When a person embarks on the tumultuous journey of a first time home purchase, or for that matter a second or third time home purchase, one of their top priorities is often 'how much can we afford?'. Better yet, I feel the question should be 'how much of our after tax and utility money should we allocate towards paying off our mortgage'.
If you choose to use online tools in order to give you this information, please avoid using this one: Canadian financial news source The Globe & Mail runs a great website called globeinvestor.com. On this website down the left panel in the 'resources' section you'll find a link called 'Mortgage Snapshot'. This link contains the latest mortgage rates from various lenders as well as a chart titled 'How Much Can You Afford'. The chart indicates that if you earn a gross income is $120,000 you can afford a mortgage of $461,808, which provides a home worth $615,744 using a 25% down payment of $153,936 and a 5.8% interest rate. What!
Let's look at this a little closer. Let's assume this gross income is made up of a dual income couple earning $60,000 each per year. After tax, Employment Insurance Contributions, and Canadian Pension Plan Fees they would bring home about $44,000 each, or $88,000 per year. Let's remove RRSP contributions of a responsible 10% of gross income ($12,000 total). Let's also remove a conservative property tax amount of $2,500 per year, heating of $1,500/year, and electricity/water of $1,500/year.
We now arrive at a value of $70,500 for the money our lovely couple will actually have access to, after the tax man, heat, power, and retirement are all taken care of. This is $2,712 bi-weekly.
Using the 'What Will My Payments Be' calculator on BMO.com we see that this couple's bi-weekly mortgage payment would be $1,333. Taking their mortgage payment as a percentage of the money they'll actually have access to, we arrive at 49%. If they decided to make accelerated bi-weekly payments instead to reduce their amortization time to under 25 years, the figure becomes $1,450 or 53% of their accessible funds. So more than half of their disposable income would go to mortgage payments, and this is not even accounting for other fixed costs like groceries and insurance. This situation would be far from ideal. In fact, it might not even be possible. Considering vehicles, daycare, clothes, gifts, cable tv, maternity leave, vacations, and a broken furnace, this mortgage does not seem feasible in the least.
The source for this information on the globeinvestor website is not listed. I believe that this chart is very poor resource for home buyers and it is irresponsible of The Globe & Mail to provide this resource to reader.