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How much can I afford to borrow for my first home?

Posted by Kelly Callaghan on April 6, 2023

If you’re looking to purchase your first home, you may be wondering how much you can afford to borrow. The amount that you can borrow for a mortgage will depend on several factors including your income, credit history and other assets. Generally speaking, lenders look at two primary factors when determining the maximum loan amount they are willing to lend. 


  • Understand exactly what your lender will be evaluating.
  • Reduce existing debt to maximize your borrowing power.
  • Map out a plan to improve your credit score.
  • Hire an expert Realtor who will help you make an informed decision.

Understanding Debt-to-Income and Loan-to-Value Ratios When Buying a Home

The first factor is your debt-to-income ratio (DTI), which measures how much of your income goes towards existing debts versus your monthly cost of living. Most lenders will require a buyer to have a DTI ratio of around 49% or less. This means that ideally, a buyer has less than half of their income going towards their overall monthly debts, including the new mortgage payment. Less than 28% of that 49% should be dedicated solely to your new monthly mortgage payment. 

The second factor is the loan-to-value ratio (LTV), which shows the amount of money you’ll need to borrow in relation to the purchase price or appraised value of the property. Real estate lenders typically require a minimum down payment of 20% to avoid additional fees, such as Private Mortgage Insurance, or PMI.

Maximize Your Borrowing Power

To maximize your borrowing power, try to reduce existing debt and figure out a realistic budget before you begin shopping for a home. You’ll also need to save up cash for closing costs, which include lender fees, appraisal fees, title insurance and other related expenses. Closing Costs are typically around 3% of the purchase price and does not include your down payment. Say, for example, that you have been approved to purchase a $300,000.00 home with a 20% conventional loan. You will need to have at least $70,000.00 set aside for the purchase. With careful planning and smart money management, you can find the right mortgage amount that fits your needs without breaking the bank.

Make an Informed Decision

It’s important to take into account all of the factors that will influence the loan amount when considering how much you can afford to borrow. It’s also a good idea to speak with a qualified Realtor or lender who can help you make an informed decision. With their expertise, they’ll be able to provide advice on how much you can afford to spend up front in closing costs and monthly in mortgage payments while considering the average cost of living in your desired area. A great Realtor may be able to get some of those closing costs covered by negotiating an assist from the seller. 

A lender will look at your credit score to evaluate your financial history and determine the risk associated with lending you money. Your credit score is based on factors such as payment history, the amount of debt you carry, the length of your credit history, types of accounts you have opened, and more. A higher credit score typically means you’re looking at a lower interest rate. A lower credit score will mean a higher interest rate and can include added fees.

It’s important to take the time to understand the lender requirements and find out how much you can afford to borrow before starting the home buying process. With a bit of research and some strategic planning, you’ll be well on your way to homeownership. Lenders will look at your income and assets to determine the maximum amount you can borrow. If you have more assets, such as stocks or bonds, it may help you qualify for a larger loan amount. For example, if you have a high credit score and a healthy cash reserve in addition to solid income, then the lender may be willing to loan you more and at a lower interest rate. 

The Road to a Higher Credit Score

If you feel you are not getting the desired results or cannot afford to take on a higher interest rate, consider working with a Credit Repair Specialist. A Credit Repair Specialist will provide you with a road map to a higher credit score. Take a look at some of the ways to improve your credit over time:

1. Create a budget and stick to it

2. Make all payments on time

3. Lower credit utilization by paying down debt

4. Dispute incorrect information on your credit report

5. Take advantage of any programs or services offered for free by the Credit Repair Specialist

6. Pay off collections accounts and charge-offs

7. Consider secured loans to build credit history

8. Monitor progress regularly and adjust strategies as needed

9. Be aware of predatory lenders, scams, and other deceptive practices

10. Educate yourself on personal finance basics

All in all, it is critical that you understand your financial situation and the necessary steps to take to get you in a better position to buy. Your Realtor and Lender will have recommendations for local, trustworthy Credit Repair Specialists.

Break Down Your Estimated Expenses

Ask your lender for an Estimated Closing Cost Worksheet with every pre-approval drawn up. This worksheet will break down all of the estimated expenses you’ll incur when closing on the property and give you a better idea of what your final costs will be. It can include fees such as title insurance, tax prorations, appraisal fees, lender fees and more. 

The Estimated Closing Cost worksheet is an invaluable tool in ensuring that you are aware of all the costs associated with the closing process. It should include line-by-line details of all fees, taxes, and insurance premiums that need to be paid. This helps you plan ahead and make more informed decisions regarding your budget and the areas you’d like to focus your search.

Work With an Expert To Find Your First Home

Real estate can be intimidating and trying to determine how much you can afford to borrow is a daunting task. By taking into account your debt-to-income ratio, loan-to-value ratio, budgeting for closing costs, and understanding the importance of credit score when it comes to lenders evaluating risk; finding the right mortgage amount without breaking the bank becomes more achievable. 

But as always this process can be streamlined by working with an expert. The Steve Laret Team is here to help, contact us now for a list of our trusted mortgage advisors and expert advice. 

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