I Make $200,000 a Year. How Much House Can I Afford?

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An income of $200,000 a year puts you in a good position to afford a home priced at $600,000. But whether you should aim higher or lower than this in your house hunt will depend on your debt, how much you’ve saved for a down payment, and current interest rates, among other factors. Read on for a breakdown of the variables that could affect how much of a mortgage you can manage.

Not so very long ago, if you’d asked someone: “If I make $200,000 a year, how much house can I afford?” they probably would have said, “A mansion!” Of course, that isn’t necessarily true anymore. But that income still can get you a pretty sweet home in most places.

You can get an idea of how much house you can afford on a $200,000 income by using an online mortgage calculator or by prequalifying with one or more lenders for a home mortgage loan. Or you can run the numbers yourself using a calculation like the 28/36 rule, which says your mortgage payment shouldn’t be more than 28% of your monthly gross income, and your total monthly debt — including your mortgage payment — shouldn’t be more than 36% of your income. Let’s take a closer look at what could affect how much you can borrow and what your payments might be.

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Understanding Debt-to-Income Ratio

You can expect lenders to look carefully at your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) — the second number in the 28/36 rule — when they’re deciding how much mortgage you can afford. It tells them how you’re handling the debt you already have and if you can manage more.

Your DTI ratio is calculated by dividing your total monthly debt payments by your monthly gross income. Mortgage lenders generally look for a DTI ratio of 36% or less; but depending on the lender and the type of home loan you’re hoping to get, you may be able to qualify with a DTI up to 43% or even 50%.

Typically, the lower your risk, the better your borrowing options. So if you want the best loan amount, rate, and terms, you’ll want to keep an eye on this number.

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Your Down Payment Also Can Affect Costs

You may not need a hefty down payment to qualify for some home loans. But the more you can comfortably put down on a house, the less you’ll have to borrow, which can help lower your monthly payments. And if you put down at least 20%, you can avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), which will further reduce your payments.

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Other Factors that Can Affect Home Affordability

Your income, debt, and down payment are all primary factors in determining how much house you can afford. But there are other things that also can affect your ability to qualify for a mortgage that’s manageable, including:

Interest Rates

A lower mortgage interest rate can significantly lower your monthly payment — and the amount you’ll pay for your home over time. While interest rates are relatively consistent across the market, lenders do compete for customers, so you may benefit from shopping around. You also can help your chances of qualifying for a better rate by making sure your finances are in good shape and you have a solid credit score.

Loan Term

The most common mortgage term is 30 years, but different loan lengths are available depending on the type of mortgage you choose — and each has pros and cons. If you’re deciding between a 15-year vs. a 30-year mortgage, for example, the shorter term may offer a less expensive interest rate, which could save you money over the life of your loan. But the 30-year term will likely have lower monthly payments, which may be a better fit for your budget.

Homeowners Insurance

Understanding how to buy homeowners insurance and comparing the policies available may help you minimize this expense. Lenders require borrowers to have an adequate amount of homeowners insurance, and if you live in a state that’s considered “high risk,” the cost of coverage could be significant.

HOA Fees

If you’re buying in a community with lots of amenities, homeowners association (HOA) dues could add a substantial amount to your monthly home costs. (The monthly average is about $250, but fees can go as high as $2,500 or more.)

Property Taxes

Property taxes, which are generally based on the assessed value of a home, are often included in a borrower’s monthly mortgage payment, so it’s important to include this amount when you calculate home affordability. (Check your county’s website for the correct number.)

Location

If you’re a fan of real estate shows like House Hunters, you already know the city or even the particular neighborhood you want to live in can be a big factor in determining how much house you can afford. The overall cost of living can vary by state, and costs are also typically higher in cities vs. rural areas. If you aren’t willing to compromise on location, you may have to increase your housing budget to buy in the area you want.

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How to Afford More House with Down Payment Assistance

If you have the means to manage a higher monthly payment but you need some help with your down payment, there are state and federal down payment assistance programs that can help.

Many programs set limits on how much an eligible home can cost, or on the homebuyer’s income. But it’s worth checking out what’s available to you — especially if you live in a state with higher home values. In California, for example, where homes can be expensive, a first-time homebuyer with a $200,000 income still can qualify for assistance in some counties.

