Is buying a house with a high debt-to-income ratio possible?
Buying a house with a high debt-to-income ratio is possible but it can be more challenging.
When you apply for a mortgage, the lender will make sure you can afford it. Doing so involves comparing your debts and your income — formally called your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI.
If your DTI is too high, you could have a hard time getting approved for a mortgage. However, there are ways to make the numbers work, even with a higher DTI.Check your high DTI loan options. Start here
In this article (Skip to...)
- What is DTI?
- Max DTI eligibility
- DTI guidelines
- Qualifying for a loan with a high DTI
- Calculating DTI
- Lowering your debt-to-income ratio
What is debt-to-income ratio (DTI)?
Debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is a financial metric that compares a person’s total amount of debt payments to their gross monthly income.
Your debt-to-income ratio tells lenders how much money you spend relative to how much income you earn. Whether you’re a repeat or first-time home buyer, DTI helps determine how large a mortgage payment you can comfortably make.Check your high DTI loan options. Start here
You calculate DTI by dividing the total monthly debt obligations — such as mortgage payments, credit card payments, and loan installments — by the gross monthly income (your pre-tax income) and then multiplying the result by 100 to express it as a percentage.
- For example, if you make $5,000 per month before taxes and you owe $1,800 per month on student loans and minimum credit card payments, your DTI is 36% ($1,800 / $5,000 = 0.36).
A low DTI ratio generally indicates healthier personal finances, as it suggests that a smaller portion of income is allocated towards debt payments.
Lenders want to be sure that prospective homeowners aren’t taking on more debt than they can manage before approving their mortgage loan application. When a borrower applies for a home loan, lenders consider two types of debt-to-income ratios.
Front-end DTI is limited to housing expenses and includes your potential monthly mortgage payment, homeowners insurance premiums, and property taxes.
Lenders often prioritize multiple factors in mortgage applications, with the front-end ratio receiving relatively less attention, except in specific cases like FHA loans. Nevertheless, your debt-to-income ratio serves as a useful gauge to assess your financial standing and determine a realistic affordability range for purchasing a home.
Back-end DTI is more commonly used during a home loan application because it provides an overall view of your monthly financial wellbeing.
Your back-end ratio looks at all of your recurring monthly minimum payments, including the front-end DTI plus any monthly debt from credit cards, student loan payments, debt consolidation loans, auto loans, and personal loans.
Your debt-to-income ratio typically doesn’t include basic household expenses or monthly bills for utilities, groceries, dining out, and entertainment. Instead, the types of debt DTI focuses on are minimum monthly payments from lines of credit that are regular and recurring.
What’s the maximum debt-to-income ratio for a home loan?
Generally, a good debt-to-income ratio is around 36% or less and not higher than 43%. But each mortgage lender can set its own eligibility requirements and DTI guidelines.Verify your home loan eligibility. Start here
Here are the common maximum DTI ratios for major loan programs:
- Conventional loans: 43% to 50%
- FHA loans: 45% to 50%
- VA loans: No maximum DTI specified, but borrowers with higher DTI could be subject to additional scrutiny
- USDA loans: 41% to 46%
- Jumbo loans: 43%
Most home loan programs can accept a pretty wide range of debt ratios. While lenders typically prefer a DTI on the lower end, they can often be flexible. If your debt-to-income ratio is closer to 50% than 43%, for example, other assets like a high credit score or a substantial down payment may help you qualify.
Debt-to-income ratio requirements by mortgage loan type
DTI ratio plays a significant role in mortgage qualification, with lower DTIs generally being more favorable. The specific DTI requirements, however, vary depending on the type of loan you get.
DTI requirements for conventional loans can vary based on individual circumstances and the loan type being sought. In general, a debt-to-income ratio of 50% or lower is often necessary to qualify. When DTI is high, lenders typically expect applicants to have substantial cash reserves to compensate for their debt burden and ensure loan security.
FHA loans, which have the backing of the U.S. Federal Housing Administration, have more lenient eligibility requirements. To qualify, borrowers typically need a minimum credit score of 580, and the maximum allowable debt-to-income ratio is generally around 50%. It’s important to note that each lender has the discretion to establish their own DTI requirements, so it’s advisable to research and consult with potential lenders to understand their specific ranges.
For military personnel and surviving spouses, VA loans provide appealing options. DTI requirements for VA loans tend to be more lenient, with some lenders accepting debt-to-income ratios of up to 60% in certain cases. However, individual lenders establish their own guidelines, so it’s crucial to communicate with them directly to determine their specific requirements.
