“Chances are if you are renting you are spending too much of your income on your monthly housing expense,” according to mortgage expert Kevin Pierce from Mid America Mortgage. “There is a long-standing ‘rule’ that a household should not pay more than 28% of their income on their rent or mortgage payment. This percentage allows the household to save money for the future while comfortably covering other expenses.”
That rule, known as the 28/36 rule, also states that a household should spend “no more than 36% on total debt service, including housing and other debt such as car loans,” said Investopedia. “This rule is used by mortgage lenders and other creditors to assess borrowing capacity, the premise being that debt loads in excess of the 28/36 parameters would be difficult for an individual or household to service and may eventually lead to default.”
Landlords may also use calculations similar to this to qualify renters—and some cap that amount even lower, at 25%, said Quicken. Although, if you look at nationwide data, it appears that renters are significantly “cost-burdened, meaning they spent more than 30% of their monthly incomes on rent” last year, said ApartmentList.com, according to Pierce. Their data from 2017 shows 49.5 million renters in this precarious financial position, accounting “for nearly half of all renter households in the country.”
For many renters, especially in popular cities and nice places, it’s just not possible to live within those means. Another survey, this one from Rent.com, focused on 1,000 millennial renters between the ages of 18 and 34, and found that more than half are overspending and “nearly 1 out of 5 of the renters surveyed said that over half of their income went to paying rent each month,” said Forbes.
The immediate issue here is the fact that spending all that money on rent leaves many people feeling stressed and pressured just to make enough to pay the landlord every month. Staying in a rental situation and paying someone else’s mortgage every month when they could be earning equity on their own home stifles personal economic growth, not to mention creating a glaring lack of savings, funds for emergencies and retirement, or any ability to change their circumstance.
This revelation is often the catalyst for renters to first look into buying a home, and that is often followed by the shock of finding out that buying may not be out of reach, like they may have thought. Yes, when it comes to renting vs. buying, what consumers don’t know could hurt them. Finding out that buying a home in a particular area could actually cost around the same as renting, and that down payment and closing cost help may also be available, is a life-changer.
“Bottom line: you have nothing to lose by talking with a lender and seeing if you can qualify for a loan, how much home, if any, you can buy, and how the payments compare to what you are currently paying in rent,” said Pierce. “It may inspire a home purchase right now, or one you can work toward in the future.”