"Can You Afford That House?"
By: Chuck Roberts
Prudential Shimmering Sands Realty
Before you start searching for your dream home, you first need to determine a price range you can afford. According to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), depending on the consumer's current debt ratio, most people can typically afford to pay 31 percent of their gross monthly income for mortgage payments. For example, if you earn $50,000 annually, then your monthly income is about $4,167. Thirty-one percent of that is $1,292.
There are several online tools to calculate a monthly mortgage you can afford using factors such as your current monthly expenses, down payment and the interest rate. You can also work with a lender to get pre-qualified for a loan. This estimate will help you gauge how much money you may be able to borrow and the monthly mortgage payments.
However, the amount you are able to afford for a home loan should not be your only consideration for determining your price range. With homeownership come other housing expenses.
The most obvious of additional housing expenses are utilities-gas, electricity and water. But don't forget about telephone, trash collection, and cable or satellite bills.
As a property owner, you are responsible for property taxes. The rate will vary from city to city. In our community, the tax rate is (insert %) percent. That means for a home with a market value of $200,000, yearly taxes will run (insert dollar amount). To get a general idea on how much the tax bill will be for a property, ask the seller for a copy of the previous year's tax assessment. Your real estate professional can help you refine these figures.
Another cost you may incur is homeowner association (HOA) dues. Most condominiums and some (residential developments/subdivisions/neighborhoods) have HOAs, which are legal entities, created to maintain common areas and enforce deed restrictions. As a property owner, you are required to pay the established monthly or annual homeowner association dues. Be sure you factor this cost into your budget.
You also need to consider the upkeep of your home. You should budget for seasonal maintenance such as lawn care, pest inspections and carpet cleaning, as well as unexpected repairs. The amount you budget will depend on the age of the home, as older homes tend to require more repairs such as installing a new roof, painting and replacing older appliances.
Depending on the type of coverage and your area, the costs for homeowners insurance each year can be anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. And, if you live in an area that has high risks for flooding, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc., you may need supplemental insurance.
Unless the home you purchase is picture perfect, you'll more than likely be adding your personal touch. Therefore, you need add to your housing budget the costs for remodeling and upgrades. According to "Remodeling Magazine's" 2007 Cost vs. Value Report, the national average for a midrange minor kitchen remodel is $21,185; a bathroom remodel averages $15,789.
Even minor cosmetic fix-ups such as light fixtures, window treatments, carpeting and decorative cabinet knobs can begin to add up.
By determining all the costs associated with homeownership, you can go into your home search with a reasonable price range that will allow you stay within your budget.
Chuck Roberts can be reached at 850-960-5507 or 850-785-1435. Prudential Shimmering Sands Realty is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.