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What Percentage of Your Income Should Safely Go to a Mortgage?


Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions many people will ever make. And it can also be one of the most complex. Even the simple question of what percentage of your income should safely go to a mortgage doesn’t have a single clear answer that applies equally to every situation.

A financial advisor can help you find ways to help you achieve your financial goals.

Mortgage Payments and Income

The people and organizations that make home loans naturally are interested in lending money only to people who have the means to repay the mortgage. To make this determination, they use a variety of methods, particularly debt-to-income ratios.

These metrics are well-suited to creating mortgages that can be packaged and sold to investors. And borrowers have to keep them in mind when they are applying for a loan. However, they aren’t always as useful to someone who is primarily concerned with their personal financial well-being.

People deciding how much of their own income they can safely devote to a mortgage payment can take a variety of approaches to making that important determination. Here are some of the approaches many have found useful.

Safe Mortgage Principles

SmartAsset: What percentage of your income should safely go to a mortgage?

There’s more than one way of calculating the safe percentage of your income you can plan to commit to making your mortgage payment. Some approaches are good for certain circumstances, while others fit different situations best.

Evaluate your own position and, if possible, use more than one of the following techniques in deciding how much of your income you can safely spend on a house payment. Here are some of the options:

Debt-to-income ratio (DTI)

Your lender generally will calculate your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) and look for a certain result to reassure themselves and the investors who will buy your mortgage that you can cover the payments while also staying current on car loans, student loans, credit cards and other debt payments.

After adding up all your monthly loan payments, including the mortgage, lenders typically want the total to be no more than 43% of your gross monthly income.

For example, say you have a $500 car payment, must pay a $175 minimum monthly toward your credit card, owe $225 a month toward a student loan and want to buy a home with a $2,000 mortgage payment. You will typically need approximately $6,744 in monthly gross income to qualify for a loan at most lenders.

To figure this out, add up all your debt payments like this: $500 + $175 + $225 + $2,000 = $2,900.

Now, divide that by 43: $2,900 / 43 = $6.74419. Multiply that result by 100 to get the required monthly gross income, $6,744.19, for a 43% DTI.

The 30% Rule

Another way to calculate the amount of your income you can devote to a mortgage is to simply multiply your gross income by 30%. This will produce a number that you can hypothetically afford to pay toward your mortgage every month.

For instance, if you make $5,000 per month, 30% of that is $1,500. The calculation looks like this $5,000 x 0.3 = $1,500.

This rule may also be stated as the 28% rule and calculated the same way. It differs from the DTI because it doesn’t specifically account for other debt payments you may have.

Income Divided by Two and a Half

SmartAsset: What percentage of your income should safely go to a mortgage?

You’ll get a slightly different number if you assume that your mortgage payment can be two and a half times your gross income. To do this, start with your gross income and divide it by 2.5.

For instance, if you make $5,000 per month, the calculation would be $5,000 x 2.5 = $2,000. This suggests that $2,000 is a safe amount you can commit to your monthly mortgage payment.

This is clearly a more liberal method than the 30% principle and, like it, may not adequately account for other payments you must make.

Limitations of Safe Mortgage Calculations

Every borrower and every mortgage are a little bit different. While these techniques for calculating the percentage of your income you should spend on a monthly mortgage payment are helpful heuristics, to generate a more reliable figure, you’ll need to account for some other variables.

Other important factors include the size of the down payment you make, the amount of closing costs, the type of mortgage, the interest rate, your credit score and other costs including homeowner’s association or condo fees, hazard insurance and property taxes.

It’s usually wise to bear in mind that the amount of money a lender will loan to you may be more than you can safely borrow.

Bottom Line

You can use more than one method to determine how much of your income you should devote to a mortgage. Lenders will often be satisfied with a certain debt-to-income ratio, but this doesn’t mean you will be comfortable making the payment. Typically, it’s advisable to use more than one approach to making this calculation and make an effort to include as many aspects of your personal situation as you can.

Mortgage Tips

  • You may want to consider talking to a financial advisor making highly consequential decisions such as buying a home. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors in your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • After deciding how much of your income you can devote to a mortgage it’s necessary to figure out what the mortgage payment on a given property is likely to be. You can do this with the help of SmartAsset’s Mortgage Calculator.

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