Intro: Potential homebuyers need to understand that the cost of a home is about more than just the monthly mortgage payments. So, whether you're a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned pro looking to upgrade to a bigger home ... you need to know how much you can afford.Take VO: Before you start your search for a home, it's imperative that you have a realistic budget. Determining how much house you can afford depends on several factors that are unique to each person.The golden rule in determining how much home you can afford is that your total housing payment should not exceed 28 percent of your gross monthly income. That total encompasses homeowners insurance and taxes. But there's more to consider and calculate ...SOT: Greg McBride: "Limiting your mortgage payment to 28 percent of your monthly income and all of your debt payments to 36 percent of your monthly income assures that you'll have sufficient room in your monthly budget to meet other expenses as well as those other realities of home ownership like maintenance and upkeep."Continue VO: Don't forget about your current debts. If you have big debts, like credit card debt, auto and student loans ... you won't be able to afford as much of a mortgage payment.TAG: Bankrate.com's affordable mortgage calculator provides a detailed expense breakdown so that you can get a clear idea of how much house you can afford before you go shopping.