One of the pitfalls of buying a new home is paying too little for your downpayment. Making the right decision involves an analysis of the costs related to your debt and your income.

When banks offer low downpayment programs in the 3% to 5% range, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should jump at the chance. When you put down a small amount to buy your home, you’re mortgaging a higher loan amount. This can be a costly mistake.

I have recently advised a divorced mom with three kids to put down more than half the cost of her home from a recent inheritance. While this was more than she had expected to put down, she realized that this initial payment would be the best solution and would help her comfortably handle her monthly expenses.

To make the mortgage work, we needed to assess her debt-to-income ratio (DTI). When we talk about debt, we mean more than just the monthly bills. We also factor in costs like the principle, property taxes, condo fees and insurance premiums.

By putting down a big chunk of her inheritance, it created a DTI that was under 45% of her gross income. Hitting this number is critical for certain types of mortgages and banks are far more likely to be as comfortable lending you the money as you would be paying it back.

I help my clients review programs that allow those 3%-5% downpayments, but I also advise them on the risk vs. reward when taking an offer that seems like a blessing but could turn out to be a financial curse you’ll have to live with for many years to come.

There’s no reason to buy a home without talking to a professional first. Get in touch if you or someone you love is in the early stages of buying a home.

August’s Home Improver

Fall Home Prep Checklist

The transition from summer to fall is drastic, particularly for families with children. As the kids get ready to return to school, you may find yourself getting your home ready for the autumn weather and a more regimented family schedule. Here’s a checklist of suggestions to get your home ready for the fall.

1. Close Your Pool. But wait until the weather dips below 90ยบ. You may still need it for another few weeks.
2. Clean Your Gutters. If your gutters are slightly clogged now, they won’t stand a chance once the leaves start to fall.
3. Clean Out The Garage. Move the summer stuff to the back and keep your rake and shovel up front. If it’s cluttered, empty it out so you can fit your car in there when the weather changes.
4. Take Out Air Conditioners. You may also want to purchase covers if you choose to leave them in.
5. Fall Cleaning. This is just like Spring Cleaning, but in September.
6. Change the Decor. Buy a new welcome mat, change your sofa pillows, consider bath towels in fall colors, buy candles that match the feeling of the season.
7. Clean Up Your Mudroom. Move out the flip-flops and summer hats to make room for boots, coats, scarves and everything else the fall weather requires.
8. Change Your Artwork. Move hanging art to other rooms to switch it up. From pictures of your summer vacation.
9. Get Your Pets Ready, Too! New dog and cat beds make your home look neater and your pets feel more comfortable. And don’t forget a raincoat for Rex. Speaking of which…
10. Break Out Your Umbrellas. Buy an elegant umbrella stand for your nice clean mudroom. Add new umbrellas that open when you click the button on the first try — and haven’t been blown inside out a few times over the years.