You Won't Believe What the Average Mortgage Payment Looks Like Today

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  • The average monthly mortgage payment recently rose to $1,964.
  • It's important to keep your housing costs, including your mortgage payments, to 30% of your take-home pay or less.
  • Based on recent income data, it's possible that some recent home buyers may now be in over their heads.

Hint: It's not a small number.

Home prices have been elevated for quite some time now. That, combined with higher mortgage rates, has forced many recent buyers to take on expensive monthly housing payments.

In January, the average monthly mortgage payment was $1,964, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. That's up from $1,920 in December.

Now, what's somewhat surprising is that mortgage rates dropped between December and January. In spite of that, homeowners are on the hook for higher monthly mortgage payments. And some may be in danger of falling behind.

Post-purchase affordability issues could arise

Many people struggle to buy a home in the first place -- they can't qualify for a mortgage or they can't scrounge up a large enough down payment. But just because buyers manage to overcome those hurdles doesn't mean it's smooth sailing once they become homeowners officially. 

Given how high the average monthly mortgage payment is today, it wouldn't be surprising to see an increase in delinquencies on the home loan front -- especially when we throw in general inflation and the fact that just about every expense has been rising at a rapid clip. 

Make sure you don't get in over your head

It may be that a monthly mortgage payment of $1,964, or something in that ballpark, is doable for you. But before you sign a mortgage, make sure to run the numbers.

As a general rule of thumb, your monthly housing costs should not exceed 30% of your take-home pay. So if you bring home $5,000 a month after taxes and deductions, it means you shouldn't be spending more than $1,500 on housing. And that $1,500 would need to include not just mortgage payments, but also, costs like homeowners insurance and property taxes. 

Of course, what's interesting is that median income in the U.S. was just $70,784 in 2021, the most recent year for which this data is available via the U.S. Census Bureau. That amounts to about $5,900, but that's on a pre-tax basis. A married couple with that income would've had a 12% marginal tax rate in 2021, thereby whittling that $5,900 down to more like $5,200 a month in post-tax income, assuming no other deductions.

When we do the math, 30% of $5,200 is only $1,560. So clearly, there's a huge disconnect between the average monthly mortgage payment and recent median income, assuming we want to stick to that 30% threshold.

That said, there's a big difference between medians and averages when we dig into different sets of data. When we talk about an average monthly mortgage payment of $1,964, it's quite possible that a small percentage of wealthy Americans with very high mortgage payments are inflating that number. 

But even so, it's clear that many Americans -- especially those with average incomes -- cannot afford a home based on today's prices and mortgage rates. And anyone in that boat should strongly consider waiting to purchase a home rather than committing to a set of expenses they risk falling behind on.

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