The 30/30/3 Home-Buying Rule To Follow

If you're trying to figure out how much to spend on buying a house, the best home-buying rule I can offer you is my 30/30/3 home-buying rule. I came up with the 30/30/3 home-buying rule back in 2009 during the global financial crisis. Since then, many publications and industry pundits have promoted it since.

If you follow my home-buying rule, you will have a greater chance of surviving any financial downturn. My 30/30/3 home-buying rule will also help you keep you disciplined when buying property during a hot market like the one we're in now.

Even if you just follow one part of the rule, you will also be able to enjoy your property more because you will be less stressed about your finances. But ideally, you follow two or more parts of the three-part home buying rule.

Way too many homebuyers overextended themselves during the 2008-2009 financial crisis. As a result, most of us paid the price. Having your neighbor conduct a short sale or foreclosure isn't good for your wealth even if you borrowed well within your means.

There is a lot of demand for real estate during the pandemic. Work from home is growing and people want to own a real asset that appreciates in value over time.

My housing market outlook over the next 10 years is positive. However, I also expect home prices to fall by 10% – 20% from peak to trough after a surge in mortgage rates. But I expect inflation and mortgage rates will fall again, boosting demand for housing once more.

I just want all of us to buy a home responsibly. Please follow my 30/30/3 home-buying rule. Not only will the rule save you from a lot of stress, but it will also better protect our economy.

The 30/30/3 Home-Buying Rule

Here is my 30/30/3 home-buying rule to follow. The goal is to follow each part of the 30/30/3 home-buying rule to be a financially responsible home buyer. If you can’t, you must follow at least one.

Home-Buying Rule #1: Spend no more than 30% of your gross income on a monthly mortgage payment.

Traditionally, the industry says to spend no more than 30% of your gross income on your monthly mortgage payment. However, as mortgage rates continue to decline, more people are tempted to increase the percentage.

When mortgage rates are lower, you can already buy more home if you keep your spending as a percentage of gross income fixed. The danger emerges when you break this home-buying rule percentage to buy an even more expensive home.

The people most at risk of breaking the first rule of home-buying are middle income to lower income people.

Spending 40% of your monthly $50,000 gross income on a mortgage still leaves you with $30,000 in gross income. However, spending 40% of your monthly $5,000 gross income leaves you with a much smaller cushion.

You must be able to take care of your basic needs with the remaining money. Therefore, it is safer to spend less of your monthly gross income on a mortgage the more income challenged you are. 

Home-Buying Rule #2: Have at least 30% of the home value saved up in cash or semi-liquid assets.

Before buying a home, you should have at least 30% of the value of the home saved in cash. 20% is for the downpayment to avoid PMI insurance and get the lowest mortgage rate. The other 10% is for a healthy cash buffer just in case you run into financial trouble.

I realize that there are programs that allow you to put down a smaller down payment. However, during times of maximum uncertainty, it's better to have a larger financial cushion.

The homeowners who got blown out the quickest during the previous recession had minimal down payments. With minimal equity, the temptation to walk away from a mortgage is much greater. The thousands who did between 2008 -2012 missed out on one of the largest real estate recoveries ever.

If you are planning on buying a home within the next six months, keep at least the 20% down payment in cash. It is unwise to invest your downpayment in stocks and other risk assets if your home-buying time horizon is so short.

If you don't have at least 30% of the value of the home saved up, it's time to curtail your desires. Eat ramen noodles for the next six months to save money. Start a side hustle to boost your income.

Borrowing the downpayment from the Bank of Mom is pretty common nowadays. However, before you do, you need to ensure that you aren't putting your parents at financial risk.

Home-Buying Rule #3: Limit the value of your target home to no more than 3X your annual household gross income.

The final part of my 30/30/3 rule is great for doing a quick scan at homes you can afford.

Home affordability based on cash flow is a function of the price you pay for the home. If you are able to meet the first two home-buying rules, then you can tie it all together with the final home-buying rule.

Rule #3 is a quick way for homebuyers to screen for homes in an affordable price range. The rule also takes into consideration down payment percentages and prevents one from stretching too much, even with a high down payment.

If you earn $100,000 a year, you can comfortably afford up to a $300,000 home. Or maybe you are lucky enough to earn a top 1% income of $500,000 a year. If so, then you can comfortably afford up to a $1,500,000 home.

If mortgage rates are declining and you're bullish about your income growth, you could stretch the third home-buying rule and extend the home value up to 5X your annual household income.

Just know that 5X a larger salary not only means more absolute debt, but also higher property taxes, maintenance expenses, and so forth. Make sure you run all the numbers before you make any home purchase.

With the expansion of the multiple up to 5X, you can also name my home-buying rule the 30/30/3-5 rule. But I wouldn't spend much more than 3X your household income on a home if your mortgage rate is over 6%.

Home-Buying Examples Using My 30/30/3 Rule

To help illustrate my home-buying guide, here are some examples. Buying a home is an incredibly emotional process, so it's good to run through the numbers. The last thing you want to do is buy a home and feel stressed every night about your finances.

Two examples of following or closely following the 30/30/3 home-buying rule

You make $100,000 a year and have $120,000 in cash saved. You desire to buy a $300,000 home. After putting 20% down, you have a $240,000 mortgage.

The monthly payment is $1,012 or just 12% of your monthly gross income. With a $60,000 cash buffer left, you have almost five years of mortgage expense covered.

With the same income and cash savings, you decide to live it up a little and buy a $400,000 home instead. After putting 20% down, you have a $320,000 mortgage and still have a good $40,000 cash buffer.

Your monthly payment is $1,349/month at a 3% mortgage rate. The payment is still only 16% of your monthly gross income of $8,333. This is good compared to the 30% maximum recommendation.

When mortgage rates are low, you can see how stretching to buy a house worth 4X or even 5X your annual income is possible. However, I do recommended sticking to a 3X multiple if you want that wonderful feeling of financial security.

If America was filled with homebuyers like this, then the 2008-2009 housing crisis would not have been nearly as bad. Unfortunately, too many homebuyers didn't follow the 30/30/3 home-buying rule. Most of us suffered as a result due to foreclosures and short-sales that brought our property values down.

Don't forget, there was once a time when most home buyers bought homes with cash!

An example of someone not following the 30/30/3 home-buying rule

You make $120,000 a year and have $100,000 in cash saved at 32 years old. Not bad. However, you're also salivating for an $850,000 home, which equates to 7X your annual income.

You can't put 20% down so you only put 10% down. This leaves you with only a $15,000 cash buffer and a $765,000 mortgage.

Due to a lower down payment, the best mortgage rate you can get is 3.75%. This is still low by historical standards. However, your monthly payment of $3,543 is 35.4% of your $10,000 gross income. It’s probably closer to 40% due to PMI. You have now violated all three of my home-buying rules.

If you lose your job, you will run out of cash in four months. You may get lucky holding on with enhanced government unemployment benefits and a couple stimulus checks. However, think about how stressed you will be during this time period.

Instead of buying this home now, first save up another $155,000 to get to $255,000 in cash and semi-liquid investments. With 30% of the home price saved, you can put down 20% and have a nice $85,000 cash cushion.

Further, your mortgage will decline to $680,000. At a 3.25% mortgage rate, your mortgage payment would be $2,959 or 29.6% of your monthly gross income. If your income increases while you are patiently saving for a larger downpayment, even better. Shop around for a better rate.

Another example of a terrible violation of the 30/30/3 rule

Rule #3 helps prevent a homebuyer from going off the deep end. Sometimes, people confuse their own true buying power with reality. Receiving a windfall can play tricks on some people.

Let’s say you make $70,000 and have a $500,000 down payment due to an inheritance. You feel rich! As a result, you may be tempted to buy a $1 million home since you can put $500,000 down.

If you do, your $2,316 monthly mortgage payment equals 40% of your monthly gross income. But then you get furloughed shortly after purchase with no pay. Three months into furlough, your boss says they won't ever be hiring you back. You are screwed because you have no cash buffer. You thought the $500,000 windfall would be a regular thing. But people only die once.

You end up going into foreclosure. Your credit and finances are ruined. The property values on your block all take a hit thanks to you. Your financial life is over for several years.

Or in one man's case after foreclosing on his home, he went on to get a job at The New York Times as a finance columnist. That's right, even after deciding not pay back his mortgage, he still got a job giving financial advice. Anything is possible folks.

Ways To Get Around The 30/30/3 Home-Buying Rule

Although the 30/30/3 home-buying rule may seem stringent in such a low interest rate environment, just know plenty of people pay all-cash for their homes too. This idea of taking on lots of debt to buy property hasn't always been the norm.

If you want to violate the 30/30/3 home-buying rule, then at least consider the following:

  • Rent out a room or a portion of your house
  • Create a business on the side to have a legitimate way to deduct a home office and other expenses like internet
  • Be in line for a raise or secure a new job with a raise and promotion
  • Be really good to your parents and rich relatives
  • Pay cash for a home

Income And Net Worth Necessary To Buy A Home Using The 30/30/3 Home Buying Rule

For those of you looking for an easy chart, here's one I created that shows how much you should make and what your net worth should be before buying a home. The recommendations follow my 30/30/3 home buying rule.

Income and net worth necessary to buy a home at different price points

Have Discipline When Buying A Home

I get your desire to own a nice primary residence (another home buying rule based on net worth). I've been a real estate fanatic since I was in college. We want to live life to the fullest now! What's the point in working so hard if we're just going to hoard our cash right?

A home can be a solid investment. It not only provides shelter, but it can also be rented out. Your home could even appreciate handsomely in value over time. Due to home price appreciation, many people I know have effectively lived for free over the decades.

Further, if your kid graduates with no employment prospects after four years of college and $200,000 in tuition expense, he can live in one of your investment properties. There would be no need for your adult child to live with you. This option may be worth a lot to some investors.

