Kevin Song, Serving Your Real Estate Needs in Waltham, Watertown, Arlington, Cambridge, Somerville


Home prices may vary greatly throughout the country. But, buying a home is most likely the largest purchase you will make in your life.

Deciding just how much to spend on your home isn’t just a matter of numbers--it also depends on your lifestyle and long-term goals.

In today’s post, I’m going to give you a few ways you can help determine how much is a safe amount to spend on your home so that you’ll feel confident moving into the home buying process that you’re making the best decision for you and your family.

Mortgage as a percent of your income

Like most large purchases, buying a home typically isn’t dependent on the amount you have in the bank. Rather, it depends on several factors including your income, credit score, and the type of lifestyle you want to maintain.

One of the simplest ways to determine how much house you can afford is to figure out what percent of your monthly income your mortgage and insurance will be.

For most homeowners, a mortgage payment that is 25% of their income or less is ideal. So, if you earn $6,000 per month, you don’t want your monthly mortgage payment to exceed $1,500.

This “25% rule” does have one flaw, however, and that does not--and cannot--account for each individual’s financial circumstances.

Let’s say, for example, that you earn $6,000 per month, but that you have a large monthly car payment and are trying to aggressively pay off your student loans. You might find that paying another $1,500 toward a mortgage on top of your current bills is bringing you over budget, especially when combined with your other monthly expenses and retirement contributions.

Plan for homeowner expenses

Another caveat to determining how much to spend on a home is that the home itself will require a budget for maintenance. When renting an apartment, repairs are mostly the responsibility of the landlord or property manager.

Homeownership, on the other hand, requires you to make the repairs yourself or hire a professional. And, if you neglect these repairs, you might find that they cost you even more in the long run or drive down the value of your home.

Create a comprehensive budget

Throughout a given person’s life, they’ll experience raises, promotions, layoffs, medical expenses, childcare costs, and any other number of financial changes. While it isn’t possible to foresee all of the financial fluctuations you’ll experience in life, it is always helpful to have a comprehensive budget.

What do I mean by “comprehensive budget”? The goal of a good budget is to know where each dollar of your income is currently going and to have a plan for each cent that you make. This is a proactive approach to budgeting that will give you an exact number for the amount you can afford when it comes to a mortgage payment.

Within your budget, it’s vital to account for things like an emergency fund, retirement, savings for vacations, and so on.

If you take this due diligence, not only will you have a better sense of where your money goes, but you’ll also be confident in knowing exactly how much you can spend on a home.


The kitchen is one of the busiest rooms in a home. Not just a place to cook meals it’s also often the entrance to a home and where families gather together at the end of the day. Arguably, it’s also the most important room in the home and the one home buyers should be most astute of.

The kitchen is one of the most expensive rooms to remodel ranging between $20,000 and $50,000. Whether you’re eager for some renovation projects or looking for a move-in ready home, you’ll want to assess the level of work this room will need as your shop potential houses.

Start with perhaps the most obvious - is the room large enough for your daily needs? Is there plenty of counter space or room to expand cabinetry? Do you have a lot of kitchen tools that call for plenty of storage space or perhaps prefer an island to prep dinner at? Know what your ideal kitchen space ahead of time, especially if it is a priority, so your realtor can help you find the perfect fit.

Check that all appliances to ensure they are in working order as per the disclosure statement claims. Appliances are a big expense and you’ll want to have a good idea of what will need replacing or to be installed. Consider if they are an easy color to match when it comes time for replacement and if any are under warranty.

You’ll also want to examine the cabinetry. Check to ensure all drawers and cabinets are properly aligned and open smoothly. If they are wooden cabinets you can easily swap out hardware or change the color if you’re not a fan of the current style. However, other materials are not as convenient so consider replacement costs if you’re unhappy with the current installation.

Countertops can be another major expense. Have the granite countertops been properly taken care of? If they are laminate are they scratched or chipped? If this isn’t an upgrade you’re looking to make, be sure to look closely at what each home already has in place.

Kitchens are one of the busiest rooms in your home, especially if you love to cook. Check flooring for loose tiles, discoloration or poorly maintained wood flooring. This tells you a few things. Firstly, the quality of the materials used to build the home. And secondly, how well the house has been maintained over time.

Remodeling isn’t on everyone's list when house shopping. And with kitchen’s being one of the most expensive to renovate, this is one room you want to pay extra attention to as you view each potential home. Happy house hunting!


If you plan to buy a house, you'll want to apply for a mortgage before you launch your house search. That way, you'll have your finances in order and can narrow your home search accordingly.

Ultimately, there are several steps that you should take prior to applying for a mortgage, and these are:

1. Check Your Credit Score

A bank or credit union likely will analyze your credit score as it reviews your mortgage application. However, you can find out your credit score free of charge before you kick off the mortgage application process.

You are eligible to receive a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Submit a request for your credit report today, and you can receive comprehensive insights into your credit history.

2. Examine Your Earnings and Debt

How much you currently earn and your outstanding debt could play pivotal roles in your ability to acquire a favorable mortgage. Thus, you'll want to examine these factors closely so that you can better understand how lenders will view your mortgage application.

Also, if you have lots of outstanding debt, there is no need to worry. If you allocate the necessary time and resources to learn about your debt and pay it off, you can increase the likelihood of obtaining a favorable mortgage.

3. Establish a Budget

Although a mortgage may prove to be essential to buy a house, it is important to consider various homebuying expenses as well.

