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Affordability 101

To determine 'how much house can I afford', the standard rule is that your monthly expenses should not exceed 36%. The 36% rule is based on dividing your monthly mortgage payments and other monthly debt payments by your gross monthly income.

Key factors in calculating affordability are:

  • Income – Money that you receive on a regular basis, such as your salary or income from investments. Your income helps establish a baseline for what you can afford to pay every month.
  • Funds available – This is the amount of cash you have available to put down and to cover closing costs. You can use your savings, investments or other sources.
  • Debt and expenses – It's important to take into consideration other monthly obligations you may have, such as credit cards, car payments, student loans, groceries, utilities, insurance, etc.
  • Credit profile – Your credit score and the amount of debt you owe influence a lender’s view of you as a borrower. Those factors will help determine how much money you can borrow and what interest rate you’ll be charged. Check your credit score.

We'll provide you with an appropriate price range based on your situation. Most importantly, we'll take into account all your monthly obligations to determine if a home is comfortably within reach.


It’s also important to plan for the future. Consider creating a savings plan for upcoming life events, such as having a child.

When banks evaluate your affordability, they only take into account your outstanding debts. They do not take into consideration if you want to set aside $250 every month for your retirement or if you're expecting a baby and want to set aside additional funds. NerdWallet's Affordability Calculator helps you easily understand how taking on a mortgage debt will affect your expenses and savings.

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