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Home buyers' calculators

There are a lot of “calculators” out there that are designed to help you when you buy a new house or relocate.

Mortgage calculators let you compare various mortgage options, such as the mortgage rates, points, and terms. They let you pick an amount and see how much you would have to pay per month for a fixed rate 30 year, 7% mortgage, versus how much you would pay per month for a fixed rate 20 year, 6.5% mortgage.

A cost of living calculator is also important. Imagine that you live in City A, and are earning a salary of $50,000. How much more or less would it cost you to live in City B? You may be saving 4% of your income each year. How much would you have to earn in your new location in order to save 4% of your income?
Obviously certain assumptions have to be made in order to compute anything at all, but surprisingly enough, it is possible to get pretty good numbers using these assumptions.

Here is one way of doing this.  All expenses can be split into volatile and non-volatile. Volatile expenses are those that can change a lot between two neighboring cities. Good examples are property taxes, car insurance premiums, mortgage payment and local sales taxes.  Non-volatile expenses are ones that don’t change much between places in the same region or state, but can be quite different across the United States. Good examples are food, utilities, health expenses and some income taxes such as social security and Medicare. Federal tax is outside these categories, because it actually depends on various other expenses, such as mortgage interest, etc. 

Once you know that you are interested in comparing City A to City B, it is fairly straightforward to compute, for both cities, volatile and non-volatile expenses. Computing the new income and federal tax is then an interative process. Once the iteration converges, it is possible to compute the new cost of living in City B.

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