Answer: The answer to this question is partly a mathematical assessment and partly a personality assessment.
The math part is easy. Find a reputable lender (we can recommend some folks) and work with them to crunch
the numbers on what you can afford. I also tell people, especially if they are first time buyers, that they need
to calculate an extra $100 a month or so to go into a rainy day fund for when the dishwasher or air
conditioning breaks. Figuring if you can afford a home is not just about meeting the mortgage payment, but
also about being able to meet the surprise expenses that will come up.
The personality side is a little more complicated. A home purchase comes with a lot of perks, but it is a
commitment. Are you the type of person who is really going to get pleasure spending their weekends mowing
the lawn and doing home maintenance? Obviously, there are townhouses and condos where you can get
around a lot of that, but most home ownership comes with some commitment of your time. Are you ready to
give up that time? Most people are, but there are others who would prefer to pick up the phone and let the
landlord handle the plugged up toilet or garbage disposal. Other prefers not to be tied to a house that could
prevent or delay them from quite literally picking up and going if the spirit moves them.
Other questions you should ask yourself before buying include; how long do you plan on staying in the area?
How secure is your job? How likely is it that your career will require you to move to another city or state in the
next three years? Is your family likely to expand and suddenly out grow whatever you buy? You have to take
an honest inventory of your life and your plans for the future.