USDA loans are applicable only to eligible rural areas for home purchases and refinancing. The maximum debt-to-income ratio allowed for a USDA loan is 46%. Additionally, income limitations come into play, as households with earnings exceeding 115% of the median income for their area are ineligible.
Lenders evaluating USDA loan eligibility consider the income of all household members, even if they are not listed on the loan. However, when assessing DTI, only the income and debts of those on the loan are considered.
How to get a loan with a high debt-to-income ratio
A high debt-to-income ratio can result in a turned-down mortgage application. Luckily, there are ways to get approved even with high debt levels.Check your high DTI loan options. Start here
1. Try a more forgiving loan program
Different programs come with varying DTI limits. For example, Fannie Mae sets its maximum DTI at 36% for those with smaller down payments and lower credit scores. Often, the limit for those with higher down payments or credit scores is 45%.
FHA loans, on the other hand, allow a debt-to-income ratio of up to 50% in some cases, and your credit does not have to be top-notch.
Likewise, USDA loans are designed to promote homeownership in rural areas — places where income might be lower than in highly populated employment centers.
Perhaps the most lenient of all are VA loans, which are zero-down financing reserved for current and former military service members. If there is a lot of residual income, the DTI for these loans can be quite high. If you’re fortunate enough to be eligible, a VA loan is likely the best option for high-debt borrowers.Check your loan options. Start here
2. Restructure your debts
Sometimes, you can reduce your ratios by refinancing or restructuring debt.
Student loan repayment can often be extended over a longer period of time. You may be able to pay off credit cards with a personal loan at a lower interest rate and payment. Or, refinance your car loan to a longer term, a lower rate, or both.
Transferring your credit card balances to a new one with a 0% introductory rate can lower your payment for up to 18 months. That helps you qualify for your mortgage and pay off your debts faster as well.
If you recently restructured a loan, keep all the paperwork handy. The new account may not show up on your credit report for 30 to 60 days. Your lender will need to see new loan terms to give you the benefit of lower payments.Check your home loan options. Start here
3. Pay down the right accounts
If you can pay an installment loan down so that there are fewer than 10 payments left, mortgage lenders usually drop that payment from your ratios.
Or you can reduce your credit card balances to lower your monthly minimum.
You want to get the biggest bang for your buck, however. You can do this by taking every credit card balance and dividing it by its monthly payment, then paying off the ones with the highest payment-to-balance ratio.
Suppose you have $1,000 available to pay down the debts below:
The first account has a payment that’s 9% of the balance — the highest of the four accounts — so that should be the first to go.
The first $500 eliminates a $45 payment from your ratios. You’d use the remaining $500 to pay down the fourth account balance to $2,500, dropping its payment by $25.
The total payment reduction is $70 per month, which in some cases could turn a loan denial into an approval.Check your loan options. Start here
4. Cash-out refinancing
If you’re trying to refinance but your debts are too high, you might be able to eliminate them with a cash-out refinance.
The extra cash you take from the mortgage is earmarked to pay off debts, thereby reducing your debt-to-income ratio.
When you close on a debt consolidation refinance, checks are issued directly to your creditors. You may be required to close those accounts as well.Check your cash-out refinancing options. Start here
5. Get a lower mortgage rate
One way to reduce your debt-to-income ratio is to drop the payment on your new mortgage. You can do this by “buying down” the rate — paying points to get a lower interest rate and payment.
Shop carefully. Choose a loan with a lower start rate, for instance, a 5-year adjustable-rate mortgage instead of a 30-year fixed loan.
Buyers should consider asking the seller to contribute toward closing costs. The seller can buy your rate down instead of reducing the home price if it gives you a lower payment.
If you can afford the mortgage you want, but the numbers aren’t working for you, there are options. An expert mortgage lender can help you sort out your debts, tell you how much lower they need to be, and work out the details.
Check out your lending options. Start here
How to calculate your debt-to-income ratio
Understanding your DTI is important to managing your financial health, especially if you’re dealing with current debt or considering new credit.
Maintaining a good credit history and effectively managing your monthly expenses, such as rent payments and car payments, are essential steps in avoiding the pitfalls of loans with higher interest rates and securing terms that are more favorable to your financial situation.Check your high DTI loan options. Start here
1. Total your minimum monthly payments
To begin calculating your DTI, focus on your total monthly debt payments. This includes:
- Your proposed monthly mortgage payment
- Property taxes and homeowner’s insurance premiums
- Homeowners Association (HOA) dues, if applicable
- Minimum required payments on other debts, such as credit card debt, auto loans, student debt, debt consolidation loans, and any alimony or child support obligations.