For example, you may need to pay closing costs, home inspection fees and other expenses throughout the homebuying process. If you're worried about having the necessary finances to cover these costs, you may want to start saving money for them as soon as possible.

It often helps to account for the costs associated with cable, electricity, internet and other home must-haves too. The aforementioned homeownership expenses can add up quickly, but those who plan ahead can ensure they have sufficient funds available to cover these costs.

As you prepare to search for a house, it usually is a great idea to hire a real estate agent. This housing market can help you prepare for each stage of the homebuying cycle and ensure you can achieve your homebuying goals.

Typically, a real estate agent will meet with you and find out what you want in a dream house. This housing market professional then can keep you up to date about residences that match or exceed your expectations.

Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent understands that no one should be forced to overspend to acquire their ideal residence. As such, this housing market professional will make it simple for you to discover a terrific house at a budget-friendly price.

Lastly, don't hesitate to reach out to a real estate agent for guidance before you apply for a mortgage. With a real estate agent at your side, you can learn about lenders in your area and find one that can provide you with the financing that you need to purchase your dream house.


For those who want to enjoy a quick, seamless homebuying experience, it helps to prepare as much as possible. In fact, those who plan ahead may be better equipped than others to avoid various challenges throughout the homebuying cycle.

From struggling to obtain home financing after a seller accepts your offer to purchase to struggling to find the right home in one of your preferred cities and towns, myriad issues may make it tough for you to achieve your desired results on the homebuying journey. Fortunately, we're here to help you minimize risk as you pursue your dream residence.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you avoid a homebuying fiasco.

1. Establish Homebuying Criteria

If you enter the housing market with criteria in hand, you can narrow your house search. As a result, you may be able to accelerate your journey from homebuyer to homeowner.

Think about where you want to live. Then, you can hone your home search and focus exclusively on houses in specific cities and towns.

It also may be beneficial to establish a list of home must-haves and wants. This list can help you determine exactly what you want to find in your dream house so you can map out your home search accordingly.

2. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

There is no need to wait to get a mortgage. Thankfully, lenders are available that can help you get approved for a mortgage before you kick off your home search.

Meet with a variety of banks and credit unions – you'll be glad you did. This will allow you to learn about the ins and outs of different mortgage options.

Furthermore, don't hesitate to ask questions about all of the mortgage options at your disposal. Because if you understand exactly how a mortgage works, you can make an informed mortgage decision.

3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent

When it comes to avoiding problems during the homebuying journey, it generally is a good idea to hire a real estate agent. This housing market professional will offer comprehensive support at each stage of the homebuying journey. By doing so, a real estate agent will ensure you can quickly and effortlessly navigate the housing market.

For example, if you want to find a house in a small town, a real estate agent will help you explore residences that match your expectations. He or she will set up home showings and keep you informed about open house events. Plus, if you identify your dream house, a real estate agent will help you submit a competitive offer to purchase.

Let's not forget about the housing market expertise that a real estate agent possesses, either. If you ever have concerns or questions as you pursue your dream house, a real estate agent is happy to address them at any time.

Want to discover your dream residence? Use the aforementioned tips, and you can reduce the risk of encountering problems as you search for your ideal residence.


A closing represents the final stage before a buyer acquires a house. At this point, a buyer and seller will meet and finalize an agreement. And if everything goes according to plan, a buyer will exit a closing as the owner of a new residence.

Ultimately, there are several steps that a buyer should complete to prepare for a home closing, and these are:

1. Review Your Home Financing

Typically, a lender will provide full details about your monthly mortgage payments for the duration of your home loan. This information is important, as it highlights exactly how much that you will be paying for your house.

Assess your home loan information prior to a closing. That way, if you have any home loan concerns or questions, you can address them before your closing day arrives.

If you allocate the necessary time and resources to review your home financing, you may be able to alleviate stress prior to closing day. In fact, once you know that all of your home financing is in order, you can enter a closing with the confidence that you'll be able to cover your mortgage expenses.

2. Perform a Final Walk-Through

A final walk-through provides a last opportunity to evaluate a residence before you complete your purchase. Thus, you will want to take advantage of this opportunity to ensure that a seller has completed any requested repairs and guarantee that a house matches your expectations.

Oftentimes, a final walk-through requires only a few minutes to complete. The inspection generally may be completed a few days before a closing as well.

It is essential to keep in mind, however, that a final walk-through won't always go according to plan. If you give yourself plenty of time for a final walk-through, you should have no trouble getting the best-possible results.

Try to schedule a final walk-through at least a week before a closing. By doing so, you'll ensure that a seller can perform any requested repairs prior to closing day.

3. Get Your Paperwork Ready

During a home closing, you'll likely need to provide proof of home insurance, a government-issued photo ID and other paperwork. If you get required documents ready ahead of time, you won't have to scramble at the last minute to retrieve assorted paperwork for your closing.

If you need help preparing for a home closing, there is no need to worry. Real estate agents are available nationwide, and these housing market professionals can guide you along each stage of the homebuying journey.

A real estate agent will help you find a house, submit an offer on it and conduct a house inspection. Plus, this housing market professional can provide recommendations throughout the homebuying process to help you achieve your desired results. And as closing day approaches, a real estate agent is available to respond to your homebuying concerns and questions too.

Prepare for a home closing – follow the aforementioned steps, and you can seamlessly navigate the home closing process.




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