All you have to do is Google the words — mortgage calculator — and you become flooded with choices of great online tools. They can help you figure out how big of a loan you can afford. They show you how much your monthly principal and interest will be with certain loans, and a whole bunch of other things.
But no matter how helpful they are, mortgage calculators can’t give you the big picture and all the financial details of buying and maintaining a home.
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“You truly need to take your time if you are considering buying a house,” says Rod Siddons, chief development officer at Frontier Community Services in Chillicothe, Ohio.
His organization is a non-profit developer of affordable housing plus offers homebuyer education classes and financial management counseling.
“Both of my kids recently bought homes in the last two years. I told them to find the right house that gives you the room you need and the price, but don’t overreach on your payments. Life happens, and you need extra money in case things change in your job, you have babies, you need a new car or want to travel,” he says.
Life can get very expensive especially when it comes to fixing up your home. For instance, Remodeling Magazine’s 2014 Cost Vs Value Report, reveals that replacing a roof costs $18,913 on average in the U.S. Some other maintenance and remodeling costs can also mess up your finances as a homeowner including a simple replacement of a front door for $1,162, adding a deck at $15,437, or replacing windows for $10,000.
“Our course curriculum at Frontier teaches homebuyers that you truly need to set aside money for things like the roof, a broken window and more,” Siddons says.
But they also suggest also putting aside money in case someone loses their job for a while or something happens with your income level.
“Putting away 3-6 months of savings for living expenses is perfect. You hopefully can get a new job or will be back to work in that period,” he says.
When you do decide to buy a house and apply for a loan, a lender will most likely allow you to go 35 percent of your income for principal and interest.
“We suggest keeping it below 30 percent. We have found that you will have much more successful home owners with that scenario. We actually try to keep at 25 percent,” he says.
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A mortgage calculator can’t measure the stress that you might experience as a homeowner. But by getting a fixed-term loan might help that tension. You will know how much your monthly payments are for the entire amount of the loan compared to an adjusted rate mortgage.
“The only way your payments will change with a fixed term loan is if your property taxes change, and you include your taxes in your monthly payment,” Siddons says.
He also suggests that potential home buyers look into their credit score and credit report long before contacting a lender or looking for a house. An online mortgage calculator won’t necessarily ask you to plug in your credit score. But a lender will definitely be taking a close look at it and figuring it into whether you get a good interest rate or a higher rate.
“It’s funny how many times a person’s credit history comes out after we get their credit report but they didn’t seem to mention those things during a face-to-face interview. For instance, they say, ‘I forgot to tell you about that car that got repossessed,’ ” he says.
Most the time, the credit report doesn’t lie, Siddons says. But there might be some erroneous items on there that need to be fixed. You want a lender to know all the information, even if it might be embarrassing to you. Your financial picture needs to be complete for them to figure out what might be the best loan for you.
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A mortgage calculator also won’t reveal to you all the closing costs that will be coming your way when you buy a house or the new furniture, appliances and other items you will be purchasing to fill up that house.
“Closing costs typically run between $1,500 to $2,500 in this area. Those are pretty standard numbers,” he says.
Depending on what kind of furnishings and appliances you need and want for your new house, those costs can take a big chunk out of your savings when furnishing your house. If you have lived in a 500-square-foot apartment and move into your 2,500 square foot house, it’s going to take a lot more furniture and stuff to make it look like a home. And no calculator can tell you exactly how much that will be along with buying added house stuff such as a lawn mower that you didn’t need while renting an apartment.
“You have to really understand financially and emotionally if you really want to be a homebuyer. There are gives and takes in everything in life,” Siddons says. “Buying a home does limit your mobility or the ease of moving to another part of the country quicker than you could as a renter. That’s very important for young couples and singles to understand.”