Are You Ready to Buy Property? Check These 4 Personal Finance Ratios

How do you know if you’re financially ready to buy a property?

Most people might just use a “gut feel” or some arbitrary benchmark – “30 years old already? Got a new job? Better buy a property!” – but let’s be honest – that’s hardly a sensible approach. 

If you’re looking for a more structured and objective assessment method to assess how prepared you are to take the plunge, how about personal finance ratios?

Typically, financial ratios are simple “quick check” calculations analysts use to judge a company’s financial health more efficiently. In the stock market, for instance, the most common ratio is the price-to-earnings ratio. 

In this guide, we are going to use the same principles and apply them to our personal finances with the goal of better gauging your financial readiness for a new home purchase.

We’ll be looking at four of the most useful ones. For each, we will show you how to calculate them, the financial implications, some ideal ranges, and how to think about them in the context of a potential property purchase. 

Note: Obviously, the biggest question is – can you afford the downpayment (including the cash portion)? But once you’ve got that basic prerequisite, these four ratios can help you look beyond to see if you’re truly prepared to buy a property.

See Also

 

1. The Liquidity Ratio: How Much Cash Do You Have? 

How to calculate it: Your total cash balances (current accounts, savings accounts, fixed deposits, and cash management accounts) / Total monthly expenses

Your liquidity ratio tells you how many months of expenses your current liquidity reserves can cover. Now, because we are talking about these ratios in the context of whether you’re ready to buy a property, you should be looking at how this ratio (and the others) would change after you buy a property.

For example, a 30-year $500,000 mortgage at 2.0% annual interest would cost you about $1,850 in monthly repayments. What would your liquidity ratio be like after adding that on? You should also throw in a buffer on top of that for maintenance expenses. Don’t forget to account for the effect of the downpayment on your cash reserves as well.

After accounting for the potential purchase, the ideal range to be shooting for is 6 months to a year, with 3 months being the bare minimum. Remember that your liquidity ratio also tells you how long your emergency fund can last you in worst-case scenarios – such as losing your job.

That said, there is some leeway here, and the question to also ask yourself is – how quickly can you “replenish” your liquidity ratio? For example, let’s say your liquidity ratio will fall to under 6 months after you purchase a property. You should also estimate how long it will take for that ratio to go back above 6 months. The time it takes will largely depend on your savings ratio, which we discuss later below.

 

2. The Liquid Assets to Net Worth Ratio: How Much Cash Can You Easily “Unlock”? 

How to calculate it: Your total cash balances (current accounts, savings accounts, fixed deposits, and cash management accounts) / Net worth (total assets minus liabilities)

Your net worth is the same as a company’s equity on its balance sheet. You determine it by taking all your assets (cash, investments, CPF, property market value) minus liabilities (outstanding debts including home loan). The liquid assets to net worth ratio tell you what percentage of your net worth is liquid – easily convertible to cash.

Why is this important? Because knowing this ratio can help you avoid falling into the “asset rich cash poor trap”, sometimes known as being “house poor”. The ideal range for this ratio is 15% and above.

Because of the downpayment, your cash reserves – and thus this ratio – might be affected. It also depends on how much of the downpayment you are planning to finance with your cash reserves versus your CPF OA balances. What’s important to consider here is that, if buying a certain property will cause your liquid assets to net worth ratio to dip significantly below 15%, it might be wise to consider something more affordable.

 

3. The Savings Ratio: How Much Savings Do You Have? 

How to calculate it: Your total monthly savings / Gross monthly income

This one is straightforward. It sells you how much of your gross income you are putting aside for savings or investments each month. Although CPF acts as a “forced savings” mechanism, you should still shoot for at least 10% (a number advocated by the Financial Planning Association of Singapore) – even after taking on a home loan. 

See Also: How to Balance the Use of CPF for Property and Save Up for Retirement

Tip: If you already have a mortgage but have been unable to hit your target savings ratio, you might need to optimise your cash flows. Refinancing can help.

 

4. The Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR): How Much of Your Income Goes Into Paying Loans? 

How to calculate it: Your total monthly debt repayments / Monthly take-home income

If you’ve done even basic research into home loans in Singapore, then you’ve probably heard of the Total Debt Servicing Ratio, abbreviated as TDSR. Because of MAS regulations, banks can only extend you a home loan if your post-home loan TDSR is lower than 60%. Also, this TDSR calculation will be made assuming an interest rate of 3.5% for the home loan.

A subset of the TDSR is the MSR – Mortgage Servicing Ratio, which is only applicable for HDB flat and Executive Condo (EC) purchases. This is calculated by taking your total monthly home loan repayments divided by your monthly take home income. MAS mandates that this cannot exceed 30%.