Despite all these benefits of investing in real estate, just don't overextend your finances when buying a home. The stress is not worth it. Here's a podcast episode where I talk to my wife about overcoming the emotional stress of buying a new home.

Keep Housing Expenses To A Minimum For financial Independence

For those of you who are looking to achieve financial independence sooner, follow the FI home-buying rule. This rule recommends you keep your home expense to no more than 10% of your monthly gross income.

If you follow the FI home-buying rule, your path to financial independence will be much swifter. You may even start feeling as light as a bird.

At the very least, please follow my 30/30/3 home-buying rule before making one of the biggest purchases of your life. It'll be good for you in the long run. It'll also be great for your neighbors and the entire financial system as there will be less of a chance you'll be foreclosed. 

Best of luck in your house hunt. Please stay disciplined! I expect the real estate market to stay strong for years post-pandemic. But that doesn’t mean you should go overboard when buying a home.

Real Estate Recommendations

1) Explore private real estate opportunities.

If you don't have the downpayment to buy a property, don't want to deal with the hassle of managing real estate, or don't want to tie up your liquidity in physical real estate, take a look at Fundrise. Fundrise is one of the largest real estate crowdfunding companies today with diversified eREITs focused mainly on Sunbelt real estate. Fundrise is free to sign up and look.

If you like to invest in individual real estate opportunities and are an accredited investor, take a look at CrowdStreet. CrowdStreet focuses mainly on real estate opportunities in 18-hour cities, where valuations tend to be cheaper and growth rates tend to be higher.

Personally, I've invested $954,000 in private real estate to diversify my real estate exposure, take advantage of lower valuations and higher rental yields across the country. As I get older, I also want to simplify life and earn income more passively. The spreading out of America is a permanent trend post-pandemic.

2) Shop around for a mortgage

Check out Credible, my favorite mortgage marketplace where prequalified lenders compete for your business. You can get competitive, real quotes in under three minutes for free. Mortgage rates are still very low, but they are ticking up. Take advantage and save. Mortgage rates are finally coming down again after so many rate hikes since 2022.

The 30/30/3 Home-Buying Rule is a FS original post. FS has been around since 2009 and is one of the largest independently owned personal finance sites in the world. Everything is based off firsthand experience. You can join 60,000+ others and sign up for my free weekly newsletter here.

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173 thoughts on “The 30/30/3 Home-Buying Rule To Follow”

  1. Isn’t the maximum mortgage to income ratio that traditional lenders will lend on 28%? If so, rule #1 wouldn’t be possible at 30%. However, the 3X rule (#3) would keep people well below 30% on rule #1 unless mortgage rates were over 10%, so maybe that is a moot point as long as we don’t return to 1980.

    1. Yes, lenders usually require the PITI (principle, interest, taxes, and insurance), or your housing expenses, to be less than or equal to 25% to 28% of monthly gross income. Lenders call this the “front-end” ratio.

      However, during boom times or undisciplined times, some lenders lend more and some borrowers fudge their incomes in ways to get to below 30%, when the real percentage is actually higher.

  2. Hello Sam,

    I’ve been following your blog for a while and I know you generally like real estate.

    I was curious what your opinion is on this article which argues in favor of renting (at least if you only have one residence). It’s a bit of a long read, but I would really appreciate it if you could provide your opinion. Thank you for all your great articles!

    1. Hi Thomas – When you’re younger and don’t own a home, there is a tendency to argue for why renting is better. The reality is, inflation, population growth, capitalism, are too hard to go against long term. You want to ride the inflation wave long term, not get beat up by it.

      If you rent, you are short the real estate market. Just like shorting the S&P 500 long term isn’t a good idea, shorting the real estate market and being a price taker by renting isn’t the best idea.

      I encourage you to understand the background of the authors and those profiles in the article. It’s totally fine to rent. But the investment return on rent is always negative 100%. One of the featured people has been negative on housing since at least 2016. Since then, Canadian real estate (she lives in Canada) has skyrocketed.

      Another related post: My Favorite Asset Class To Build Wealth

      At the end of the day, do the math! It’s your money. And everything is rational in the end.


      1. Hi Sam,

        Wow, I did not expect such a detailed response so fast! Thank you so much.

        “At the end of the day, do the math!”
        I like this tip. After all, everyone’s situation is different. Personally, I’m young, single, and can’t afford a house anyway at the moment. However, I see the value in owning at least one home and want to own a home in the future.

        While you’re here, I just want to say I appreciate your blog and it has been very helpful to me. Although some of your rules seem a bit extreme at first, I like the fresh perspective that you offer compared to more mainstream financial advice.

        Keep up the good work!

  3. Hi Sam, great content! Great rules for home buying. I love your book too ☺️

    I was wondering what your thoughts are on breaking a mortgage (4.7%) with 450k remaining in expensive Vancouver and taking the equity (approx 900-950k gained from appreciation) to another Canadian heartland market, like Calgary or Alberta. Would you consider paying cash for a house up to 800k in the new cheaper market?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Scott,

      Thanks! If you don’t leaving a review on Amazon, I’d appreciate it!

      As per selling and relocating, tough to sell and pay taxes. As a result, I tend to buy, hold, rent out, and buy another place. But if the lifestyle in Calgary or Alberta suits you, then go for it. Locking in gains for a cheaper place is nice.


  4. When you say gross income do you mean before tax? For example if I earn a salary do you mean gross income is before personal income tax deducted?

  5. I don’t see how these three rules agree with each other. For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume you earn $100k per year. Thirty percent of that comes out to $2.5k per month. If you assume 4% continuously compounding interest, a 30 year term, and 20% down, we’re looking at a home value of ~$650k (albeit including all of the other fees in the home value itself), which is a 6.5x multiple of your salary, a far cry from the 3x or even 5x rule.

    It seems to me that the third rule is just a stricter version of the first rule, except stated slightly differently. Unless this article was written at a time when 2.5% interest was available, in which case you could get the multiple down to 5x with payments at 30% of your gross income if you conservatively went with a 15 year term and 25% down. But it seems to me that to do this is to give up the key advantage of a mortgage, which is all in the leverage.

    As far as the net worth rule goes, are we talking about home value as a percentage of net worth or home equity as a percentage of net worth. Because let’s say you have $150k in net financial assets and sell $100k of them to spend on a down payment on a $500k house. Your home value is now 3.33x your net worth whereas your home equity is now two thirds of your net worth. Are these rules meant to be about overspending on a house or overall exposure to real estate vs stocks?

    Anyway, it seems like there are a lot of interesting moving parts here relating to:
    -Over vs under spending on home value and luxury relative to your income
    -Tolerance for leverage
    -Outlook on inflation/deflation
    -Speculation on the price vs value of what you’re getting, as well as the future price of the property
    -Speculating on your own income growth
    -Preference for exposure to real estate vs financial securities, or using them to hedge against each other

    With all of these in mind, I think it might be smart to think less about the rules you propose and more about (1) getting a lot of value relative to the price you pay and (2) minimizing the interest rate, especially since the first of these is something you can’t ever change. But if the need ever arises, you COULD simply sell and buy something smaller, perhaps even at a profit. The name of the game might be to look for value (generally location more than luxury per se) and leverage it heavily.

    As a side note, home expenditure is really the only thing I can see growing infinitely with my income and wealth. At a certain point and not really that wealthy, expenditures on cars, clothes, food, travel, and whatever else stay the same even with more income/wealth. But I could spend arbitrarily much on an UES townhouse or alpine ski chalet or what have you and not feel like I was wasting the money.

    1. You should include taxes and insurance in the 30% of your gross income number. A $650k home might have $13k taxes and $2k property insurance. That means it’s not $2,500/mo it’s $3,750/mo which is $45,000/yr or 45% of your gross income.

  6. Thanks for the article! The last rule “limit price of house to 3x annual gross income” seems too conservative though.

    In your example: “You make $120,000 a year and have $100,000 in cash saved at 32 years old. Not bad. However, you’re also salivating for an $850,000 home, which equates to 7X your annual income.

    Instead of buying this home now, first save up another $155,000 to get to $255,000 in cash and semi-liquid investments. With 30% of the home price saved, you can put down 20% and have a nice $85,000 cash cushion.”

    Isn’t this person still violating the 3x annual income part of the rule, though? What’s the point at which having 30% of the price saved compensates for the house being worth >3x annual income?

    1. It is. Hence why I highlight it as a suboptimal decision and the need to come up with a larger downpayment and buffer.

      I discuss stretching to pay up to 5X your household income for your home in a low-interest rate environment. But that’s the limit. I wouldn’t go over that.

      While building up your downpayment, I would be investing in real estate in other ways, such as in public REITs or private real estate funds. The idea is you want to ride with the real estate market so if it explodes higher, you won’t get too far left behind.

  7. Hi Sam –

    I’m looking at a 650k house with annual taxes of 14k. We have 340k in cash. 200k in 401ks. 26k of debt. With the rate hike, I’m nervous. My annual salary has increased YoY, but I’m usually a conservative person. So let’s say it’s 180k combined. Can we afford it? Would you recommend a larger 40% down to lower the monthly rate due to cash flow concerns?

  8. Hi sam,
    I agree to your method.however,how bout someone who dont have same amount of income every year.
    Currently my net worth is around 2,6 mills( 700k in my current house,and the rest are in stock and gold).
    In 2019,i paid all my debt included business debt.
    In 2020,my net income is 350k,while last year my net income is 850k.The fluctuation is a lot.I am not sure this incoming year net income yet.
    My plan is to purchase a land with 800k-1 mills in value.i am gonna save 300k before i proceed with the plan.i will also build the land much later on,prob within 3-5 years.

