quotes from more than one mover. Get the quotes in writing and ensure that all the required equipment, staffing and materials are documented. Ask the provider to specify what charges may apply if your move does not proceed on schedule. Be sure to read all the fine print carefully, so you understand upfront what other charges, such as waiting time, or a late return charge you might incur that are not planned for in the initial quote.
Your Coldwell Banker
agent can be a valuable resource here too. Not only can they help you estimate carrying and closing costs, they can also recommend experienced and trusted service providers to help you keep the cost of moving and home ownership affordable and keep your move hassle free.