Product Tutorial: Buy a New Home StencilBook

This is the tutorial on how to use the StencilBook for buying a new home, including tips and troubleshooting. Haven’t purchased the template yet? You still may enjoy reviewing this tutorial. But really, what are you waiting for? Go pick it up on our Products page!

May 28, 2020 · 7 min read

Thinking of buying a new home? This spreadsheet is a great way to estimate and understand all the numbers you’re going to see when you sign those closing papers. Keep in mind, this StencilBook is meant to evolve over time as you understand more about your loan terms, neighborhood, and other details on your future home. It doesn’t require a lot of set up but if you want to take advantage of all the features created for you, read on.

Product tour

Let’s start with a tour! There are two primary tabs in this StencilBook (in addition to the Help page):

  • MonthlyPayment - this is where you’ll input your numbers and see how your estimates change your estimated monthly cost, as well as other key metrics.

    • The top of the page has the Key Metrics that are important when making a decision to buy a new home: estimated monthly cost, money due at closing, total interest paid (for the entire life of the loan), and the actual loan term length in months. These numbers will change based on what you enter below.
    • The Categories selection box shows the eight major categories you can use to add detail to your estimate.
    • The table below is where you’ll dive into the values you need for each Category. On the left is where you’ll enter the values you know. Don’t worry about knowing all the values - these are optional depending on your needs. On the right, you can see how it impacts your key metrics compared to if you just had basic loan terms.
  • Amortization - if you want to get into the gritty details of each payment for the entire length of the loan, check out this tab


Set Up

Looking closer at the MonthlyPayment tab, start by entering the values for the basic loan terms category. You can enter numbers in any of the white boxes that have a dotted underline. If you don’t know the exact values - no big deal - take your best guess. This StencilBook is meant to evolve over time as you understand more about your loan terms, neighborhood, and other details on your future home. Continue going through each category adding what you know, skipping what you don’t.


Any box with a tiny red triangle in the corner means there is a note we’ve put in for you. If you hover over it, the note will appear and give you guidance on what type of information or considerations to make when you are filling in that box.

Info buttons

If you click on the black information buttons, you’ll be navigated to a website with helpful information about that particular topic. In particular you’ll see many info buttons around taxes and fees because they can be very confusing. When researching this topic, we found a few articles that were incredibly helpful and wanted you to have them easily accessible to help you understand the home buying process.

Comparison to Basic Loan Terms

As you’re entering values for each category, you’ll notice the values to the right changing. This right-hand section of the table is to help you understand how changing the values - turning the knobs - will impact your key metrics. It compares the results of the numbers you added for that category against the basic loan terms.

Categories Selection Box

So what if you don’t want to include maintenance fees, utility bills, or other categories in you estimate? You can use the selection box of Categories at the top of the page to hide those sections so you can focus on the categories that matter most to your decision. By clicking on the multi-select button, you can turn on and off different categories. If you want to show all of them again or none of them, click the filter button.

Keep in mind, by hiding a category using these buttons, it doesn’t remove them from the calculation. To remove values from a calculation you’ll need to delete the values in that Categories’ boxes.


What even is amortization? It’s the way payments are spread out over time. Even though the amount of money you pay each month will be the same, different amounts will go to the principle versus the interest. If you want to know exactly (or as close as we can calculate - your bank may do it a tiny bit differently) how much of your payment goes to principle and how much goes to interest, go to the Amortization table.

In this same table, we’ve also pulled in the values you entered for each category. If there is a certain month or subset of months you expect a change (for example, if you only want to make extra payments for a year instead of the entire lifetime of the loan), you can override the formulas in the table and see how that affects things. Keep in mind, changing numbers in the Amortization tab will not change any numbers on the MonthlyPayment tab. It’s like a one way street (numbers go in, but not out).

The last step - start practicing your signature and stretching your writing hand when you’re ready to sign those mortgage papers!


Run into something wonky? Check out these questions first.

How to deal with ####?

This text will show up in a cell and it looks scary, but all it means is that the width of the cell isn’t big enough to show all the digits that are supposed to be visible. Simply make the column width larger by dragging and dropping the width. You can also highlight the column, right click on it, click Column width, and enter a new number for the column width.

Unprotect the sheet

When a spreadsheet is protected, it means that all or certain parts of it can’t be edited (unless you unprotect it). Most of this template has been protected to ensure you don’t change anything that doesn’t need to be changed, but you do have freedom to change specific things to use the template appropriately. The option to Protect is done on an individual sheet (aka tab) basis. If you look at the sheet name on the bottom left, you’ll see a little lock symbol next to the name showing that it is protected. Or maybe you got a pop-up when you tried to do something that said:

Alert: The cell or chart you’re trying to change is on a protected sheet. To make a change, unprotect the sheet. You might be requested to enter a password

That’s because the sheet is protected.

To unprotect a sheet, check out the Excel ribbon at the top of the screen. Click the Review tab, then click Unprotect Sheet.That’s it! Now you’re free and clear to change anything on that sheet.We’d recommend you re-protect the sheet once you’ve made the changes you wanted by going back to the Review tab in the ribbon and clicking Protect Sheet (not to be confused with the Protect Workbook button - that’s totally different unfortunately).

Changing the color or font

You can make changes to the look and feel of the entire template file by changing the Theme. First, you’ll need to unprotect each sheet. Next, in the Excel ribbon, click on the Page Layout tab, then you can click Theme to change both the font and color scheme, or choose them independently using the Colors and Fonts buttons to the right. Don’t forget to re-protect each sheet

What updates have been made?

The notes for any updates that have been made to this product can be found in the Change Log.

Anything else?

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