  9. Samurai,
    I was wondering if you think my situation is worth breaking rule #2 for you…
    I make 95k gross, single guy, 25 years old. I have 15k saved for a down payment, and am looking at maximum 300k in the Tampa Bay area. I am planning on renting 2 of the 3 bedrooms to my brother and a friend. I am trying not to count on them in case things change, who knows when someone decides to move out, but I can at least count on them for a year or two. I could also likely find others to room with if that time comes. I have 30k left of student loans, but no other debt. Including my student debt, 401k, misc. assets, and additional cash savings, my net worth is still quite a ways shy of your minimum at 15k. I need a place to live relatively soon, and If I am paying this little for a mortgage with today’s rates, it seems much better than renting for more money monthly and no equity. By the time I could save 20% of the down payment, I would spend thousands in rent that could have gone towards building equity. Another pro is the tax breaks I would get for owning a home. What do you think? I appreciate your advice,


    1. I do exactly this, John. Buy a single family home with a 5% down payment, rent the spare bedrooms, then ask for the PMI to be dropped if the house appreciates.

  10. I don’t understand the logic to use gross income to calculate how much someone can afford for a monthly mortgage payment. Doesn’t it make more sense to use after tax monthly income? If a couple has a gross income of $150,000 and they max 401k and HSA , they are left with roughly $7100 after taxes and all deductions…. But you’re saying 30% of gross income would leave someone with a payment of $3750 per month… $7100 – $3750 does not leave a family with hardly any money left over per month.. why don’t we calculate mortgage payments based of what someone can afford after all deductions? That makes way more logical sense.

    1. You can do either. Gross is a way to make an easier apples-to-apples comparison given everybody has different tax rates and tax-advantaged retirement contribution amounts.

      A percent of gross income is also what lenders use, so it is consistent.

  11. Hey Sam!

    Great article, I wanted to see your thoughts if you think these rules still apply if you plan to house hack (i.e. Rent by the room, live in one of them) which covers your mortage and allows to live for free.


    1. I actually missed the rent bullet, which makes sense to me, what rules(if any) do you think still apply with the rent by the room?

      1. I would view renting out rooms for income as an insurance policy first. Don’t include the income when using the 30/30/3 rule.

        However, renting out extra rooms for income is definitely a great idea and one I did in my late 20s and early 30s for several years. We had a garden room we rented out that was separate from the main house.

  12. Hi Sam,

    Great article. For the first rule, what about closing costs? Property taxes, homeowners insurance? How do you factor all of that into it?

    Thank you

  13. I like your formula and it’s easy to understand. Thank you. We are wanting to purchase for sometime now (dying to buy already) we can do Rule #1 and Rule#3 and in 6-8 months time I’m sure we can do Rule #2 but I’m afraid the housing market may get worse for us buyers. Should I buy now??

  14. Thanks for the article, Sam.

    Your article made me realized I haven’t been spending ENOUGH on my primary. I essentially live free because I live in one unit of the duplex and own a short-term rental.

    The YOLO mentality has creeped in due to the pandemic years, my wife and I are looking to spend more. With recent promotions, run up on real estate and stocks, we are feeling comfortable. However, we don’t feel “rich” yet even though we are now 40% to our fat FIRE number. We, too, don’t know how to spend money.

    Now we are thinking of converting the duplex to a SFH. Why? Duplexes are cheaper than SFH with by sq footage when you compare fixers and full-remodeled properties. Or we could buy a 3rd house, not sure yet.

    1. What you’ve done is very smart, living in one unit and renting out the other. That is actually what I wrote I should have done instead of buy a single family home in SF in 2005. More efficient and better returns for sure.

      The thing is, if you don’t have kids yet, the extra space really won’t be used.

  15. Hi Sam, great article! My husband and I bought a house in LA this past Apr 2021. For those who think your 30/30/3 rule is impossible to follow in a high cost of living market; it’s tough, but doable!

    During our search, it was so hard to stay disciplined. We make 250K annual combined and it was too easy to increase our budget and justify it to ourselves because we live in LA. Our budget was at 750K but we could have stretched it to 1M…. We’d almost given up and joined the crowd, then we found our current house. It was listed for $825K, our offer was accepted at $820K and ultimately negotiated down to $795K during escrow. We shopped around at SO MANY banks and ultimately locked in a 2.75% 30yr fixed rate.

    Rule #1 – Our monthly mortgage is about 14% of our gross. Rule #2 – We put down 20% and have 10% saved in liquid assets. Rule #3 – The house is 3.18 (0.18 over rule #3) but we have a tenant in an adu that brings in monthly income, which we think makes up for it!

    I share my story in hopes of inspiring others in high cost of living areas to stay the course. It’s hard; but don’t join the crowd and keep your eyes open for opportunity! I recognize that this transaction would not have been possible on one income alone. If I was home buying by myself, I’d scale down to a smaller size property, maybe a condo vs a SFH, or look in areas where my budget would have still worked 1 hour outside of LA. Best of luck!

    1. Nice work! And isn’t it great to own a home that doesn’t financially stress you out? Times are good now. But sometimes, things turn south. To be able to comfortably afford a home over the long term is what it’s all about.

  16. Hi Sam,

    Thanks for this article and read. I realize all situations are different but we are a dual income household making 290k a year before large commission checks. I am basing our household income sans commission and am not comfortable assuming differntly. We are in the market and have the 20% downpayment and are currently in escrow on a 1.38 million dollar home, with a 3.1% interest rate. We certainly do not adhere to the 3% suggestion (although we live in CA and see you can go up to 5X), but adhere to the 30% Gross income rule (you are referring to Gross correct?) and 30% savings IF you taking into account our 401ks and stocks/index funds (which we hope to never touch). My question to you is how often do you think people still fail when they are very close/ hit the mjaority of your rules? This is stemming from an impeding doom feeling financially after we have already entered into the escrow process. Our numbers/budget at up, but the cost seems to ludicrous and irresponsible. ADditionally we do not have children yet and are currently auto saving about 1,500k a month under our budget mode. Which DOES not feel like enough since we are used to packing away about 40% of our income into savings to hit the money for the down payment. In summary, not that we have what we need, we are still feeling doubts. Kindly advise on if the numbers above sound fiscally responsible.Thank you!

  17. Sam, love your newsletter, BUT your 30/30/ 3 rule is way too restrictive for the middle income people in a high cost areas like LA, OC, SF, etc. I have owned my own mortgage company for 40 years now. The average mid income earner in a high cost area cannot save very much money. It would take them 10 years+ to save 20% down. The money lost in just the utility value of real estate without any appreciation is devastating. Lastly, in 2004 I did 13 media interviews of the upcoming financial disaster. It was very predictable because the lending guidelines were gone. 100% financing, stated income, etc. Today it is tough to qualify for loans. I do consumer educational events, one speaks on this topic it is titled “Build Wealth & Retire WITHOUT Saving Money thru RE.” I teach a real world solution to the enormous number of people that cannot save money on how they too can become financially secure and retire. Keep up the good work! MP

    1. Agreed. There is absolutely no way for the 30/30/3 rule to work in the SF Bay Area.

      By your logic, people/families with 300k income shouldn’t buy more than 900k home. That doesn’t exist here.

      Or 400k income: a tiny number of 1.2m condos perhaps, but they wouldn’t be big enough to have even a small family.

      The entry level home price in San Mateo or Santa Clara Counties is just about 2m which would require 666k annual income. That’s top 1% range. So only the top 1% can buy in these counties, and only a starter home at that.

      The rule clearly doesn’t work here.

        1. Thanks!

          Those 20% that paid cash are among the lucky with huge stock payouts, usually from Tech. Clearly in the top 1% for the area. Can’t base general financial advice on this segment of the population.

          That’s the wacko bay area market. Only the top ~ 5-10% of earners can buy ANYTHING because the supply/demand curve is so out of balance. Yes, there are exceptions, but it’s basically now the rule. Haves and have-nots. Which will play out over the generations. People that bought 10, 20, 30+ years ago are golden, and anyone coming of age now has to leave to buy anything.

  18. How will this 30/30/3 rule work in current Bay area market ?
    1. You mentioned mortgage spending 30% of income, is it after tax?
    2. Rates are already a bit high now, so getting 3% on 30 years is difficult, wont 10 arm be a good idea?
    3. Even if someone can afford it, I am not clear – if it is wise to pay almost 30K in yearly property tax on a 2M+ value?
    4. As a general rule – how much growth in the property value one should count for – 4 to 5% appreciation in 10 years in Bay Area CA for 2M property? or much less ?

  19. I think what this post illustrates more than anything is how unaffordable housing has become in the last 2-5 years. This is near impossible for the majority of the population looking to buy a house and build financial security.

    1. I’m not sure that is correct, regarding the majority not being able to buy a house. Housing demand is so strong right now and people are buying houses with low mortgage rates and improving economy. The latest data shows that home prices were up 10% you are a year in 2020 because of such great demand. People are cashed up and Many are doing well during the pandemic. If Mani weren’t doing well, there wouldn’t be so much demand for real estate right now.

      It is true though, generally, the longer you wait, the more unaffordable real estate becomes because the absolute dollar value of a piece of property is generally much higher than one’s income. If a $500,000 property appreciates by 10%, you would have to double your income just to stay even if you make $50,000 a year.

  20. Hello,

    What is the calculus for someone who may have a high net worth but not necessarily the income to make the mortgage payments work? Would you recommend a higher down payment in that case? For example if a household makes $260k and has $2MM net worth in equities or other investments, would you view that differently from someone who makes $350k with only $500k net worth.


  21. I really like the advice you give. One question I have related to the “30% of gross income rule” (which I know is widely given as a rule): why gross income vs net? 30% of gross income is a big slice of pie that may negatively impact someone’s ability to save for retirement, save for college, and generally enjoy life. (Note: I am mostly going off gut feeling on this)

  22. Is this rule specific to the US? I live in the UK and we don’t really have property taxes like in the US here, except a stamp duty at the time of purchase. I can comfortably satisfy the 30/30 part, but not the 3 part. The price of my home will likely be around 4.5 to 5 times annual gross income. But this is more or less standard here, at least in London.

    1. For places like London, the 3X generally goes to 5X, especially given rates are so low. I think it’s fine so long as you run the numbers and are confident with your income future.

  23. Not factored in are all the costs associated – home insurance, property taxes, and how about those that inspire to get a 15 or 20 year loan. I’d rather live in a smaller house that’s paid off then get myself into big debt that’s going to take an additional 15 years to pay off. Also, living in high property tax areas can really eat into what one could be saving instead. For example, property taxes in the Austin, Texas area are 2.25% or more. That’s almost $1000 a month on a $500,000 house in taxes. Finally, with the new tax law all the tax advantages of mortgage interest are gone. If you are single or a couple look into buying a duplex or four plex.

  24. It all depends on your situation. My mortgage is about 65% of my take home pay and my wife doesn’t make much while in grad school. My wife and I travel a lot but still save every year. We plan to remain kid-less while in this home and I can not lose my job so our situation works, and meanwhile we have gained a lot of equity in the home. You have to crunch the numbers and also understand your situation, now and future.

  25. I hope all is well. I posted in the FS forum, yet haven’t rec’d many responses. My wife and I are in the process of potentially buying our first home. We have 2 children and are interested in a relatively affluent suburb in the Northeast where we have various family members. I simply wanted to know what you thought was a reasonable and acceptable amount to spend on a house/housing expenses. My wife and I are both in the advertising industry and make approximately $420Kish gross combined. Additionally, we have saved over $2.5M in savings, of which $2Mish is in taxable accounts. These assets are predominantly in equities.

    We would expect to have relatively modest growth in our income.

    We were thinking of spending around 1.75M with approx 1.2% property taxes. Additionally, we are open to an interest only mortgage option to make the payments more manageable or a 10/1 Arm. Do you think that is reasonable or too much money to spend on a house. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.

    1. You’re good. In fact, it’s kind of obnoxious that you can do a 10/1 ARM on a $2M property and you’re posting it as a “concern.”

      I get it, but the answer you deserve is: be less of a spoiled rich person and buy less house if you’re worried, or sell the Bentley?

      Theoretically, you have a crazy good familial safety net if they own in the same neighborhood?

      Tell us more about how you’re wringing your hands over Carrara or Quartz,, while a firefighter and teacher who inherit ZERO generational wealth, struggle to save 5% down and make 2k/ month payments on a run-down 1 bedroom unit where you’d die before sending your kids to school.

  26. I feel like the fed has tricked society into the massive increase in home prices by pushing interest rates so low. If everyone would follow the rule of not financing more twice your annual income for a home purchase as suggested in the Millionaire Next Door, then housing prices would naturally stay down and be affordable for the masses. I realize the book was written in the early 90s, but even if interest rates were at 14% like they were in the 80s then you would be at 28% DTI on a 30 year note. Take your now 3% interest rate and apply the 2X rule and you are only at 10% DTI, allowing much more room for investing and growing your net worth outside of a non-income producing asset. Put it on a 15 year note like Dave Ramsey suggests and you are still only at 16% DTI. I really like the 2X rule.

  27. Sam, longtime fan of your site. You did a post a while back on how to invest a downpayment. I was wondering if you have any additional thoughts on this topic in light of the current economic climate. I am currently sitting on a few hundred thousand in cash, which I’ve set aside for a down payment on a larger home. Am hoping to buy within the next 6-18 months. Trying to think through whether it makes sense to invest some portion of this as a hedge against inflation.

  28. That’s why geographic arbitrage is so important. I lived in a high cost area (DC) for 5-6 years, built up experience/networking, then moved to a lower cost area (Colorado) and purchased a home before real estate got insane here. My total payment (mortage + taxes + insurance) is < 10% of my monthly gross, and I'm using this margin to pay down the loan in 5-6 years. Plan is to have the house paid off before I'm 42 (I'm 37 now). Already up 40% on the home value from the purchase price, and looking at "up and coming" areas to invest in real estate (Idaho, Utah, etc.).

    We're all planners on here, so I definitely suggest either moving to a cheaper (up and coming) part of the country to live/invest if you want to maximize your ROI and retire early. I agree with Sam's "Investing in the Heartland" strategy – the coasts have become too pricey.

  29. Aloha,

    Since you write about Hawaii, what is your thought on how much you should pay?

    Also, what is the dollar value of your regret of not moving to Hawaii either before ar after Covid and how much more happy are you in SF?


    Johnny R

    1. Hi Johnny, how much should I pay for what? Besides the 30/30/3 rule?

      My plan has always been to relocate when my son turns 5 in 2022.

      The only kink in the plan is that preschool is temporarily shut down.

      How about you?

  30. Dividend Power

    I like these rules. Too many people try to stretch to buy a home. When there is recession they get burned.

    1. Aloha,

      My wife and I currently live in Honolulu and own a 1 bedroom apartment with a kid on the way. We are looking to purchase a home within the next year or so, but even with the equity from our apartment it will be very difficult to follow the 30/30/3 rule. As you know homes start at 1m+ in decent areas. We make around 200k a year so a home could push us past the 5x or 6x threshold.

      I realize more info is needed based on our financial situation but any advice is much appreciated.


  31. I own 3 homes one had a 3.5% down payment, the other had 10%, and tbe other had 5%.

    2 of them are multi family homes which make me $5,000 profit a month after my mortgage and taxes are paid.

    My 3rd home is a single family. My mortgage is $3,000 a month.

    Hence I can Still profit $2,000 a month. I basically broke the rules but I think it worked

  32. I’m not sure I agree with the second part of this rule. I’m a little confused, especially since you live in the Bay Area so you know it’s not really feasible to follow this rule here. I live in Santa Clara, so a 1200 sq ft home here costs $1.3M, which means I better be making $400k/year to buy a small 50-year old home? That seems crazy.

      1. But in that case, the vast majority of people living here shouldn’t be buying homes. The median income in the county is $120k. Even the nicer cities in the county like Saratoga and Los Gatos, the median income is still $150k. But you’re going to be hard-pressed to find any homes below $500k. Searching on Zillow for my zip code (by no means a nice zip code) shows that the cheapest place to live for $500k, which is a 600 sq ft condo, 1bd 1ba. There are no townhomes or houses in this zip code selling for less than $1M (technically there’s some for $998k, but that’s basically $1M). Even stretching to 5x, there’s no way for the majority of people to buy their residence here, especially if you have kids and need 2 or 3 bedrooms.

        1. I think a lot of homebuyers are dual income households. Further, many Bay area home buyers have tremendous Down payment help from their families.

          What is your household income situation and what are you looking to buy?

          1. They are, but the numbers I cited are median household income, not individual, so it accounts for that.

            I’m not looking to buy for a while, I don’t have much saved up for a down payment as I just started working and may not settle in the bay (but wherever I am in ~5 years I would like to buy a house, so I need to start focusing on a down payment soon). I make decent money as I work in tech ($140k/year after bonuses and RSUs), so I’m not too worried, though of course I could get laid off and that would throw a money wrench into everything. But anyway, maybe you have some advice as to how much to start saving towards a down payment vs retirement? Assuming that I’ll need $100k-150k in cash in five years, should I just divide that by five and throw that into bonds/CDs each year? Or should I save less now and more closer to the purchase year?

          2. Hi Sam,

            No offense, but your advice specifically for HCOL areas seems often to be contradictory. On the one hand you have frequently pushed buying property in San Francisco, but as Anonymous points out (and others below) this post appears to suggest that only a small fraction of the City – perhaps less than 10% – should buy real estate. It leaves me as a reader confused.

            Thanks for any clarification you can provide!

            1. No offense taken. What is the contradiction that you are seeing?

              I’m saying for a high cost of living areas, you can stretch to five times your annual household income to my house, especially with interest rates so low. But I wouldn’t recommend going over that. Because we are already violating the 3X rule.

              Not everybody can buy home. Dual incomes are often needed, as well as help from parents. But those are the type of people who are buying homes in HCO living areas.

              I’m sticking with 3X to no more than 5X.

              I think you’ll be surprised at how many people were buying $1.5 million homes are making between $400,000 to $500,000 as a couple.

        2. Jason ORourke

          (for posterity)

          Remember that home sales aren’t going to the median income person in the community. The median income for the buyers on the market is considerably higher. Existing home owners bought in the past when it was cheaper, and can use their equity in a trade up. For that latter reason, I question the use of the ratio against the value of the home, rather than the amount of the loan.

  33. Great article, even more important to follow given the current economic environment.

    Mortgage rates are rock-bottom which is appealing to the mortgage-holder – I personally refinanced at the beginning of the pandemic and was able to bring my 30yr fixed down from 4% to 3.25%.

    However, low rates aside, I think it’s somewhat of a risky time to purchase a home. Many are unemployed and banks likely won’t approve mortgages without income coverage. It’s also not the best time to commit a lot of money towards a down payment – people need to beef up their emergency funds.

    With that said, there are many deals to be had – lots of people may want to get out of their homes because of the pandemic (perhaps drive to the suburbs), so some will do the work to get a great deal on a house at an all-time low interest rate.

    The variability and riskiness keeps me on the sidelines at the moment (I’ll rent out my current home and purchase a second in the future), but thank you Financial Samurai for some great insights!

    – Journeytoretire

  34. Hi Sam, what about using RV ratio to see if a home is a good buy or not? If it is a good tool to use won’t I be missing some good areas because they are pricey for good reason. FOr instance, Analyzing some areas like Bend, Oregon, the prices look too high but people are willing to overpay thus increasing values of the place over the long term. Applying RV ratio it’s too expensive. I know a bit more about stocks: if I analyzed PE ratio of some tech stocks like Apple, it looks expensive relative to its decent valuation a decade ago. But warren buffett seems to be willing to overpay. So exceptions apply to a few areas in the real estate market? Am I over relying on RV ratio when analyzing if a property is a good investment?

  35. Good thoughts, Sam. I even think 30% of gross income towards your mortgage payment is a little high, although my perspective is skewed by living in an area where home prices are very affordable (partly by choice). But if your goal is to maximize saving – then 30% seems a stretch.

  36. Hi Sam,
    If I remember correctly, you were looking for a discount before buying. Are you still waiting or ready to pull the trigger at current pricing?

  37. Hi Sam,

    I am a fellow Bay Area resident, almost 2 years into my first job as a chemical/environmental engineer at a small consulting/design firm in Santa Clara. I’m making $70k currently and think that $100k+ in 4-6 years is a reasonable projection.

    In addition to saving just under 25% of my income for retirement, I’m contributing just under 25% to a 50/50 bonds/stocks account for a down payment (the account is set up to slowly increase weight in bonds over time). I’ve been poking around on MLS sites to get a rough feel on the market. It seems like almost everything in San Jose, Milpitas and Fremont starts at $500k for 1 bed condos and 600-700 for 2 bed/2 bath condos and townhomes (SFHs and anything up the peninsula are fantasies, and anything in the Tri-Valley or further north than Fremont would make for an unappealing commute). Saving up for the 20% down payment and 10% cash buffer would easily take me 7-10 years, and I would need mortgage rates to remain near the current historic lows to meet the first part of your rule. But even then, my salary would be nowhere near enough to qualify for the 3x rule!

    It is crazy how expensive real estate is in the Bay Area. Buying here on a single non-tech income seems like quite the challenge.

    1. Hi Matt – Good job being diligent saving. Yes, if you are a single homebuyer you are at a disadvantage to the vast majority of buyers who are dual income buyers. Not only that, they have dual income + RSUs + Bank of Mom & Dad. It’s not a fair fight.

      I realized this back in 2005 when all my neighbors in my old neighborhood had their parents pay their downpayments. The same thing in my current neighborhood. A Massive Generational Wealth Transfer Is Why Everything Will Be OK

      For the Bay Area.. it’s really more a 5X rule.

      Nothing wrong with renting!

      1. I lucked into an extremely low rate for a room in North San Jose – minutes walk away from grocery stores/restaurants and 15 min drive or 30 min bike ride from my office. I’m holding onto this spot forever until my girlfriend and I move in together or I have to relocate for a new job!

        What is your opinion on the value of 1bed/1bath condos vs 2bed/2bath? After reading around, it seems like most people point to the 2bed/2bath option – cheaper per square foot, ability to rent out the extra room if HOA allows.

  38. Hi Sam,

    Fed just said they will keep interest rate low for a very long time…

    So, why do you think now is the peak of the market? It could be the beginning of a new rising circle?

    The expectation of future appreciation def has an impact on how much one is willing to stretch today…

    1. I’ve been saying since the early 2000s that interest rates will stay low for the rest of our lifetimes. And I have certainly said low interest rates for our careers since I started this site in 2009.

      The low interest rate forever argument is the main reason why I have been arguing that homeowners should refinance or take out an adjustable rate mortgage instead of a 30 year fixed mortgage.

      We very well could be in a real supercycle. This post is about being prudent and helping people who are searching for a home-buying rule to follow one or consider this one.

      As we all know, there are no guarantees when it comes to investing.

      Thinking that we are going to be in a low interest rate environment as a new concept is not correct. It’s been established, at least from my point of view, for 20 years already.

      1. Thanks Sam.

        I just went under contract for a house about 15% above medium home price in NoVa. I’ve been offered a jumbo loan 2.5% for 5/1 arm or 2.875% for 10/1 arm.

        We will be in this house max 10 years, and perhaps just 5 years… What do you suggest us taking?

        1. No advice on the option but glad you found a spot. Still in great falls or did you expand the search?

          1. Great falls suddenly became so popular, especially any house with a pool! I feel it doesn’t make sense for us to endure a 20 min longer commute each way and still pay the same price as McLean (you do get bigger land in GF, but that comes with more maintenance cost, etc.). So we finally settled in McLean inside beltway, where I’m currently living in a townhouse. Planning to rent out the townhouse when move to the single.
            How’s your house hunting going?

  39. Great article and timely as my wife and i are currently looking to buy a home. We comfortably meet the first 2 requirements for our targeted price point, but do not meet the third. We are looking to buy a home worth around $1.5M and would finance the entire amount and use our securities as collateral to “pledge” as a down payment. Our monthly “all in” payment would likely be around $8,200 (with taxes/insurance) a month or $98K annually, which is around 22% of our household gross income of $435K. It seems I hit this parameter even when financing the entire purchase.

    We have more than the home value saved…Excluding retirement accounts, have $2M in taxable brokerage accounts. Only 200K in cash, but bc I am not putting a down payment down, do not think that is too important.

    However, we would fail the third test as 3x our annual HH income is only $1.3M….Unlikely we find a house below $1.5M.

    i would appreciate the perspective of others as I am in my mid 30’s with a growing family. We have $2.5Mish of total assets.


    1. The 3X multiple is a general home-buying guideline. Due to a collapse in mortgage rates, stretching to 5X your annual gross income is now equivalent to 3X when mortgage rates were much higher.

      You can view my home-buying rule as 3 separate rules, are a 3-in-1 rule. Ideally, a homebuyer fulfills all three rules. But if a homebuyer can get 2 out of 3, that’s pretty good.

      Perhaps your income will grow to $670,000 in several years to get that $2 million house you want today. Only you have a great idea.

      When I bought a $1,520,000 house in 2005, my income was around $300,000. I was SWEATING BULLETS three years after I bought due to the financial crisis. Luckily, I didn’t get laid off. But I put down everything I had… .$320K and had no savings for a while.

      I went all in and almost lost a lot. It was mainly luck that I held on and finally sold in 2017 for $1-$1.25 million more than I was trying to selling in 2012.

      At least now, you know that the great economic suppression is upon us. Maybe we will rebound, maybe we won’t. But at least you see right in front of you what is happening.

      1. Thanks for the quick response Sam, helpful perspective. It’s certainly possible my income will go up materially 8-10 years out, but do not have a ton of visibility and it’s more likely to stay flattish for next few years. Additionally, we will have additional expenses associated with an expanding family hopefully one day.
        I guess I feel I have a slight margin of safety in that I have a decent NW saved, yet my income isn’t as quite high relative to purchase price. There isn’t a way we could swing 5x, which is over $2.1M without a sizable down payment or comprising heavily on savings.

          1. I would just use my securities as collateral imstead of putting down a down payment so it’s not a function of savings… It’s just going from currently renting to buying will more than 2x my monthly payment and I will save essentially 45K less a year, albeit my quality of life will go way up plus some of that will go to chisel down principal I suppose. I also do not imagine much appreciation in the suburbs of NYC, short term as the city continues to flood out to the burbs prob keep market solid, but do think demographically I would settle for inflation like returns over the next decade or two I would be thrilled

  40. Hi, im 37 years old. I make nowhere near the 100k you mention (i work on my own), but i started saving and investing in my very early 20´s. My situation is this: i have 6 properties (3 apartments, one land lot, and 2 old houses i bought very cheap in the historic center of my city and later remodeled for renting).

    the apartments and the landlot are already paid. I have one mortgage for each of the old houses.
    I havent paid a single penny on rent or mortgage in the last 12 years, as all these properties generate income, so it pays all for itself. One apartment and the two houses have more than doubled in value since i bought them. the land lot hast increased in value more than 20 times.

    My question is this: i have always saved and invested, but actually never had much cash in the bank. I have a preapproved mortgage for another downtown house. should i keep going?

    1. Sounds like you have a high risk tolerance. You have also ridden an amazing bull market. The key is to not get overconfident.

      I would build some cash savings for sure.

  41. Great job with this article. I think these rules are simple and easy to follow. The 3rd rule, buying a home worth 3x your annual salary was also featured in the book the millionaire next door. You know what you’re talking about.

  42. Charleston.C

    I feel as though this 30/30/3 is still a little too aggressive and overspending for my taste, but acknowledge there’s are limited options in coastal states even at 30/30/3 for a median income household.

    My wife and I combined would be able to afford a $700k-750K house based on the 30/30/3 rule, but would much rather keep the purchase price in the $500k range if not below, mortgage payment will stay somewhere between 15-20% of gross income. Investing in a primary residence is certainly one way to grow our networth, but it’s still a mental challenge for me to spend more money. Feels a bit frivolous to have a nice yard, private driveway, garage, and more room than we actually need when a dingy 2 bedroom apartment worth $300k would provide the utility we need.

  43. For the third rule, it makes more sense to limit the debt on your property to 3X salary than to limit the value of the property. I could have a $1m property with $300k debt in it.

    1. Sure, if you have a $700,000 down payment and a $100,000 income.

      But I would say that is a rare combo to have 7X greater your annual income in the form of a DP.

      But if you do, thanks to a big windfall or you score a great deal, 3X debt works as well.

  44. Renting in SF

    Just to clarify, are you suggesting that only the top 1% (household income $500,000/year) should buy a median-priced home in San Francisco (~$1.6 million)?

    1. That’s one way of putting it. However, I do discuss going up to 5X with the decline in mortgage rates. A $320,000 household income for two 30-something year olds is quite common in SF.

      Further, assistance from parents or relatives for the DP, which is common here, muddies the rules.

      I’ve counted 5 neighbors whose parents either bought their house for them or inherited their house.

      The goal is to follow all three rules. But if not, to follow at least one of the rules.

  45. Good advice Sam! But isn’t Rule #3 basically the same as rule #1, but with a more conservative income requirement? If you pass rule #3 you will almost ALWAYS pass rule #1

    1. Could be! Rule #3 is a quick way to screen for homes in an affordable price range. Following Rule #3 is the final insurance to follow the other two rules. The rule also helps homebuyers think in a different way.

      It also takes into consideration down payment percentages and prevents one from stretching too much with a high DP.

      For example, let’s say you make $200,000 and have a $1 million down payment. You may be tempted to buy a $2 million home since you can put $1 million down. But then you would be left with nothing and a $1 million mortgage which may be too risky. Some people get very aggressive, which is what I’m trying to prevent. I think they cannot lose, but sometimes they do.

      Instead, you could buy a more reasonable $600,000-$1 million home. You could pay all cash or you can put a down payment and diversify the remaining funds.

  46. Does the 30/30/3 Rule also apply when building new residential construction for existing homeowners?

    I’m preparing to build a single family home with an ADU in the Bay Area Peninsula within the next 2 years. From my research so far on lending rates, I’ve seen residential construction loans (compared to a traditional mortgage) are still a bit higher than home mortgage rates.

  47. Hey Sam,

    I wanted to first say I actually agree with pretty much everything in the post.

    But I wanted to come at you with a slightly different perspective. One mainly focused on the lower to middle class you mentioned.

    I make about $50,000 per year. I bought my first home when I was 26 (now 30). I took out an FHA loan on a $185,000 home with not much else in the bank after the matter. The key was: I bought a duplex. (There are programs such as Freddie Mac Home Possible where you can put 5% down on multi-unit properties while having greatly reduced MI, but that wasn’t an option for me at the time).

    Anyway… my mortgage payment was roughly $1,350 per month. That’s a little over 32% of my gross monthly income which admittedly isn’t far off your first 30% rule but I was far away from meeting the second 30% rule in having any sort of semi-liquid funds nearing $55,500.

    The thing that makes it work SO well for lower-to-middle income earners like myself is the clear and obvious point: rental income. In my area, rents range from 900 on the lower end to 1,400 per month for a 2 bed 1 bath unit on the high end. I immediately went out and rented my unit after basically just painting the place for $1,050 per month and all of a sudden my rent/mortgage payment was now $300/mo or 7.2% of my gross monthly income. This allowed me to not only begin stock piling cash in my retirement accounts, but also allowed me to make some huge improvements to the home, save up funds for future repairs, and also have some for entertainment/travel.

    I try to preach to all my friends who are in similar financial positions that if they’re looking into home ownership and don’t necessarily have the funds to put 20% down AND have some extra cash laying around for those repairs that will most DEFINITELY come up, this is the way to go. Rents historically increase. While property taxes tend to increase (albeit at a slightly lower rate), you’ll always have that fixed mortgage rate to prevent your payment from getting out of hand. I’ve had a few friends buy into it and are loving the life. It allows those people who don’t make 6 figures (or 7) to get into the home ownership game, start building equity, start saving for retirement, and start building a better life for themselves.

    What do you think of this approach? I’m looking for my second but not immediately ready to pounce given housing prices right now. By taking this approach, I can grow a “business”, generate more income, and eventually semi-retire with a passive income stream (hopefully early!)

    1. 32% is not bad. However, know that housing market has done very well over the past 8 to 9 years. If we are in a 3 to 5 you’re downtown, I could be more difficult. What if your tenants leave? What are your tenants don’t pay rent?

      Many of us have made a lot of money in the stock market and real estate market since 2012. It’s important we don’t confuse brains with a bull market. We must all ourselves every time we look at our net worth and our investments that it was mostly luck, not skill that has made us wealthy.

      To clarify, did you rent out a room or did you rent out the whole place? I like the idea of buying a place and then renting out a portion of the property to lower costs. That’s what I did for 10 years, and what many other people do who are first buying a place.

      1. Excellent point… I rented out the one side, then rented out one room of my unit to my good friend. So I was fortunate enough to actually be making money and living for free.

      2. Agreed. I have done this with my rentals in the DC area as well. I find you can get a better return by splitting up the rooms in a home and renting them individually, rather than renting the whole unit as you can charge each room at a premium for their percentage of the whole. I also find that turn over mitigation is easier when trying to rent out a single room versus the whole unit. In the past I had longer term rentals 18 month terms or so for the whole unit. I found it more time consuming to land a tenant, but once the headache was over It was locked in for 18 months or longer, ideally.
        More recently, I have allowed 6-12 month rentals largely due to the fact that the turn over was so quick. I also found a connection with military tenants as well. Considering they need to be flexible I dediced to be as well. It has worked out for me. I had a tenant move out on a Wednesday and had thier replacement signed up by that Friday. I would say I could chalk it up to luck, but this has happened three times in a row so far. Definitely split up the rooms if you can (and your rental area supports it).

          1. Certainly a concern, but I look at it as maybe one room takes a hit versus the whole unit. So in a sense it protects you. With that said, I’ll see how the next 4 months go. Next reup is around then.

            1. The awesome part about my particular area is it’s such a HOT, hip-to-live area that people are literally lining up waiting for units to become available. Renting out my unit will take one afternoon of showings.

              I just happened to buy in at exactly the right time. It’s one of the only cool suburbs to reside in the Cleveland area :P

  48. I like the 3x limitation and I still think you should strive for it even in times of historically low mortgage rates. We are under 2x on our multiplier and I would have paid less if I could have found something that fit the bill.

    We paid extra for the school zone though, which saved us a lot more than the extra $50-$100k we could have saved on purchase price in a bad district.

  49. Natalia Kay

    I’ve got 825k mortgage and been charged 8.25 as I’ve prepaid my payments for one year. My home was evaluated at 3.4 m but likely should hit the market for 3.8 to 4.2m.
    For 10 years I’ve been juggling without my son’s father. I’ve made about 100k each year maybe more some years. I rent my main floor and spent 150 k to gut my basement and fetch 1850 for it per month. My main floor has rented for 5200 each month. The issue is property taxes are 13 k and expenses maintaining this 1880 home have been very high.
    Toronto Ontario Canada where I live has an average cost of 1 million for a simple war time style home.
    I’ll be 55 in Feb 2021.
    I’m scared and freaked out to move as Some experts say I should rent or make a drastic life change.
    My son is 21 and this home is all he has known.
    I don’t know what to do but I’ve felt for years owning this home is becoming increasingly difficult and extremely stressful.

  50. I agree a lot with the second rule to have 30% saved up though I recognize that is difficult for a lot of people. You contradicted yourself on the third rule with your example though.
    You said that a person making $100k a year should limit themselves to a $300k property yet in your example you showed a person making $100k and buying a $400k property. What am I missing here?

    Personally, living in Southern CA (or northern too, like yourself) a $300k property is the equivalent of a one bedroom condo, possibly two in a sketchy area though. Good luck with that. You can expect to may more for even a modest home. My income was a bit over $100k 10 years ago when I bought a $600k property. Seven years later it was paid off. It’s doable if you’re disciplined.

    1. There’s another example below it that includes sticking to 3X annual income. Because mortgage rates have dropped so low, it’s become very tempting to increase the multiple. I do think stretching up to 5X your annual household income is less risky now that you can get a mortgage below 3%.

      But when you start violating all the rules, that’s when people can get in trouble.

  51. Really helpful examples and smart guidelines on home buying! With so much uncertainty now it really makes sense to utilize this type of affordability check before making a huge purchase on a home. Thanks for the tips!

  52. Hi Sam, Are you only looking at the monthly mortgage P&I, or are you also looking at property taxes? (and insurance) While P&I can decrease over time with lower interest rates and refinancing, property tax can’t be ignored. Our montly property tax is now nearly 40% of our monthly P&I. Even if we pay off our 3.25% mortgage with a 50% loan to value, property tax doesn’t go away.

  53. Hi Sam,

    Question about the 30% saved in cash, 20% of which is for a down payment. You say the other 10% is for a cash buffer. Is this in addition to the 6-12 months of cash you think folks should have on hand anyway or is it a separate cash buffer just for the house?

    1. 10% cash or liquid securities is the minimum. Home that will last at least 6-12 months just in case anything happens. It should.

      $300k house, $30K cash, can pay 10 months at $3K a month. Is enough IMO.

  54. I was googling “VA home loan financial samurai” to see if you had any strategy of news the program. Everyone situation is different, some veterans don’t have to pay the funding fee (2%+). Also in 2020 the VA lending cap will be removed. A family could walk into a million dollar home paying nothing but closing costs. I would like to hear your thoughts!

  55. In your chart, you wrote that real estate outperformed stocks. Just looking at two charts (I do not have data to calculate volatility), it seems that REITs is at least twice more volatile than SPDR. So your conclusion can be reversed on a risk-adjusted basis. Any portfolio allocation based on the risk parity logic would put less into REITs to equalize daily/monthly volatility. My point is that looking just on absolute returns is often meaningless for anyone with background in derivatives. The risk-adjusted returns matter.

  56. So let’s run some numbers. If you’re grossing $1m/year and want to spend 30% of your gross income on your mortgage, that leaves you with a $25k budget. With a down-payment of 20%, an interest rate of 3.92 and a 30-year term, that’s a ~$6.6m house, or about double your recommendation of 3X gross income. Is the idea that you should get a 10-15 year mortgage term, bringing down the price of the home relative to the monthly payment?

  57. Thomas Donaldson

    It’s a good idea to have at least 10% down payment. You are saying 30%, which is the best. However, most people I know are doing 3.5% (not saying they are right or wrong). Im trying to figure out what is best for me. If I have a 3.5 down payment on a 300k home and with insurance and the loan payment lets say 1,200 a month. I already pay 1,600 for rent. I know that with 3.5 I will be paying more in the long run. When considering I’m losing 1,600 a month in rent currently, doesn’t 1,200 seem like a deal? I make 110k a year and I am still able to save money after the month. So my overall expenses do not overcome my income. With this scenario, do you think it is still ill advised to do a 3.5% down payment? Thanks! Keep up the good work!