Remember, when tallying your debts, only the monthly minimum payments count, not the entire loan amount.
2. Divide your monthly payments by your gross monthly income
Your monthly gross income is the total amount of pre-tax income you earn each month. This step involves dividing the total of your monthly debt obligations by your gross monthly income.
It’s a simple calculation that provides a clear picture of your financial health.
3. Convert the outcome to a percentage.
The final step in the DTI calculation is converting the result into a percentage. This percentage is a key indicator of your creditworthiness.
A lower DTI is often more favorable and can influence the terms and rates of loans, especially if you’re exploring high DTI loans or seeking mortgage lenders with high debt-to-income ratio acceptance.Check your high DTI loan options. Start here
Formula for debt-to-income ratio
Divide your monthly payments by your gross monthly income, and then determine your DTI percentage by multiplying the resulting figure by 100.
- Monthly debt payments / monthly gross income = X * 100 = DTI ratio
For example, your income is $10,000 per month. Your mortgage, property taxes, and homeowners insurance are $2,000. Your car payments and credit card payments come to another $1,000. Your DTI is 30 percent.
Lenders don’t favor applicants who make more money. Instead, they approve those with a reasonable ratio of monthly debt compared to their income.
In the above examples, the applicant who makes the least is actually the most qualified for a loan.
How to lower your debt-to-income ratio
Before you apply for a mortgage, there are a few strategies you can use if your debt-to-income ratio is high.
Increase your income
Boosting your income is a practical approach to lowering your DTI ratio. Consider exploring opportunities like a side job, additional hours at your current workplace, or freelance work. Remember, lenders often prefer to see a consistent income history, typically around two years, for each source of income. This increase can significantly help in reducing your DTI, especially when applying for mortgages that cater to high debt-to-income ratios.
Tackle your smallest debts first
An effective method to reduce your DTI is by focusing on your smaller debts. Paying off these debts entirely, if feasible, can lead to an immediate decrease in your DTI. Alternatively, consistently paying more than the minimum required amount on these debts can gradually reduce your DTI. This approach is especially beneficial for those exploring high DTI loans or mortgages from lenders who are considerate of high debt-to-income ratios.
Consider adding a co-borrower
Involving a spouse or partner in your loan application can be advantageous. If your partner has a lower DTI, their financial profile can help reduce the overall DTI for the household. This strategy is particularly useful for couples seeking high debt-to-income ratio mortgage solutions. However, if your partner’s DTI is similar to or higher than yours, their inclusion might not be beneficial.
Opt for a co-signer
For those aiming to secure a mortgage with a high DTI, enlisting a co-signer, like a family member or a close friend, can be a viable option.
A co-signer’s financial stability and debt-to-income ratio are considered by lenders, which can enhance your loan application. This could potentially lead to qualifying for a larger mortgage or obtaining more favorable terms, such as lower interest rates. It’s important to note that a co-signer doesn’t need to reside on the property but must agree to fulfill the loan obligations if you are unable to do so.
FAQ: Getting a loan with a high DTI ratioVerify your home loan eligibility. Start here
According to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), 43% is often the highest DTI a borrower can have and still get a qualified mortgage. However, depending on the loan program, borrowers can qualify for a mortgage loan with a DTI of up to 50% in some cases.
While lenders and loan programs all have their own DTI requirements, typically a good DTI is 36% or lower.
Borrowers with a higher DTI will have difficulty getting approved for a home loan. Lenders want to know that you can afford your monthly mortgage payments, and having too much debt can be a sign that you might miss a payment or default on the loan. If you’re in this situation, try to pay down or restructure some of your bigger debts before applying for a home loan.
A commonsense approach can help reduce your DTI before beginning the home buying process. Increasing the monthly amount you pay toward existing debt, avoiding new debt, and using less of your available credit can all help lower your DTI. Recalculating your DTI ratio each month will help you measure your progress and stay motivated.
Some home buyers may confuse debt-to-income ratio with credit utilization ratio, also known as debt-to-limit ratio and debt-to-credit ratio. Your credit utilization ratio shows how much of your available credit (credit limit) you’re using. As an example, if you have a $100,000 credit limit across several credit cards and your current balance is $5,000, then your credit utilization ratio is 5%.
Check your eligibility for a high debt-to-income mortgage
A high debt-to-income ratio can make it tougher to get a home loan. Fortunately, lenders have some flexibility when it comes to mortgage requirements.
If your DTI is high but you’re a reliable borrower in other respects, there’s a good chance you could still qualify. To find out, talk to a local lender and check your eligibility today.Time to make a move? Let us find the right mortgage for you