Everyone loves having equity in a home. For most of us, that equity isn't instant and it costs a lot of money over time both in interest and upkeep. It's not only a smart idea to be comfortable with your monthly payment, but an even better idea to plan for changes in the future. It's easy to figure out what you're comfortable with today, but what if you take a pay cut in the future or maybe decide to start a family?

Before making an offer on a home, you should have a very good idea as to what your monthly payment will be. This can include your taxes, insurance, assessments, HOA dues, etc. Sometimes it's hard to get an exact quote on insurance before an offer is accepted, but other than that you should have most things figured out very well. There should be no surprises to you at or near closing on the home.

People who figure out what monthly payments they are most comfortable with before looking at houses seem to enjoy house shopping more. They know what they are able to afford, and why. Usually these people are willing to look at homes at top of their price point, but it's not their starting point when looking.