How Much House Can I Afford?

Aug 6, 2023

Getting a mortgage may appear like a complicated process, but it doesn’t have to be as long as you stay within a price range that aligns with your budget. If you’re asking yourself, “How Much House Can I Afford” or looking to calculate your home affordability, look no further. This comprehensive guide will shed light on the critical factors that directly impact your ability to afford a house and how they work together.

How Expensive Of A House You Can Afford Is Determined By Your Household Income

Your household income is integral in determining how much mortgage you can handle. In most cases, lenders calculate what’s known as “your debt to income ratio.”

Simply put, the debt-to-income calculation is a formula of dividing your monthly mortgage payments—principal, interest, property taxes, and insurance (often referred to as PITI) plus other monthly minimum payments like car payments, student loans, minimum credit card payments, (child support and/or maintenance). As long as the debt to income is lower than 47% of your gross monthly income, the automated computer system and the underwriter will be able to approve the debt to income… this is also based on the down payment, type of loan, and credit score.

Many financial planners suggest that the house payment ratio (the projected new monthly PITI) be around 30 to 35% of your gross income.

This benchmark ensures that other necessary expenses or financial goals aren’t sidelined due to hefty mortgage payments. By using this rule while factoring in your total household earnings, you can better visualize the affordable monthly mortgage payment formula clearly and firmly answer the question – “How much can I afford for a mortgage?”

But taking only your income into account would give an incomplete picture of real-world home affordability; additional variables influence this amount significantly — let’s delve into these below.

Other Factors That Determine Mortgage Affordability

Just as there’s more to buying a house than the price, several variables are at play when calculating how much mortgage you can afford. Let’s consider some essential factors that impact your home’s affordability.

Debt-to-Income Ratio

This financial metric is pivotal when lenders determine your eligible mortgage amount. It measures the percentage of your monthly gross income that goes toward paying off your debts.

Lenders typically prefer a 47% or less debt-to-income ratio, including the proposed mortgage payment. Financial Planners like to see closer to a 40% or lower DTI ratio, which would be considered an excellent financial balance and ensures you can manage monthly payments effectively without straining other aspects of your finances.

Your Down Payment

The amount you put down upfront on your home significantly impacts the kind of mortgage you can secure and, consequently, the kind of home you can afford. A larger down payment typically means smaller monthly repayments and better interest rates.

Your Credit Score

Lending involves considerable risk. Therefore, credit scores remain a critical factor in deciding mortgage affordability. A higher score would imply financial solid capacity and reliability, giving lenders confidence in extending significant credit.

Good credit (usually defined as a score over 740) makes it easier to afford your dream house. You’re likely to secure loans with lower interest rates and more favorable terms.

Where You Live

Geography undeniably affects housing costs – home prices vary widely between cities and even different neighborhoods within them! Housing costs usually mirror local economic conditions; hence, living in an area with a healthy economy can mean pricier homes.

This factor could potentially limit the amount of mortgage you qualify for – meaning that more expensive areas might require more income to afford the same-sized home.

How Much Home You Can Afford Can Depend On The Closing Costs

In the excited rush to buy a house, many potential homemakers forget to calculate closing costs into their budget. The closing costs, on average, are about $5,500… this is not limited to but includes various fees associated with finalizing your loan, such as appraisal, title fees, and insurance.

Make sure to think about these when calculating how much mortgage you can afford a house.

Insurance Premiums

Last but not least, remember the recurring homeowners’ insurance premiums and private mortgage insurance (if applicable). Integrating such expenses into your monthly budget is substantial while studying affordable monthly mortgage payment formulas.

Homeowners’ insurance rates often depend upon several factors, like location, property value, or credit score. Lenders may require private mortgage insurance if your down payment is under 20%.

How the Type of Loan You Select Impacts Mortgage Affordability

The type of home loan you choose significantly impacts your purchasing power and long-term financial sustainability. While essential factors like your income, savings, outstanding debts, and credit history play a critical role in determining how much mortgage you can afford, it’s also important to know the different types of loans available.

Conventional Loans

Conventional loans are considered standard in the mortgage world. These loans are owned by and meet Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac guidelines.  Federal agencies do not guarantee or insure these loans and usually require good credit scores for approval.

Suppose you have a stable job, solid credit standing, and the capacity to make a 5% down payment. In that case, this might be a very affordable mortgage option for you. Opting for a conventional loan implies lower fees, more flexible terms, and a greater variety of loan products.

FHA Loans

An FHA loan is insured by the Federal Housing Administration, allowing borrowers with lower credit scores or smaller down payments to secure a home purchase. This type of loan requires only a minimum 3.5% down payment if your credit score is at least 580 (if lower than that but at least 500, then 10%). It presents an attractive option for first-time buyers or individuals who may not qualify for conventional loans due to less robust financial profiles.

FHA loans come with their own set of guidelines, including required mortgage insurance premiums.

VA Loans

Veterans Affairs (VA) loans offer immense value to those who have served our country via military service. VA loans do not necessitate any down payment or private mortgage insurance (PMI), making them one of the most affordable methods of homeownership available today.

The evaluation process employed by VA often provides better terms than conventional lending counterparts, considering aspects beyond mere credit score- bringing a harmonious balance between affordability and home buying power.

USDA Loans

USDA loans are aimed at rural and suburban homebuyers struggling to save for a down payment on a house they can afford. Backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these financially friendly mortgages offer 0% down payments and competitive mortgage rates, ensuring a route towards homeownership that’s easier on the pocketbook. However, these loans have strict eligibility requirements for income levels and property location.

Analyzing which type of loan suits your financial competency is pivotal to understanding how much mortgage you can afford. Whether it be conventional, FHA, VA, or USDA loans, ensure you calculate home affordability based on the loan characteristics that match your fiscal realities. Doing so will maximize your buying power without jeopardizing your budget.

Should I Buy Now or Wait?

A pressing question you may have is, “Should I buy now or wait?” There are several factors to consider that can help shape your answer. Let’s explore the key variables below.

The first factor to mull over is your financial stability. If you cannot afford a home right now based on your income and current debts but anticipate a promotion or salary raise shortly, it might be beneficial to hold off until then. Calculate how much mortgage you can afford currently by considering all factors such as debt-to-income ratio, available down payment, credit score, location of desired property, closing costs, and insurance premiums.

Secondly, market conditions should be scrutinized. For instance, if it’s a seller’s market where housing prices are high due to increased competition among buyers, usually caused by low interest rates, waiting could mean missing out on low borrowing costs but investing at the peak of house prices.

Conversely, during a buyer’s market with lower house prices stemming from an abundance of properties available, purchasing sooner could potentially render significant savings and gain in equity over time as property values rise again.

Another consideration about timing is seasonal fluctuations in real estate markets, which often correlate with higher inventory and potential price reductions during fall and winter when fewer people are actively looking to purchase compared to busier spring and summer periods.

So what does this yield? Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer here. It boils down to balancing your financial standing and prevailing market conditions. Essentially, it behooves one to understand their buying power and carefully study the housing market dynamics before leaping into homeownership with both feet.

In the future, seeking advice from experienced professionals like real estate agents who understand specific local market trends and mortgage advisors who can provide valuable insights into the latest mortgage products tailored to individual needs is recommended.

In short, the decision to buy a house is major and necessitates careful planning and readiness, both financially and emotionally. Remember, it’s not just about whether you can afford a mortgage—it’s about maintaining a comfortable life alongside it.


  • Debt-to-Income Ratio: Aim for a ratio below 47%.
  • Household Income: Consider total household earnings.
  • Financial Benchmark: Keep the house payment ratio around 30-35% of gross income.
  • Down Payment: A larger down payment means smaller monthly repayments.
  • Credit Score: Higher scores lead to lower interest rates.
  • Location Matters: Housing costs vary based on location and local economic conditions.
  • Closing Costs: Factor in costs averaging around $5,500.
  • Insurance Premiums: Consider homeowners’ and private mortgage insurance.
  • Type of Loan: Explore options like conventional, FHA, VA, and USDA.
  • Market Conditions: Assess whether it’s a seller’s or buyer’s market.
  • Timing Considerations: Evaluate financial stability and market conditions.
  • Professional Advice: Seek guidance from real estate agents and mortgage advisors.
  • Mortgage Tools: Use online calculators to estimate affordability.
  • Independent Mortgage Brokers: Consider brokers for access to a variety of mortgage options.


How Rob’s Mortgage Loans Can Help Improve How Much Mortgage You Can Afford

It’s never too early to begin discussions and calculate a home price you can afford. Tools like my online mortgage calculator can help you answer the question, “How much mortgage can I afford?” or determine the amount of money you need for a downpayment to obtain the monthly mortgage payments that fit your budget.

However, you may also find that certain types of mortgages can make your dreams of homeownership a reality much sooner than you realized. In many instances, independent home loan originators like me have access to more mortgage options than cookie-cutter banks and make homeownership much more affordable.

Regardless of where you are in the home-buying process, I am available and would be grateful and honored to work with you.  Please visit the Contact Rob page on my website or call or text me at 303-587-3600 to learn how I can help you determine your buying power and secure an affordable mortgage.



Rob Sturms, the seasoned Colorado mortgage broker behind Rob’s Mortgage Loans, offers over 30 years of expertise for a seamless home-buying experience. A third-generation Colorado native, Rob’s commitment to honesty, reliability, and client satisfaction ensures low rates and personalized guidance. Choose Rob’s Mortgage Loans for a trusted partner in making your homeownership dreams a reality.