Newsflash: Complicated income/housing situation. Not sure if to buy or rent, or how much I can afford. (x-post /r/personalfinance)

Long story short, I just graduated and accepted a full time offer. Most people wouldn’t buy right out of school but my situation is a little weird.Stats:30, Male, unmarried (but in a long term relationship)Salary: $73kUntaxed VA disability compensation: $16008Debt: $20k student loans, average 5%Car: $200/moEligible for VA loan ( >10% disabled, no funding fee)Additional factors:The company I’ll be working for has a few perks if I buy within the first 365 calendar days. Those perks are: a) they’ll pay my closing costs and realtor fees b) if I use one of their preferred lenders, I get a 1/4% discount on the mortgage rate.If I choose to rent, they’ll give me an additional $5k year one to help with rental costs – a lot of new hires take the rental stipend, sign a 6 month lease, and then buy to take advantage of both programs (this is okay by the company and not punished)The real estate market in the city I’m moving to for this job is a little weird. A one bedroom studio in the city is almost a thousand per month. A one bedroom apartment outside the city center are roughly the same. On the flip side, housing sale prices are pretty average for a city in the US (2k sq ft 3 br 2 ba detached home for $250k is fairly easy to find) .I think I’m leaning towards taking the $5k housing stipend and then buy a house within the first year, but I’m not sure if thats the right decision or not. Additionally, I don’t know how to figure out how much I can afford to spend. There’s a ton of calculators out there for traditional loans, and a few for VA loans but those seem to vary widely in what they tell you they can afford.Another complicating factor is that I don’t know how to calculate my income. Using apps paycheck calculator, I’ve determined that my salary + disability puts me at roughly the same take-home as someone making $105k after taxes so thats what I was using, but I also thought I read somewhere that since my VA disability isn’t taxable income, I might not be able to use it as a consideration in a lending decision?TL;DR: Do I buy or rent? If I buy, how do I figure out how much I can afford?



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