May 13, 2013

Monthly Home Budget Considerations

Whether you are buying your first home, trading up to accommodate a growing family, or even downsizing, one of the most important things you must do when house hunting is create a monthly budget. A budget is simple to put together and will help you avoid financial headaches in the future.

In order to create your budget, the first thing the experts will recommend us to do is make a list of all our current monthly obligations. Start with items that will likely continue after we have bought the house, such as credit card payments, student loan payments, car payments, retirement saving contributions and so on. Now add in the discretionary spending such as the latte we get every few days, the dining out with friends and the money we are setting aside for a vacation. Are there things that we are willing to give up that would free up some cash to put towards the mortgage? After looking closely at our own budget, how much do you have left over, and how much of that are we comfortable putting towards a mortgage payment?

At this point I think it’s important to introduce the term "Total Debt Service," or TDS for short. This number is the result of dividing all our monthly obligations by our gross (before tax) income.

Here is an example of a TDS calculation: Assuming the gross monthly income is $6,000 (before tax) and the monthly expenses include:

$1,500 Mortgage payment
+ $400 Property taxes & Utilities
+ $200 Credit card bill
+ $400 Car lease payment
= $2,500

Total monthly obligations $2,500/$6,000 gross monthly income = 41.6%.

TDS is important because it determines what we can afford, and lenders use this number to qualify us for a mortgage as well. Technically, the lenders has a limit of 40%, but generally the cut off point is 42% to 44%. If you are applying for a mortgage and your TDS is higher by a per cent or two, be sure you can back it up with an excellent credit score and a down payment of at least 20%.

There are a number of online calculators at your disposal and they will help to determine the maximum mortgage payment we can afford. Now ask ourselves, do we want to max out on your mortgage payment? Most online calculators do not have space to put your morning coffee in or your gym membership or the tickets you bought for TIFF. The reality is that most of us will have to sacrifice some of the fun things in life to own a home, but don't let your mortgage payment control you.