9-14-18: Can we afford this payment?

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Question of the week:  Can we afford this payment?


 Answer:  Statistically, yes you can.


Statistics dictate the underwriting guidelines when determining how much of a mortgage and housing payment a family can afford to get loan approval to purchase a new home, or refinance an existing home. The key number is the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio which is your new housing payment (mortgage, property taxes, insurance and homeowners association dues if applicable, collectively referred to as PITI) divided by your adjusted gross income (income before taxes). Depending on the loan program this percentage of your total income for your total new debt obligations inclusive of housing payment cannot exceed between 43 and 50% of your gross income. (Note, VA mortgages do not adhere strictly to DTI guidelines for qualifying.)


For instance, if you are purchasing a new home and the total housing payment is $3,000 and you have car payment, student loan payment and credit cards with monthly payments reported on your credit report totaling $1275 per month, your total obligations are $4275 per month. If your gross monthly income is $10,000 per month you have a DTI of 42.75%, generally good enough to qualify for most programs.


Statistically. The debt-to-income guidelines were created based upon data from millions of property owner’s history of making payments in a timely fashion, and more important those that have not. Mortgage data is analyzed to see the percentage of defaults for debt-to-income ratios and there is a breaking point at which the percentage of defaults become untenable risk for lenders and that is where the DTI guidelines are set. It is important to note that the default data is also analyzed for occupancy, type of property and credit scores among other criteria and this is how rates are priced (sounds like a good question for next week).


Back to if you can afford the payment that we have given you which would be approved by underwriting.


I tell almost all clients purchasing a new home when we are going through the qualification process, “there are three things that are very true regarding your new home purchase. One, I will not use my savings to purchase the home. Two, I will use my income to help you make the monthly payment. Three, I will not spend any time sleeping or living in your home.” This is to say, while I may feel comfortable with the payment I am giving you for your potential new mortgage, property taxes and insurance, I am not making the payment so it is important that you are comfortable with what you feel you can afford.


That said it is also important to stretch a little of your comfort if your comfort level is well below your income ability, unless there are some exceptions. One gauge many first-time buyers, and some move up buyers, use for their new housing payment is what they are currently paying in rent. If you make $10,000 per month and are paying $2200 per month, using the $2200 per month to be what you would like your new housing payment to be you will be looking at homes that are significantly below your ability to qualify, and from my experience frustrated in the homes you will be looking to purchase as few, if any, will feel “right” for you and your family.


If the payment I am quoting feels too high for a client I ask that they take a look at where they spend their money, and is this likely to continue once they become homeowners. Purchasing a home is not just purchasing a place to live, it is also entering a new lifestyle, that of homeowner. For most first-time buyers, purchasing a home occurs before they start a family, or with younger children. This changes your lifestyle dramatically and the stability of owning a home and fixing your housing payment pairs perfectly with a growing family. Most meals will be made at home, changing your budget if you eat out a lot. Weekends will likely be spent with the family at different events, games and activities involving the children, which means fewer weekends travelling to the wine country or Vegas.


Essentially, is your expectation that your lifestyle and spending habits that make your potential new housing payment seem uncomfortable to remain the same? Chances are very, very high that it will not. When considering your new home and the cost also consider the changes you will be making in your lifestyle, and therefore expenses.


Finally, why are you buying a home? Is it to change your life in a positive manner? If so what other changes are you willing to make so you can experience the value of homeownership?


Pretty much everything decision in life has trade-offs and consequences, even not making a decision. One area at which I will immodestly say I do very well is explaining to my clients the positives and negatives of the options available to them when purchasing a home. If you think owning a home is not in your budget please contact me so we can discuss your financial situation and options.


Have a question? Ask me!


August economic data was interesting. The Producer Price Index dropped 0.1% in August, the first month over month decline in 18 months and read by many as a sign that inflation may be easing. Supporting the read was the Consumer Price Index for August that showed prices rose 0.2% for the month, however up only 0.1% for the “core” rate (minus fuel and food). The monthly increase was the fifth straight increase, however the size of the CPI increase lowered the year over year inflation for the core index to 2.2% from 2.4%. Gas and rent were the primary factors putting upward pressure on the index, many other consumer sectors fell, primarily clothing which saw prices drop for the third month in a row—good news if you have growing children. The news is mostly positive for interest rates as any easing of inflation releases pressure for rates to go higher.


Retail sales also grew at a slower pace in August from the prior month, however the slow down was not unexpected given the surge in sales in July. Supporting future increases in sales was the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index which continues to rise, reaching it second  highest level since 2004, and highest since March of this year. Positive consumer sentiment leads to consumer spending, which drives the economy and can lead to higher rates.


Rates for Friday September 14, 2018: A large drop in Mortgage Backed Security (MBS) prices in the middle of the week put strong upward pressure on rates. Some easing later in the week saw us with rates this Friday flat from last Friday. I have been asked a lot lately what I thought rates will do, my standard response is that I feel they should be higher than they are currently given the economic data.



30 year conforming                                            4.50%             Flat

30 year high-balance conforming                      4.75%      Flat


Please note that these are base rates and adjustments may be added for condominiums, refinances, credit scores, loan to value, no impound account and period rate is locked. Rates are based on 20% down with 740 FICO score for purchase mortgages.



Thankfully Hurricane Florence started losing power earlier in the week and when it made landfall this morning in North Carolina had lost enough power to be designated a tropical storm instead of a hurricane. Even with the winds at less power the amount of water that will be dropped in the southeast will be significant, especially if the storm remains in place. As always when nature becomes fierce the Red Cross is there to help residents through the event and after. We are truly fortunate to have such a wonderful organization looking after people negatively impacted around the globe by human and natural acts that displace and harm people.


Many communities are also grateful they have a Waffle House or two in their communities. The butt of many jokes, mostly from those not in the Waffle House regions, the company does great work when disasters are about to hit. So great in fact that FEMA follows the company’s “Waffle House Index” to help determine the severity of a storm. Waffle Houses rarely close, they want to stay open as long as possible as the company knows in many communities it may be the only place for residents and emergency personnel to get a meal. The company also assists with employees from other stores in nearby, less effected, regions to go into disaster zones and fill the jobs at Waffle Houses so those employees can take care of their families and situations as a result of the hurricane, tornado or other event.


Here is a good article on the Waffle House Index. Just so you know, Stage Yellow probably means no bacon—you can get sausage because it takes up less grill space and takes less time to cook so the restaurant can serve more people faster by taking bacon of the restricted menu.


Have a great week,



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