Most people have a general idea of how much they feel comfortable spending. It's equally important to know how much your lender calculates you can afford. With assistance that I will provide you with, you'll be able to better prepare the many details required during the financing application process.

* Evaluate your financial situation as the lenders do. Typically, your total monthly housing costs should not exceed 32% percent of your gross monthly income. Or, housing costs plus any outstanding monthly long term debt (car loans, credit card balances, etc.) should not exceed 40% percent of gross monthly income.

* Ask how your lender determines the total monthly housing cost figure. It usually includes your mortgage principal and interest payments, property taxes and home insurance.

* Determine how much your financial institution is willing to lend you by completing our Mortgage Calculator or calling me, your Better Homes and Gardens Signature Service Sales Representative for help during the prequalification process.

* Know how much you can afford in monthly payments. Lenders factor in sales price and down payment, but place more importance on how much you can handle your monthly expenses.

* Become a preapproved buyer. Preapproval gives you more buying strength since the lender makes a credit decision and preapproves you for a certain mortgage amount. You'll know what price range your lender will approve -- and you'll be in a position to make an offer as soon as you find the right home.