These are the “mandated regulatory” minimums. But they are far from ideal. For our purposes, we consider the ideal post-home loan TDSR to be under 40%. If you have higher-interest debt, it may be wise to pay that off first And again, if you currently have a home loan and you think the TDSR is higher than it should be, refinancing into a lower-interest mortgage may help. 

See Also

 

Putting Everything Together – A Property Comparison Example

Now that we’ve gone over all four ratios, let’s see how we can put everything together. In the following tables, we give the hypothetical financial stats of “Mr Tan”, two properties at different price points, and how the four financial ratios would change for him for both potential purchases.

Note: You can use these ratios for a household as well.

First let’s look at Mr Tan’s current (pre-purchase) “stats”.

A

Total Cash Reserves

$55,000

B

CPF OA Balances

$200,000

C

Non-CPF OA Balances (for net worth calculations) 

$70,000

D

Total Debt

E = A+B+C-D

Net Worth

$325,000

F

Gross Monthly Income

$8,000

G

Monthly Take Home Income

$6,384

H

Monthly Expenses 

$2,500

I

Monthly Debt Repayments

J

Monthly Savings

$3,884

K = A/H

Liquidity Ratio

22 months

L = A/E

Liquid Assets to Net Worth Ratio

17%

M = J/F

Savings Ratio

49%

N = D/G

Debt Servicing Ratio

0%

 

Obviously, Mr Tan is in pretty good financial shape, which is why he thinks he’s prepared to buy a property. But let’s now look at two potential properties he’s considering.

 

Property 1

Property 2

Property Price

$1,000,000

$800,000

Home Loan Amount (75% LTV)

$750,000

$600,000

20% Downpayment (Cash or CPF)

$200,000

$160,000

5% Cash Downpayment

$50,000

$40,000

Monthly Repayment

$2,772

$2,217

 

Here are the assumptions we will be making.

  • Mr Tan will use as much of his CPF OA funds as possible for the downpayment
  • However, he will not use his CPF OA funds for the monthly home loan repayments
  • The potential home loan will be 30 years at 2% per year
  • His cash reserves and CPF are his only current non-property assets
  • The property price is also the current market value
  • He is currently debt-free

Now, the most important part – assessing how Mr Tan’s financial ratios would look like depending on which property he chooses.

 

Property 1

Property 2

Total Cash Reserves (after paying 5% downpayment)

$5,000

$15,000

CPF OA Balances (after paying 20% downpayment)

$40,000

Non-CPF OA Balances

$70,000

$70,000

Total Debt (housing loan)

$750,000

$600,000

Net Worth

$325,000

$325,000

Gross Monthly Income

$8,000

$8,000

Monthly Take Home Income

$6,384

$6,384

Monthly Expenses 

$2,500

$2,500

Monthly Debt Repayments (home loan instalment)

$2,772

$2,217

Monthly Savings

1,112

$1,667

Liquidity Ratio

2 months

6 months

Liquid Assets to Net Worth Ratio

2%

5%

Savings Ratio

14%

21%

Debt Servicing Ratio

43%

35%

 

As the table shows, the lower-priced Property 2 may be more suitable for Mr Tan. It would enable him to maintain a far healthier savings and debt servicing ratio, while his immediate post-purchase liquidity ratio would be more robust as well. His liquid assets to net worth ratio is still low, but that should steadily increase because of his higher savings ratio.

Remember, this is just an example to demonstrate how you can use these ratios for yourself. These are of course not the only factors that go into determining whether you are financially ready for a property – but they certainly can help. Another useful thing you can do is to use our Mortgage Affordability Calculator to help refine your options.

See Also: 7 Reasons to Use PropertyGuru’s Online Mortgage Affordability Calculator

 

Need More Personalised Home Financing Advice and Recommendations? 

The great thing about using financial ratios is that they are automatically tailored to your situation. But sometimes, you may want to go even more personal, and perhaps even ask a few questions of your own.

Our Home Financing Advisors have you covered. Just head over to this page and fill out the short form and one of them will get in touch with you. For more information on everything home financing, check out the rest of our guides.

 

PropertyGuru Finance home loan bottom banner

Disclaimer: Information provided on this website is general in nature and does not constitute financial advice.

PropertyGuru will endeavour to update the website as needed. However, information can change without notice and we do not guarantee the accuracy of information on the website, including information provided by third parties, at any particular time.Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is accurate, individuals must not rely on this information to make a financial or investment decision. Before making any decision, we recommend you consult a financial planner or your bank to take into account your particular financial situation and individual needs.PropertyGuru does not give any warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of information which is contained in this website. Except insofar as any liability under statute cannot be excluded, PropertyGuru, its employees do not accept any liability for any error or omission on this web site or for any resulting loss or damage suffered by the recipient or any other person.

 

 

This article was written by Ian Lee, an ex-banker turned financial writer who hopes to use his financial background and writing skills to help raise people’s financial literacy levels – a necessity in our modern world.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *