How to find the perfect home

It isn't the one that has everything. It's the one with more of what you want and less of what you don't. This system can guide you to it.

A home's true cost
Mortgage Payment
month year
TIP: Use about $660 a month for every $100,000 you borrow.
Annual Maintenance
TIP: Figure 2% to 4% of the purchase price.
Property Tax and Association Fees
TIP: Check with your broker.
Annual Utility Costs
TIP: Get recent bills for utilities (winter and summer), including trash removal, and water and sewage service.
Annual Insurance
TIP: Get estimate at insure.com and insweb.com.
Gross annual income
CALCULATE
Total annual housing expenses
Expenses as % of your gross income
Your total annual outlay should be no more than a third of your gross income (ideally, less). Your cost of ownership appears to be manageable with your income.
Your total annual outlay should be no more than a third of your gross income (ideally, less). Your cost of ownership appears to be more than may be comfortable with your income.
A home's true cost
I see a lot of buyers make a basic mistake: When deciding if a particular house fits their budget, they look only at listed price and their probable mortgage payments.

But to make an honest comparison of the houses on your list, you must consider all the costs you'll be facing. In addition to mortgage payments, there are maintenance costs, property taxes and homeowners association fees, utilities and insurance.

Your total outlay should be no more than a third of your gross income (ideally, less). Use the calculator to the right to see if you meet this benchmark.
Alison Rogers is the author of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie."
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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.