Balancing What the Bank Says You Can Afford and What You Can Really Afford

Services for Real Estate Pros with Think Glink Media

When determining how much to spend on a home, your bank may have a different idea about your budget than you.

balancing what the bank says you can afford and what you can actually afford

A mortgage lender might approve you for one amount, based on a conventional debt-to-income ratio, while you'll get more money if you go for an FHA loan with higher DTI limits or for an FHA 203K loan, which qualifies you for up to 125 percent of the sales price if work needs to be done to bring the property up to code.

At the same time, it might be that none of those amounts is what you're comfortable spending each month on your mortgage payment, real estate property taxes, and homeowner's insurance premium.

Homebuyers often forget that buying a home means you take on not only monthly mortgage, tax, and insurance payments, but also assessments (for a condo or co-op) and ongoing maintenance costs, which can add up.

Figuring out how much you can afford to spend on a house means thinking about your lifestyle and your debts, not just what the bank says you can afford.


To find out more about how to determine what you can really spend on a home, check out my blog post on the Equifax Personal Finance blog:

What is your strategy for figuring out a budget for buying a home?




Ilyce Glink is the author of several books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and Buy, Close, Move In!. She blogs about money and real estate at, The Equifax Personal Finance Blogand CBS Moneywatch She is Chief Content Strategist at, a community for real estate investor



Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Stephanie McCarty 11/30/2010 11:09 AM
  2. Michael Jacobs 11/30/2010 04:05 PM
  3. Dawn Maloney 12/14/2010 02:47 PM
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Tammy Emineth
Personal SEO - Website SEO and Real Estate Marketing - Marysville, WA
Content Marketer, SEO Teacher, Website Fixer

excellent points. I try to get my buyers to look at homes about $10,000 under their max if they can. Most first time buyers are like a kid with a credit card and think the max IS how much they GET to spend.

Nov 29, 2010 11:11 PM #1
Deborah Byron Leffler BzyBee Real Estate Lady!
Keller Williams Realty Boise - Nampa, ID

Oh isn't that the truth!   Many of my clients don't want to go to the maximum that they can afford! 

Nov 29, 2010 11:11 PM #2
Stanley Stepak
Howard Hanna - Avon Lake, OH - Avon Lake, OH
Realtor - Avon Lake, Avon, Bay Village, Westlake,

And that is a well shared honest opinion  ilyce is right.  don't get in over your head because you want something beyond your limits.  You need to consider the potential of those homes you can afford or hold off till your in a better position (though the second choice could cost you if the market changes)

Nov 29, 2010 11:13 PM #3
P.J. Virgilio Jr., Realtor 408-568-6578 Selling homes in the Greater San Jose area and South through San Martin, Gilroy
Keller Williams Realty Silicon Valley - Gilroy, CA
San Juan Bautista and Hollister as well!


Great info and still another facet of our job to inform our clients in their journey!

Nov 29, 2010 11:15 PM #4
Jordon Wheeler
The Jordon Wheeler Group - Fairburn, GA
J W Group Real Estate Sales and Service

Good solid advice for buyers!  Thanks!

Nov 29, 2010 11:15 PM #5
Brad Rachielles
CENTURY 21 Prestige Properties, Ca BRE# 01489453 - Upland, CA


Thanks for this down to earth look at finance. It's a concern that so many really don't know what they are doing when it comes to family finances. some Newlyweds don't have the experience or often maturity to manage five or six digits in a budget. Some folks are getting along by "dumb luck" budgeting and some do very well. When some come to the lender's office and this expert/professional says that they can afford $XXXX every month, who are they to say this expert is wrong. They recognize that they could make changes in spending that would be better for them... and commit to the loan.

One problem is that they don't make those expert prescribed changes or don't live by them once started.

Read your linked post and have subscribed to your AR blog. Good information well presented.

Nov 30, 2010 11:33 AM #6
Ellie Penaranda
239.776.5077 Downing-Frye Realty - Naples, FL
Naples Florida Real Estate - Waterfront & Beach Co

Ilyce, thanks for the good read.  In times like these, this is excellent advice.  I like to see my clients enjoy their new home without financial stress.

Nov 30, 2010 12:14 PM #7

You know over the years I have worked with 100 of first time home buyers. The trend now with most of the young couples al least the more educated one is to rent because Real Estate in there adult life has not been a solid investment. They have seen their parents struggle with house payments and business sizing. Most of all thy want to be in a 80 ties term "YUPPIES" The goal is a good lifestyle and utmost MOBIL!!!!!!!!!

