When an individual’s income starts growing and they manage to set aside some savings, they commonly experience what may be considered an innate instinct of modern civilized mankind: the desire to spend money. Since North Americans have a special love affair with the automobile, this becomes a high priority item on the shopping list. Later, other things will be added and one of those will probably be a house.
However, by the time home ownership has become more than a distant and hopeful dream, you may have already bought the car. It happens all the time, sometimes just before you contact a lender to get pre-qualified for a mortgage.
As part of the interview, you may tell the loan officer your price target. They will ask about your income, your savings and your debts, and then give you their opinion. Often you may hear, “If only you didn’t have this car payment, you would certainly qualify for a home loan to buy that house.” The remainder of this article explains the reasons for this.
Debt-to-Income Ratios and Car Payments
When determining your ability to qualify for a mortgage, a lender looks at what is called your “debt-to-income” ratio. A debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of your gross monthly income (before taxes) that you spend on debt. This will include your monthly housing costs, such as principal, interest, taxes, insurance, and homeowner’s association fees, if any. It will also include your monthly consumer debt, including credit cards, student loans, installment debt, and…car payments.
How a New Car Payment Reduces Your Purchase Price
Suppose you earn $5000 a month and you have a car payment of $400. At current interest rates, you would qualify for approximately $55,000 less than if you did not have the car payment.
Even if you feel you can afford the car payment, mortgage companies approve your mortgage based on their guidelines, not yours. Do not get discouraged. You should still take the time to get pre-qualified by a lender. However, if you have not already bought a car, remember one thing: whenever the thought of buying a car enters your mind, be cautious. Think about buying a home first. For most folks, buying a home is a much more important purchase when considering your future financial well-being.