About 33 percent of homeowners wish they had purchased a larger home, according to a 2017 Trulia survey.
Maybe these homeowners didn’t do the math before moving in.
You don’t have to make the same mistake. You can use an affordability calculator to figure out how much house you can afford before move-in day.
3 home affordability calculators with unique uses
Many affordability calculators are created equally. They ask you to enter the same information (like income), and they pump out the same results (like your monthly payment).
But here are three free online calculators that help you look at homebuying from some more unique angles.
1. Zippia: Compare square footage by state
You can benefit from using Zippia’s calculator if you care more about square footage than where you live.
All you need to input is how much you can afford to pay each month. This number accounts for local taxes, insurance, and mortgage loan interest rates. If you input $1,000, for example, a map will auto-populate allowing you to view the square footage you can afford in each state, plus its corresponding rank in the country.
In California, for example, a $1,000 monthly payment would net you just 663 square feet of property. That’s the 49th-worst in the U.S. and probably not enough space to grow your family.
Beyond square footage, the tool spits out the following information for your preferred state:
- Home price: $217,496
- Mortgage amount: $173,997
- Monthly mortgage payment: $781
- Monthly insurance payment: $72
- Monthly tax payment: $147
Given that it only requires one data point to spit all that out, Zippia’s tool is a good place to start. It’ll get you thinking about whether you want to join the tiny house movement and what states might be within your wheelhouse.
Where this calculator leaves you hanging is which city you should move to. But that’s where the next calculator comes in handy.
2. The National Association of Realtors: Compare prices by city
You can narrow your results even further using a home affordability calculator from The National Association of Realtors. It allows you to enter the names of cities where you might want to reside.
The tool here is a little more sophisticated, asking you to supply four bits of information before delivering results:
- Annual pretax income
- Monthly debt, excluding the monthly payment of your new mortgage
- Down payment and home loan type
Whereas Zippia asks how much you can afford to pay each month, Realtor.com’s tool uses these four pieces of information to tell you how much you can afford, monthly and overall. It will also pump out your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which affects your mortgage rates.
For example, these would be your results if you (and your significant other) wanted to live in Austin, assuming the following:
- Earn $100,000 per year
- Have $500 per month in debt
- Can make a down payment of $71,200
Running the same numbers in another Texas city will tell you how far your dollar goes there. The same homebuyer searching in Waco, Texas, for example, could afford a $401,300 list price.
Beyond the black-and-white numbers, this affordability calculator is interactive.
You can slide the bar from conservative to moderate or aggressive. This is useful because it tells you a range of home prices that could be affordable if your circumstances change. You might want to be more aggressive, for example, if you’re in line to negotiate a pay raise at work.
The DTI ratio calculation is also useful. In this example, the homebuyer’s DTI is 36 percent, well below the 43 percent generally needed for a qualified mortgage.
The tool uses your preferred city to do more than estimate your associated interest and tax rates as well as the cost of home insurance. Being that it’s a website run by real estate agents, it also pulls up homes within your price range.
But don’t go browsing just yet. There’s another useful tool that will further inform the way you shop down the road.
3. Student Loan Hero: Compare mortgages
Unlike the tools offered by Zippia and Realtor.com, our home mortgage calculator is squarely focused on your potential mortgage.
It’s also flexible, allowing you to change any of the following data points to compare your results:
- Home price
- Down payment
- Loan term
- Interest rate
- Property tax
This amount of flexibility is important because not every homebuyer is going to be making a sizable down payment. For example, there are programs for homebuyers with smaller down payments.
Plugging in your information will tell you the size of your monthly payment in the short term, but this tool takes a long view. It’ll show you what you’ll owe in the first year as well as over the length of your loan.
If you’re planning on making a 10 percent down payment on a $300,000 home, for example, you might be taken aback to learn that, over the life of the loan, you might pay $117,000 in taxes, $237,358 in interest, and not be done paying until the year 2047.
Our home affordability calculator is a good one to finish on because numbers like these will remind you that buying a home isn’t just a big decision. It’s a long-term investment with many costs along the way.
Total tax payment
Total amount paid
|Total tax payment||—|
|Total amount paid||—|
You determine the value of affordability calculators
Like most things in life, the usefulness of a home affordability calculator is determined by your effort. The more you put into it, the more you get out.
If a calculator like Realtor.com’s, for example, asks for your monthly debt, be specific. Think beyond the present, when you might be dealing with student loan and credit card debt. You’ll also have to estimate future costs related to maintenance on your new home or the children you plan to raise there.
This thinking will require more than making a few estimates and pushing a few buttons. But it could lead you to find the best mortgage for you.
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