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There are many factors that lenders evaluate when considering you for a mortgage. One of the most important is your debt-to-income ratio, which indicates how much of your income your monthly debt takes up.
Calculating your DTI is fairly easy and is a good way to gauge what mortgage loans you might be eligible for when buying or refinancing a home.
Here’s what you should know about mortgage DTI ratio:
- What is a debt-to-income ratio?
- What DTI ratio do you need for a mortgage?
- Tips for improving your debt-to-income ratio
- Next steps to finding the right mortgage
What is a debt-to-income ratio?
A debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is expressed as a percentage, showing how much of your total monthly income goes toward debt payments each month. This includes your house payment, credit cards, other loans, and more. It’s calculated like this:
(Total monthly debt) / (Gross monthly income) x 100 = DTI
Technically, there are two types of DTI ratios that lenders look at when considering a mortgage application:
- Front-end DTI: This includes just your housing related debts (what your expected new mortgage payment, taxes, insurance, etc. would be) compared to your monthly income.
- Back-end DTI: This is used more widely by lenders because it takes into account all your debts.
Find Out: How to Find the Best Mortgage Lender
What DTI ratio do you need for a mortgage?
DTI requirements vary by loan type, so the threshold you’ll need to fall under will depend on what type of mortgage you choose. Here’s a quick look at what the general, minimum DTI requirements look like by loan type:
|31% to 33%
|43% to 45%
(but lenders are free to go higher)
FHA loans tend to have looser qualifying requirements than other loan types. On these mortgages, you can have a back-end DTI as high as 43% and still qualify, or even higher if there are compensating factors. If you’re applying for an FHA Energy Efficient Homes (EEH) mortgage, the DTI maximum goes up to 45%.
Your front-end DTI must be 31% or less (33% for EEH loans) without compensating factors. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the median DTI of FHA borrowers is 44%.
On USDA loans, also sometimes called rural housing loans, the DTI requirements are 29% on the front-end and 41% on the back-end. The CFPB shows that 36% is the median DTI for USDA borrowers.
The VA technically sets a maximum back-end DTI or 41%, but because military members often receive a lot of tax-free income that isn’t calculated into these ratios, lenders are free to go beyond the 41% threshold with no limits. In fact, according to the CFPB, the median DTI for VA borrowers is 42%.
On conventional loans, the maximum back-end DTI is 50%. There are tighter restrictions for DTI on “manual underwrites,” including a 36% to 45% cap on back-end DTI depending on your credit score and the amount of cash you have for reserves. The CFPB shows the median DTI of conventional borrowers is 37%.
Tips for improving your debt-to-income ratio
If your current DTI doesn’t qualify you for a mortgage, there are steps you can take to improve your ratio:
- Pay down or pay off your debt: The lower your monthly debt payments are, the lower your DTI will be, which will improve your chances of qualifying for a loan.
- Increase your income: Raising your income by even just a little bit each month can also help reduce your DTI. Consider taking on a side gig or asking for a raise to bump your pay up a bit.
- Add a co-borrower: Having another person, such as a family member, spouse, partner, or other trusted friend apply for the loan with you can also help. Instead of just looking at one income, the lender might take into account both of your salaries. This could lower your DTI and boost your chances of qualifying.
Improving your DTI can also qualify you for better terms and interest rates, so even if your DTI is under the max threshold, you might consider working on your ratio before applying for your loan. If it’s your first home you’re buying, you can also save with these programs for first-time homebuyers.
Next steps to finding the right mortgage
Whatever your DTI is, it’s important you shop around for your mortgage loan. Terms, rates, and eligibility requirements can vary from one lender to the next, so considering a variety of lenders is critical if you want to find the right loan for your situation.
Credible can help you compare multiple lenders at once.