    1. That is not possible. I have a $275K home, with a 3.4 interest rate, and put 3,5% down, and my mortgage including taxes, PMI, and HOA is about $1800. The mortgage and interest alone is $1240, but you have to count everything else that has to be paid that you don’t pay when you rent (taxes, hoa, PMI).

      I think you are good to go. If you plan on staying in the home long term, try to do 5% down conventional so you don’t pay PMI for the rest of your mortgage life (with an FHA loan). After 7-8 years, the PMI can be knocked off the loan if you have over 20% equity (which you should unless the market crashes).

  58. Is the 30% of gross income rule inclusive of taxes, insurance, hoa or is it just the mortgage payment itself?

  59. Is this 30% rule in reference to first time buyers as well? I know no one that has done this for their first place. Even for a modest 300K place in average cost of living cities (ignore Nebraska for the sake of this argument) we are talking about 90K?? That would take the better part of a decade for some people. One would be later 30’s knocking on 40 in some cases before a first property purchase? Seems a little over the top. Not to mention the other road blocks in this time period taking away from savings such as the ability for a woman to have a child. I guess it could be done quick but I feel like you would need a super high income > 150k and pretty low cost of living area to amass this type of downpayment.

  60. To piggyback off Sam’s thoughts (above), what about the “Kiddie Condo” loan program for kids going off to college? It seems like it would accomplish several things:


    1) Build equity versus simply allocating college funds to room & board.

    2) Gets kid involved in home ownership at the youngest age possible (big deal if going to med school) or becomes rental property for kid or parents after graduation.

    3) Superior living conditions compared to living on campus and allows a roommate to share in the cost of the investment versus both paying room & board to the school.

    1) PMI

    2) Cost of condo (mortgage) in coastal city like San Diego (UCSD).

    3) Kid is in tittle so probably reduces tax benefits for parent as rental property.

    4) Could be tricky for parent to take over ownership (if that is the plan) after child graduates.

    FHA Kiddie Condo:

    FHA “Kiddie Condo” loans. If you want your student to be in title to the property and you want to pay the minimum amount down, using FHA financing is the easiest way to purchase a property. The FHA “Kiddie Condo” loan program helps students qualify for loans by allowing them to co-borrow with a blood relative. Down payments for this type of loan can be as little as 3 percent of the total purchase price, and interest rates are lower than those on investment properties. Maximum FHA loan limits vary by location so check to see what they are for your county.

    Kid is thinking about UCSD and a 300-400K condo in La Jolla (with 3% down) would seem like a good long term investment versus investing 60K on room and board over 4 years.

  61. I find this article a bit conservative relative to your other posts. You generally are focused on cash-on-cash return. If you can buy for 5% down and convert the property into a rental after residing in it for 1 year – isn’t the cash-on-cash return over 3.5x greater than if you put down 20% (even after PMI) ? I did exactly this and am earning ~$650/month cash in Atlanta on a $12k down payment. This doesn’t even take into account the mortgage interest deduction or the equity built.

  62. Sam:

    Thanks for your website. I have been a reader for many years now. I would much appreciate your suggestions regarding my predicament, which is the following:

    I have decided to upgrade to a $532,000 home currently under contract and to be purchased soon.

    I own my current home outright. It has not hit the market for resale (it will soon once my option period on the $532K home lapses and am committed to purchase it)

    My listing agent will list my home for $360K going for a target sale price of $350K. My expectation is that this will allow me to net (on the low end) around $310K on the house (which will be tax free since it has been my primary residence for more than 2 years).

    Since the purchase of the $532K home is not contingent on the sale of my current home, I initially contemplated drawing on a saving account with a current balance of $200K (which is my dry powder account for stock investing deployment) and divesting around $130K of Apple Stock (realizing a long term capital gain at 10%)—all to be applied as a down payment—which would leave me roughly with a $200K mortgage. Upon the sale of my $310K home, I would replenish my savings account and possibly repurchase apple stock or some other security.

    Over the last couple of days, I have been contemplating levering the property to highest possible extent and putting the proceeds from the sale of my house into the market by topping my dry powder account. My strategy would be to deploy all money quickly into a bucket of monthly divided paying ETFs that would yield me around 5-7%. My plan would be to reinvest the monthly dividends and compound the returns.

    I have been offered a loan product by a internationally recognized bank under the following terms.

    Purchase Price: $ 532,000

    Down Payment: $26,600 (yes, only 5% down)

    Total Loan: $505,400

    Annual Rate: 3%

    PMI: Waived

    Term: 30 years

    Terms: 7 year ARM at 3.0% adjustable thereafter at LIBOR plus 2.2 but not to exceed 2% points ion year 8 and thereafter until a full upward adjustment cap of 5%.

    I have plenty of reserves in liquid assets mainly deployed in the stock market (in excess of $1.3M)

    I have always hated debt and don’t believe in high leverage but feel comfortable (recognizing there is no assurance) that I can get a better return on my money by controlling it than the 3% cost of capital savings I will get by putting a big down payment. Especially with these loan terms.

    What would you do?

      1. Sam: Apologies if am capturing your response. Would you take the 7 year ARM and highly leverage the house or put down a big down payment

  63. I like this rule for high income people, 2nd or 3rd time buyers, ect. For first time buyers i suggest a different rule. I call it: Don’t Buy a House.

    Seriously, just live in a cheap apartment. Buy a multifamily home, 2 to 4 units, and rent the rest. Your net housing expense goes way down. Address any issues with the properties condition and begin saving for another property. Buy that nice single family house after your rental property is fixed up and performing well. You may find yourself paying little or nothing at all for your house and building equity on two properties at once. Owner occupied loans are much easier to get than investor loans, so the best time to get your real estate investments going is that first home purchase. I don’t think the Samurai would disagree with buying a 4 unit home that cash flows positive even if you can only put 3.5% down on an FHA loan.

  64. 15/15/2rule

    I suspect for many reading this, the 30% down seems impossible. Would a 15/15/2 rule apply for those of us who have well above average (and “reliable”) HH incomes, modest passive income, zero debt, and savings rates in excess of 40%? And who live in rapidly growing housing markets (i.e. Portland) where rents are perhaps only 10-15% less than what a mortgage payment would be? Specifically:

    Spending 15% of gross income
    A downpayment of 15% (say 10% in downpayment, 5% in liquid reserves)
    A home value of no more than 2x income

    While I’m mentally ready to buy a home, I want to make a financially wise decision rather than an emotional one. That being said, I wonder if buying using a 15/15/2 rule would put me in a better financial position in the long-run due to rapidly climbing home prices and low interest rates, as opposed to waiting perhaps 18-24+ months to achieve the 30/30/3 rule. I appreciate your thoughts!

  65. You must be talking about 2nd or 3rd time home buyers because who the hell has 30% of the price of the house just laying aound?

  66. I do not think this is good advice at all. Following this rule, an average person will not be able to buy a home until they are in their mid thirties, having wasted tens of thousands on rent. Spending money on PMI or an FHA loan is far more beneficial because you are exposing yourself to leveraged appreciation. Also, you say that if you have 3.5% down and your house goes down 5% you are ‘wiped out’. What do you mean by this? You won’t be foreclosed simply for being in negative equity by 1.5%, so long as you are paying the mortgage.

    In order to build wealth you need to assess the risk and rewards. Being knowledgable about where you are buying and the state of the economy is much more important than applying a strict rule. After all, you have to speculate to accumulate..

      1. agree. I would have stayed in my rental for much longer if family planning necessitated moving. the monthly savings on a cheap apt in a HCOL area cannot be understated.

    1. You have fallen for the trap perpetuated by the real estate industry for decades now. Paying rent is not “wasted money.” You are paying for shelter, a basic requirement for life. Do you feel bad “paying the mortgage” for the restaurant owner when you spend money going out to eat there? This myth needs to be put to bed, it’s led to so many bad house buying decisions.

  67. Need your help, Sam:if a bank offered you a 30-year mortgage at 3% down with NO PMI, would you take it, or would you go ahead and put the 20% (or something in excess of 3%) down? I have (a) 30% of the purchase price saved, just as you suggest, though that presently represents nearly the entirety of my cash/liquid savings and (b) the discipline to keep invested any capital I don’t put toward the down payment. In the interest of full disclosure, I should also note that (a) if I had to put down the full 20%, I’d think very hard about whether to buy as the 10% I’d have left over after the down payment is about half as much cash savings as I’m comfortable having at any given time and (b) putting only 3% down will create a monthly mortgage payment about 7-10% higher than I desire, though I definitely can afford it as it’s roughly equal to what I pay in rent currently. Been renting for the last 5 years. Any insights you have on this major life decision would be very much appreciated!!!

  68. Not sure I can follow the logic here.

    Imagine you have two people.

    Both are living in relatively high cost areas. They rent homes at $2,300 per month. They each have, say, an additional $1,000 to either buy a home or save for a down payment.

    Person A follows your advice and begins to save his 30%. Given that home prices in his area average, say, 500k, he would need to save 150k per your recommendations. A feat that will take a decade. But even in a decade, he won’t have enough as the homes will cost more. This isn’t even getting into the fact that his rent will likely increase.

    Person B, a donkey, buys a 500k home with a small down payment (even FHA with PMI and everything) bringing his total home expenses to, let’s say $3,300.

    Now, let’s look at where these two are in 5 years.

    Person A has paid $138,000 to his landlord, who is very grateful. He has also saved up about 60k. He is also likely paying a good bit more in taxes without the write off.

