Buying a home is one of the biggest investments most of us will ever make in our lifetimes.

A mortgage broker can help you determine how much you can afford based on your income, debts and employment history.

How much mortgage can I afford?

As a general rule, no more than 30 to 32 per cent of your gross annual income should go to “mortgage expenses” including the principal, interest, property taxes and heating costs (plus strata or HOA fees for apartment or condominium maintenance).

You also need to keep your other debts in mind. Payments on your all of your debts, including your new mortgage, should not exceed more than 40 per cent of your gross annual income. Other debts include car payments, student loans, credit card debt and personal loans. If you have a spouse or partner, it’s important to note your combined incomes will usually be considered when determining your TDS ratio.

Mortgage brokers can save you thousands

Using a mortgage broker can save you thousands of dollars over getting a mortgage through your bank. Mortgage brokers will shop your business around to various banks and financial institutions, which means you can often get a better interest or terms than what your bank would offer. There is no fee to use their service.

A great strategy to help you find a good mortgage broker is to ask your friends and family who they recommend.

You can also take a look through your local real estate publication or website, as they often feature many ads from mortgage brokers.

It’s also worth contacting your bank to see what their mortgage interest rates and terms are, just in case. Your mortgage broker can also advise whether or not its worth going through your existing bank.

Get pre-approved before viewing properties

Getting pre-approved by your mortgage lender will jump-start your home search and put you in a position where you can act quickly when you see the apartment or condo of your dreams.