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Home Affordability Examples

With a home affordability calculator, you can get a basic idea of how much house you can afford by plugging in some basic information about your income, savings, debt, and the home you hope to buy. Here are some hypothetical examples:

Example #1: Saver with a Little Debt

  • Annual income: $200,000
  • Amount available for down payment: $80,000
  • Monthly debt: $650
  • Mortgage rate: 6.5%
  • Property tax rate: 1.125%
  • House budget: $700,000

Example #2: Less Debt, But Also Less Savings

  • Gross annual income: $200,000
  • Amount available for down payment: $20,000
  • Monthly debt: $200
  • Mortgage rate: 6.5
  • Property tax rate: 1.125%
  • House budget: $605,000

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How You Can Calculate How Much House You Can Afford

Along with using an online calculator to figure out how much house you might be able to afford on a $200,000 income, you also can run the numbers on your own. Some different calculations include:

The 28/36 Rule

We already covered the 28/36 rule, which combines two factors that lenders typically look at to determine home affordability: income and debt. The first number sets a limit of 28% of gross income as a homebuyer’s maximum total mortgage payment, including principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. The second number limits the mortgage payment plus any other debts to no more than 36% of gross income.

Here’s an example: If your gross annual income is $200,000, that’s $16,666 per month. So with the 28/36 rule, you could aim for a monthly mortgage payment of about $4,666—as long as your total debt (including car payments, credit cards, etc.) isn’t more than $6,000.

The 35/45 Model

Another DIY calculation is the 35/45 method, which recommends spending no more than 35% of your gross income on your mortgage and debt, and no more than 45% of your after-tax income on your mortgage and debt.

Here’s an example: Let’s say your gross monthly income is $16,666 and your after-tax income is about $13,000. In this scenario, you might spend between $5,833 and $5,850 per month on your debt payments and mortgage combined. This calculation gives you a bit more breathing room with your mortgage payment, as long as you aren’t carrying too much debt.

The 25% After-Tax Rule

If you’re worried about overspending, or you have other goals you’re working toward, this method will give you a more conservative result. With this calculation, your target is to spend no more than 25% of your after-tax income on your mortgage. Let’s say you make $13,000 a month after taxes. With this method, you would plan to spend $3,250 on your mortgage payments.

Keep in mind that these equations can only give you a rough idea of how much you can spend. When you want to be more certain about the overall price tag and monthly payments you can afford, it helps to go through the mortgage preapproval process.

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How Your Monthly Payment Affects Affordability

Some eager homebuyers can tend to put most of their focus on a home’s listing price or the interest rate. But it’s how those factors and others combine to raise or lower the monthly payment that can ultimately determine whether a buyer can afford the home or not.

Before signing on the dotted line, it’s a good idea to run the numbers on an online mortgage calculator to be confident you can stay on track.

If you do find yourself struggling a bit — perhaps because your income changes or an unexpected life event occurs — refinancing to a new loan with a lower payment may be an option. (Especially if interest rates drop.) But how soon you can refinance may depend on the type of loan you have.

(Learn more: Personal Loan Calculator

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Types of Home Loans Available to $200,000 Households

A $200,000 income can go a long way toward helping a buyer qualify for certain mortgage options, such as a conventional or jumbo loan. But a higher salary also could make you ineligible for a government-backed loan that has income limits. There also may be limits on the purchase price and type of property, depending on the mortgage you get.

Here are a few of the options that may be available to $200,000-income households:

Conventional Loans This loan is issued by a private lender, such as a bank, credit union, or other financial institution.

FHA loans Insured by the Federal Housing Administration, FHA loans are a good resource for borrowers with a lower credit score or little money available for a down payment. There are no limits on how much you can earn and get an FHA loan, but there may be a limit on how much you can borrow depending on where you plan to reside.

VA loans A loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is an excellent option for eligible members of the U.S. military and surviving spouses. There are no income limits on VA loans, and there are no longer standard loan limits on VA direct or VA-backed home loans.

USDA loans These loans are guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and are meant to help moderate- to low-income borrowers buy homes in eligible (typically rural) areas. Loan limits and income limits are based on the home’s location.

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The Takeaway

There are several variables that factor into how much home you can afford. Besides your income, lenders will look at your credit, your debt, and your down payment to determine how much you can borrow. To find a loan and monthly payment that’s a good fit for you, it’s a good idea to research and compare different loan types and amounts. And, if you have questions, you can seek advice from a qualified mortgage professional.

This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.


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