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Understanding what you can afford

One of the first steps in the homebuying process is to fully understand your finances. It's not as fun as looking at homes, but it's important and necessary to help you determine how much you can afford.

Buying a home requires that you get a firm handle on your finances, gathering your supporting documentation and answering a handful of questions, including: What is your gross income? What do you spend each month? Do you have credit card debt? How much do you have in savings?

Aside from having a firm grip on your income and expenses, it’s equally important to understand the role your credit, mortgage rates and home-related costs play in determining what you can afford.

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Your credit about your credit

Lenders look closely at your credit score when deciding if you qualify for a mortgage loan. Because of its huge role in the homebuying process, make sure you understand how your credit score is compiled, how to get a copy of your credit report, and how to build strong credit.

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Mortgage rates about mortgage rates

This is a key ingredient in finding out how much home you can afford, and it’s important to watch them carefully if you’re in the market to buy a home. The lower the rate, the better – even a small rise in rates can make a home that was once affordable, unaffordable.

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Associated costs about the costs of homebuying

You'll have to make a down payment of at least 3% — and generally between 5 and 20% — of your home's purchase price to qualify for a mortgage. Also, when you get a mortgage, you'll need to pay closing costs that include an appraisal fee, credit report fee, tax services fee and more. These costs will generally run between 2 and 5% of your purchase price.

You'll want to work closely with your lender to determine what you can comfortably afford. It's their job to cover all bases and make sure your final number is within your means and aligns within your financial goals.

Tools & Resources

Calculator: How Much Can You Afford?

Find out how much house works within your budget, being mindful of your expenses.

Quiz: Understanding What You Can Afford

Find out if you really understand the costs and responsibilities of being a homeowner.

Budgeting for your home 

These four things largely determine how much home you can afford. 

Down payments and PMI