Foreclosure rates are as alarming as unemployment rates. Deciding what to do if your home is threatened in this way is a severe test of maturity. We don’t want to lose what is usually both our biggest financial investment and, truly, our safety and refuge.
As a general rule, the housing industry considers a loan affordable if your overall monthly mortgage payments do not exceed somewhere between 29% and 33% of your gross monthly income. This is frequently called your income to mortgage debt ratio. For example, if your annual gross income is $75,000, then your mortgage payments should not exceed $2,062 if you use the 33% figure. They should not exceed $1,562 if you use a more modest 25% income-to-mortgage debt ratio.
You should tailor these numbers to your particular situation. If you have a child with special needs or two kids in college, for example, your mortgage payment might not be affordable even if it’s below the recommended 29-33% income to mortgage debt ratio. On the flip side, if you have few other expenses (perhaps you live simply, don’t own a car, or grow some of your own food), you might be able to afford a mortgage payment that exceeds the 29-33% figure.
Reprinted with permission from the publisher, Nolo, Copyright 2009.