Skip to main content

Purchasing a home is one of the biggest personal and financial decisions you will ever make. With the constant evolution of the housing and job markets, it can be tough to determine a rough number to save in order to buy a house, and without a rough number to shoot for it’s hard to set specific, achievable goals to help you work toward homeownership. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you try to figure out the cash that you’ll need on hand to afford a home, as well as the monthly expenses to expect afterward. You don’t want to miss out on the last tip that can be a great solution to buying a house if a down payment seems to be a roadblock delaying your path towards homeownership.

Project a budget that fits your lifestyle 

It might sound backward, but generally the best place to start in your budget is to figure out the maximum amount that you can afford on a monthly mortgage payment. Some experts recommend making sure that your housing payment is no more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay (which includes a mortgage payment, property taxes, and possibly other expenses). So, if you have a monthly income of $6,000, it’s recommended to shoot for a monthly housing payment of $1,500 or less. Once you have this specific number, you can shop around various mortgage lender websites to get an idea of what kind of rates are being offered for different loans, and then use a mortgage calculator to get an estimate for the maximum price that you can afford for a home. 

As you determine how much you can afford to spend on a monthly housing payment and how much house you can afford, keep in mind that these numbers are all dependent on each other. Perhaps when you look at your savings you may decide that you want to put down more money to purchase your home. If you stay in the same general home price, this will lower your monthly housing expense, or allow you to look at more expensive houses but with a similar monthly housing expense. You might also look at your savings and see that you can only afford a minimum down payment of 3.5% (FHA loans) or 3% (conventional loans), which means you may need to look at more affordable houses than the above example. Regardless of how the math works out for you, your budget and your lifestyle will be safest if you plan conservatively, particularly since unexpected expenses may come up during the homebuying process. Try to predict five years down the road, or how you would get by if you were laid off, and plan accordingly.

And a final consideration, at least as far as ongoing expenses go, it’s a good idea to budget about 1.5% of your home’s value annually on repairing or maintaining your home. To use the above example of a $220,000 home, that means you can reasonably predict to spend $3,300 a year repairing your home, or $275 a month. This is a conservative estimate and your actual mileage may vary.

Prepare for common out-of-pocket expenses

At this point, you’ve looked at your savings and expenses, you’ve looked at your monthly take-home income, and you’ve gotten an idea of how much home you can afford: using the above example, $220,000. Now you have a starting point to predict what you’ll pay out-of-pocket when buying a home. Here’s a list of some common out-of-pocket expenses to plan for when buying a home:

·  Prepaid Costs: As the name implies, the money that you put down on a prepaid cost is a prepayment. This is a fund that, over time, will cover things like homeowner’s insurance, mortgage insurance, and real estate taxes. It’s best to consult a mortgage loan originator in your area to determine how much to budget for with regards to prepaid costs, as they can vary widely based on your area.

·  Closing Costs: Closing costs are fees that you pay to your lender and other third parties (i.e. appraiser, title company) in order to get a loan and typically cost 3–6% of the home price. So, using our example number, under most circumstances that would cost $6,600–13,200.

·  Moving Expenses: Once you buy your home, you need to get your stuff into it! Some will need to shop around local moving companies to find the best fit, while others will just need to consider the cost of donuts and drinks for the friends and family that come to help with the move.

·  Down Payment: The minimum price that you need to put down on a home in order to get a mortgage in the first place. It’s commonly recommended to make a down payment of at least 20% ($44,000 with our above example) to avoid having to pay private mortgage insurance, but many borrowers may down payments of 5% ($11,000), 3.5% ($7,700), or 3% ($6,600), depending on their savings and what kind of loan they qualify for.

Access down payment assistance programs to avoid homeownership roadblocks 

As you can see, responsibly planning a budget for a home can require very careful planning, and even then the out-of-pocket expenses can be thousands and thousands of dollars! If you’re in a position where, after doing the math, you just don’t see owning a home for you, don’t give up just yet. If you don’t have any savings, you can still begin saving now, cutting expenses where you can, with that big goal of homeownership to move toward. In addition, don’t forget to research the local and national assistance programs available to you to help you purchase a home. For example, the Chenoa Fund down payment assistance program offered by CBC Mortgage Agency provides affordable loans up to 5% of the purchase price or appraised value of a home (whichever is lower) to those that qualify; in other words, if you qualify you could have your entire minimum down payment and some of your closing costs taken care of with the Chenoa Fund down payment assistance program.

To learn more about Chenoa Fund down payment assistance, visit the homebuyer’s page or homepage on our website. 

CBC Mortgage Agency™ – NMLS 1186381

For licensing information, go to

Illinois Residential Mortgage License #MB.6761292. Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Division of Banking, 100 West Randolph, 9th Floor, Chicago, IL 60601 – 1-888-473-4858. Georgia Residential Mortgage Licensee, License # 1186381.