Housing by the Numbers

Zillow

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Are you looking to buy a house? Rent? Here are some important numbers to keep in mind as they may apply to you and your transaction.

Your credit score

While you likely know how important this little three-digit number is if you’re looking to buy a home (Zillow’s analysis of more than 25,000 loan quotes and purchase requests shows that you need a score of 740 or above to get the best mortgage rates), it’s also really important if you’re looking to rent — especially in a market that’s as competitive as the one we’re currently in. If you’ve got good credit, flaunt it! Use it, as well as your steady job, as a negotiating tool to get a better deal. After all, model tenants, who save landlords both time and money, are hard to come by.

Mortgage rates

Mortgage rates are hovering near two-year highs — currently 4.29 percent for a 30-year fixed loan, according to Zillow Mortgage Marketplace — and they’re only expected to continue to rise, particularly as the job market improves and the economy strengthens. Point being, if you’re interested in buying, and you’re thinking long term, you might want to get off the fence sooner, rather than later. After all, every 1 percentage point increase in mortgage rates makes a home about 12 percent more expensive for buyers.

Total costs of home ownership                          

Your housing costs — which include your mortgage, insurance and taxes — will vary significantly depending on where you live. It’s a good rule of thumb that costs should be no more than 25 to 28 percent of your monthly income. If you’re over these percentages, but are creditworthy, you can, of course, shrink your monthly costs by making a larger down payment. To run the numbers and how much you can afford, use the calculators on Zillow.

Rental costs

Because rental costs vary widely from city to city (average rates in New York City have climbed to more than $3,000 — that’s about three times the national average!) as little as 15 percent to as much 50 percent of your income could easily go to your landlord. The general ballpark figure, however, is 30 percent. Think: 40-1 rule. An $1,800 monthly rent payment would mean you’d have to be making $72,000 a year (40 X 1,800 = 72,000), or be open to a having a roommate.

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Vera Gibbons is a financial journalist based in New York City and is a contributor to Zillow Blog. Connect with her at http://veragibbons.com/.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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