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Smaller questions that add up to the big one

To answer the big question — How much house can I afford? — you'll need to ask yourself these others.

  • Can I make a large down payment easily, without fear of financial problems in the near future? You'll want to put 20% down — to avoid the additional cost of mortgage insurance.
  • Do I have the cash available for closing costs and moving expenses?
  • Will my house payment be 25% or less of my monthly take-home income?
  • Can I afford utilities and maintenance?

Why should you keep your mortgage payment to within a quarter of what you earn? That's a common rule of thumb recommended by financial planners, though many people ignore it.

According to federal data cited by Consumer Reports, married couples with kids spend an average of more than 31% of their take-home pay on housing. For singles, the average is almost 36%.

But that lack of housing budget discipline may help explain why more than 80% of homeowners say their mortgage payment hampers their ability to save money, one survey found.

Use our calculator to find your affordable monthly mortgage payment.

The right homeowners insurance policy protects you, your loved ones and your home.

Find the coverage you need at the most competitive rate in your area. Compare quotes from over 200 insurance companies with SmartFinancial.

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Lending options that help with affordability

young couple reviewing finances
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An abundance of lending options that help with affordability.

If you think you can meet the 25%-of-income rule but don't know how you can scrape together a large down payment, there are lending options that might help.

They include USDA loans, Fannie Mae HomeReady mortgages and FHA loans. These loans are designed for first-time homebuyers who are financially stable, though maybe not financially experienced.

  • FHA loans offer low down payments and are great for those with imperfect credit histories.
  • USDA loans typically don’t require a down payment, though an optimal credit history is required. These loans are intended for people in rural areas, though "rural" is defined loosely and includes many suburbs.
  • HomeReady mortgages come with low down payments and are designed for borrowers with low to moderate incomes.

But a loan with a small down payment is still no good if you've got nothing in the bank. A high-interest savings account can help you put your down payment cash aside.

Consider other homeownership costs

Conceptual house composed of DIY and construction tools on hardwood flooring, top view
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One of the biggest mistakes that homebuyers make is they don't consider the maintenance or utility costs.

One of the biggest mistakes that homebuyers make is that they don’t consider the maintenance or utility costs associated with their new home. They also don’t think about the annual tax bill they'll receive.

And, they fail to plan for the unexpected. If you develop a large emergency fund, you'll have a safety net if something happens and your income changes drastically.

When it comes to financial success, preparation is key.

Get peace-of-mind on your home insurance

Homeowners insurance buys you peace of mind. But are you sure you’re not paying too much for home insurance?

SmartFinancial compares quotes from over 200 insurance companies to check for discounts and help you find lower rates in your area.

Use SmartFinancial right now and stop overpaying for home insurance.

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The content provided on MoneyWise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.