Nov 30, 2010 01:05 PM #8
Charita Cadenhead
Keller Williams Realty - Birmingham, AL
Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama)

So many times buyers just look at that monthly payment as the deciding factor when there is so much more to consider.  Not only that, buyers have a tendency to want to purchase at the max that the lender say they will lend (which is not always a good idea particular if the buyers are first time homebuyers).  That may be the frugality in me, but I don't ever want to max myself out and I wouldn't advise others to do it either.

Nov 30, 2010 01:15 PM #9
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass

Of course this isn't as bad as it was during the peak.  Banks would push people out to buy much more than they should have been doing.  But, it still holds true that the person buying the home should decide on what they are comfortable with for a monthly payment, not the bank.


Nov 30, 2010 01:24 PM #10
Doug Reynolds
Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - Sacramento, CA
Realtor - Sacramento, CA

I am always happy to hear from buyer clients that say..."i'm qualified for 250 but i want my payments to be around a 200k purchase price.  those are the responsible buyers.  it makes me nervous when we are right up against the buying limit.

Nov 30, 2010 04:55 PM #11
Richard L. Sanderson
Richard L. Sanderson Consulting - Portland, OR
helping improve local property tax systems

I have owned five homes, with the first one having been purchased in 1976.  I've always made it a rule to determine how much home I can afford after looking at my own budget and lifestyle.  As such I have always considered what lenders and real estate agents have told me as guidelines.   

Nov 30, 2010 05:33 PM #12
Steven Beam
RE/MAX Alliance - Parker Colorado Real Estate. - Parker, CO
Parker Colorado Real Estate

I always tell buyers to work it backwards from what they can really afford to comfortably pay per month then figure out what price home that equals. 25-30% of you NET take home income is pretty much all your house payment should be. It makes for fun living.

Nov 30, 2010 06:35 PM #13
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Ilyce, our buyers rarely buy what the bank says they can afford and they are well aware of the HOA and other community fees that go along with their homeownership. Excellent post on this topic.

Nov 30, 2010 07:28 PM #14
John Novak
Keller Williams Realty The Marketplace - Las Vegas, NV
Henderson, Las Vegas and Summerlin Real Estate

New homeowners need to exercise financial discipline. It can be tempting to buy a lot of new things for the home (or a new car to decorate the driveway), but consumer debt can quickly put them in a perilous position.

Nov 30, 2010 08:05 PM #15
Patricia Aulson
Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes

Smart buyers don't want to spend the max of what "the bank " says they can afford. They'll look at those homes that "they know they can afford"  I'm always impressed with these smart people.  The banks and lending institutions were telling people they could afford more than what they really could afford.  That's part of why we are all in this lousy economy today.

Patricia/Seacoast NH & ME

Nov 30, 2010 09:04 PM #16
Chris Olsen
Olsen Ziegler Realty - Cleveland, OH
Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate

Hi Ilyce -- I really try to counsel first-time home buyers to really know their income and expenses in great detail, using a spreadsheet or some other program and track where their money goes, and to really budget, know that there may be an additional 1-2% of the purchase price in maintenance costs per year, budgeting for replacement reserves of major systems, etc. As well as budgeting for change in lifestyle, potential relocation, job loss, school, retirement, etc., and to live under their means so they aren't stressed.  It's a sobering conversation but an important one.

Nov 30, 2010 09:56 PM #17
Bernadine Hunter, SFR, ACRE
Keller Williams Greater Columbus Realty - Blacklick, OH
"Finding Solution to Your Real Estate Needs"

I also caution buyers to buy below what the bank says they can affort and try to only show them houses that fit that criteria.

Dec 01, 2010 07:41 AM #18
Ilyce Glink
Think Glink Media - Chicago, IL
Best-selling author, award-winning TV/radio host.

Thank you all for your comments. I think planning a budget before looking at houses (and sticking to the budget!) is one of the most important things a buyer can do. 


As we all see from the mess of the housing industry right now, the size of the loan the bank is willing to give you is not always the size of loan your budget can afford.


Thanks for reading, and please visit and share the full blog on the Equifax Personal Finance Blog

Dec 01, 2010 05:52 PM #19
Valerie Zinger
House Proud Ottawa-Ontario-Canada - Ottawa, ON
Home Organizer

Ilyce:  This is an nice short post with a very strong message.  Affordability is not just the mortgage payment.  Home or condo  ownership has all kinds of other costs that you don't have at mom's or at the all included rental.  Thanks. 

Dec 02, 2010 05:03 PM #20
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