Before You Start House Hunting, Consider These 4 Budgeting Tips

This simple step-by-step guide will help you figure out how much house you can comfortably afford, before you get in over your head.

When buying a home, it's important to factor in all the associated costs as you set your home budget—not just for the initial purchase, but also for commonly forgotten post-purchase expenses. Follow these steps and consider variable expenses like insurance, taxes, utilities, homeowners association (HOA) fees and appliances to get the best possible picture of what to expect.

1. Review your monthly income and expenses

To start figuring out your new home budget, calculate your household's monthly income first. Then, list your current monthly expenses: utilities, car payments, insurance, groceries, credit card payments, student loans and any other bills you pay regularly.

Pro tip: Check your bank statements to figure out how much you're spending on optional expenses, like new clothes and going out to eat. This will help you see exactly where each dollar is going and if there's room for adjustments.

2. Determine the down payment

The down payment likely will be your biggest upfront cost, and on many conventional loans it can be 20 percent of the total cost of the home. For a $150,000 home, that's a down payment of $30,000.

However, not all down payments are as high as 20 percent, and some loans may not require a down payment at all. BB&T offers several loan options that have low down payments and can work with you to determine which best suits your needs. Factors like the type of loan you're getting and your credit profile also affect your down payment requirements. When you find the right home, BB&T can help you figure out what your down payment should be for the loan you choose.

Typically, your down payment would come from cash you've saved. So if you're not already there, calculate how long it'll take you to save for your down payment. Put that money somewhere safe and accessible!

Pro tip: There may be programs in your state to help make home ownership more affordable. Read about qualifying for down payment assistance.

3. Figure out the monthly costs

These include everything from your mortgage payments to paying for yard work. Start with BB&T's mortgage payment calculator, which provides insight on how much you'll need to pay monthly for your mortgage and taxes, in addition to closing costs at the time of purchase. Closing costs can include fees for the appraisal, lender, home title, escrow and interest.

While mortgage payments and your utilities will likely be your biggest monthly expenses, you need to leave room in your home budget for potential costs like HOA fees and general maintenance. For example, if your new home has a yard, are you going to pay someone to maintain it? How old are the heating and air systems? Consider setting aside at least 1 percent of your home's value each year for maintenance costs—for a $150,000 home, that's $1,500 per year, or $125 per month.

Pro tip: Your monthly insurance costs will likely change, too, especially if you're moving from renters insurance to homeowners insurance. Depending on your loan, you may also need private mortgage insurance.

4. Account for any upfront expenses

Other than your down payment and closing costs, potential expenses that you can incur up front include:

  • Appraisals
  • Inspections
  • Paint
  • Appliances
  • Furniture
  • Lawn and garden equipment
  • Moving expenses
  • Unexpected repairs

Pro tip: Ask for and review a copy of your final closing costs well before the settlement, so you don't experience "sticker shock" when signing the papers. You'll receive your final closing disclosure at least three business days prior to closing. Be sure to review all costs and speak with your BB&T mortgage loan professional if you have any questions.

Keep it up. You're getting smarter about home buying.

Related topics

How Much Home Can You Afford?  (Video)

Consider all of the costs that go into buying a home so that you can make a good decision about your home purchase price.

How Much Will My Mortgage Payments Be?  (Calculator)

Find out how much your monthly fixed-rate mortgage payments will be based on loan amount, interest rate and loan term.

Where to Find Down Payment Assistance  (Article)

When you don't have much for a down payment, down payment assistance options can help you get into a home.

Loans, lines of credit and credit cards are subject to credit approval.

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