    The “donkey” on the other hand, has built up, with a 3% appreciation, and some mortgage amortization, 150k in equity. Not to mention the tax advantages, etc.

    Tell me what I’m missing here?

    1. Exactly!!! Saving 30% ($120K) could take me 8-10 years. Meanwhile I would be paying $1800-2000 in rent a month which I will never see again in my lifetime. I think it is better to buy a home than to rent even if you have 5% downpayment, as long as you buy something you can afford comfortably, and have saved up an emergency fund.

    2. Dont rent a home, rent an apt. if homes are 500k, rent should be 600-800 bucks for a 1 BR.

      I live in an area where homes are 1-1.3 mil on average and I rented for 1700 in a great neighborhood.

    3. What are you missing? Quite a lot unfortunately. $150k in equity? Your first several years, 90% of your payments go straight to paying off the interest. You also forgot to account for basic routine maintenance, plus the 5 figure expenses that come up every few years, plus any renovations that will allow for the appreciation you are banking in, plus furnishing a larger space, plus property tax which can be well into the 5 figures annually depending on where you live. This is coming from a current homeowner by the way, but I think you could benefit from more thorough analysis the next time you purchase a home.

  69. My wife and I bought our house about a year and a half ago for $136k (yah for the midwest!) and we both make around $140k a year combined. We looked at houses between $118k and $260k even though the 3X income rule says we could afford a $420k. When we took into account property tax – high in our area at about 2.8% – and maintenance, heating and cooling costs and repair costs it became evident that we wanted to be under $200k and more likely between $130k and $160k. Going in at the low end allowed us to put 20% down (though without any buffer) and we took advantage of low interest rates on a 15 year mortgage. We’re looking forward to 2015 to save up post-tax money because that’s a sore point in our finances. Last thing, don’t discount maintenance costs, especially for older homes. I’ve found some shoddy repair jobs in the house and I’ve spent a little extra for quality parts, this increases the upfront cost but hopefully you’ll realize the gains with fewer repairs in the future.

  70. For people in their 20s and early 30s with lower income — say, $50,000 to $60,000 — would you still advise them to max out IRA/401k and save what little they can in cash VERSUS saving a little more in cash which could be put towards a down payment on a house?

    I understand how important saving for retirement is, but do you think there’s an opportunity cost to delaying home purchase, especially if you plan on living in it with tenants?

    1. Good question. Depends how much you really want to buy a home.

      I would at least contribute up to the company’s 401k match. You should look into the process of using some of your 401k to buy your first home.

      1. Wow, I appreciate the lightning-fast response.

        I’d like to own a home as soon as I can, assuming my finances are in reasonable order and I’m settled in my career. I say “reasonable” because with an income of $40k gross, I doubt I’ll have enough cash saved up for a 20% down payment on a DC-metro area home anytime soon (without neglecting retirement), even though I save 43% of post-tax income.

        I’m 26 and got a late start working FT, but now that I’m getting my act together I was hoping to live in my own home by my early 30s due to the wealth it can build over time.

        Do you have an opinion as to whether living with tenants would adjust your 30/30/3 rule?

  71. Hey Financial Samurai, first time I’ve heard of this principal – EXCELLENT tips! Mind if I share them with my mailing list? I’ll make sure to include a link to this page!


  72. Question: I bought a duplex last year for $250,000 and financed with FHA 30 yr fixed at 3.2% plus PMI. I renovated one side which I rent out and I live in the non-renovated side (has great yellow counters and vinyl flooring from 1977). I am 27 and this is my first home.

    I am wondering if I should try to refi out of the FHA loan and into something else without PMI. I put about $18K into the house after I closed and I have about $40K in savings that could go towards new loan and additional equity (I did the low down payment FHA because I wouldn’t have had enough money to renovate immediately after closing otherwise).

    My long term plan is to renovate my side of the duplex and then eventually buy a single family home for me to move into and start renting both sides of duplex.

    Appreciate the advice!

  73. Tyrone Biggums

    I find it interesting that your car-buying guideline (1/10 factor) is much more conservative than your home-buying guidelines. Your 30/30/3 home plan actually seems a little aggressive in terms of how much of your income is going towards the home.

  74. Anonymous Guest

    My annual net income is a little under 14,000 dollars, and I pay 7,200 dollars annually in rent. Any lower of a rent payment where I live would be putting myself in the hands of dishonest landlords, in unsafe areas, and living in unsafe and unhealthy living conditions. I am able to pay a little over 50 percent of my income in rent without a problem but, after food, work expenses, vehicle expenses, et cetera, there is literally no extra money at the end of the year. So I live okay by my standards, just with no extra money for, say, health insurance. With my current rent and the other costs of living, I will effectively be able to afford a 20 percent down payment on a house which costs three times my annual income in roughly 17 years, assuming I have saved 500 dollars by the end of each year. What are your recommendations?

    1. mysticaltyger

      You need to both earn more money (2nd job, better job, side business, or a combination of all the above) and rent a room in someone’s house to save on rent.

  75. Here is my scenario: I currently rent and pay 700 a month. The houses I’m looking into are in the 150,000 range. My payment with all the taxes and principle will fall in the $1100 a month range.

    Combined my wife and I make about $70,000. We are thinking about doing an FHA loan with the 3.5% down and will have $10,000 in cash reserves. With the payment only being 300-400 more than what we pay in rent, is it still a bad idea?

    1. I think it’s a bad idea. Your margin of safety is a 3.5% downpayment and $10,000 in cash reserves. A 5% decline in your house wipes you out.

      Shoot to build 30% of the downpayment, and put 20% down and keep 10% of the house value in reserves.

  76. And what about if you rent and you’re trying to save up for that down payment? What’s a reasonable amount to spend as a renter?

  77. Nice ratio, but I wondered if it would still be 30/30/3 in parts of the country where both housing costs and income levels are much lower. Median home sale prices are $120,000 in my town and median income about $44,000. Median gross rental is $659, so renting is often cheaper than buying, but the owned homes are generally way nicer.

    So should I stick to the 30/30/3 formula? The numbers in your examples seem so different from my reality!

    1. Hmm, did you do the math? 30/30/3 fits perfectly for 120k house and 44k income!! 36k down, a mortgage of no more than $1,200 a month and a home no more than 132k or 3x your income.

      What am I missing here that you’re missing?

  78. This is exactly what most people don’t know when they got to buy a house and why the mortgage crisis happened. Too much house, Too little down and Too little income. People are walking away from houses they can afford to pay for because they don’t have enough of their own skin in the game and the media says everyone is doing it. This is great information that every first time home buyer should know and use. Thanks

  79. Hey FS,

    Great posting. In reflecting on it, I noted that you didn’t say much about the possible opportunity costs of using the 30/30 rule. Lets say for example that you took out a 20% downpayment – but put the rest of the funds into something steady with a relatively high yield, such as blue chip corporate bonds. Then you would have an additional 10%, presumably stashed in a savings or money market account.

    Now, wouldn’t it make more sense instead of keeping this additional 10% in a savings account to invest in a small business or high grade stocks? Presumably if one has enough income to qualify for a mortgage, they should have enough wherewithall to successfully make their mortgage payments without needing to suffer low MMA or savings rates.

    Am looking forward to your thoughts on this.

  80. I think 30% is quite low, I spend more than 30% on my mortgage – I don’t feel that I am overstretched and probably see myself in a more lucrative position than most. I like the way that you have explained it and believe that in an ideal world it would be great to have the level of financial income to make that achievable but when you are young and starting out as you mentioned you hopefully will earn more as you get older so that initial overstretch can stop you growing out of your house faster. When I bought my first house I knew that the first few years would be a bit tight but now I have overpayed my mortgage and I am about to buy my first investment property so I think it is all about planning.

    1. Hi Clare – I think you’re right. 30% as a percentage of your gross income is quite low when one is first starting out and ramping up the income curve. People can stretch it to 50%, but only if you’re confident you’ll be gainfully employed and on a path to earning more.

      A good example is someone who enters a 3 year analyst or associate program at a firm in a normal economy. At least they know they have 3 years to work, and every year they will likely make more than the last!

      The 30/30/3 principle is just a good guideline I think for one to follow. At least 2 of the 3 should be met I believe.

      Thanks for visiting. Hope the property market in the UK is rebounding!


  81. Lee – I think spending 30% of ur gross on funding a mortgage is fine so long as the other two rules are complied with.

    Nothing is concrete since our incomes are dynamic and upward sloping for the most part. Put it another way, ff all criteria are met, I would happily lend the homebuyer money!


  82. Hi Canz – Tough question. Depends how much cash you have, and when you plan to retire. If you have a low paying job, but a ton of cash, I’d probably do so. But, if you have a high income and not so much cash after you pay for the house, then no.

    It’s simple accounting really. I personally love to have cash earning interest and providing liquidity rather than locked in a house while working. My goal is to pay off my house when I retire.

    Having a mortgage helps keep me financially disciplined. I like to match liability with an income stream.

    Thnx for commenting! FS

  83. hypothetical question : if you had enough $ to purchase a home up-front, in total, and still had a decent cash buffer, would you?

    1. I have actually done that. I bought my first property on 100% cash and rented it out and continued renting in my current place. I did that because I only had enough cash to buy a studio apt but I was living in a 2 bedroom apartment.

      This strategy enabled me to buy the apartment 4 years earlier and make 4 years worth of money from rent.

      Furthermore, it gave me flexibility to keep moving different places based on employment opportunities without having to worry about leaving my owned home and then finding a tenant.

      P.s. where I come from, renting a studio is waaaay easier than renting a 2 bedroom, as people usually end up buying it instead.

  84. I find it interesting that your 30% rule is higher (now I’ve done the math) than I had already allowed myself to spend on a mortgage when the time comes – at current values and rates. Almost £200 higher in fact.

    Nice to know, in a way.

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