What’s My Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio?

Debt-to-Income (DTI) is one of the many new mortgage related terms many First-Time Home Buyers will get used to hearing.

DTI is a component of the mortgage approval process that measures a borrower’s Gross Monthly Income compared to their credit payments and other monthly liabilities.

Debt-to-Income Ratios are designed to give guidance on acceptable levels of debt allowed by particular lenders or programs.

There are actually two different Debt-to-Income Ratios that underwriters will review in order to determine if a borrower’s monthly income is sufficient to cover the responsibility of a mortgage according to the particular lender / mortgage program guidelines.

Most loan programs allow for a Total DTI of 43% and a Housing DTI of 31%.

Two Types of DTI Ratios:

a) Front End or Housing Ratio:

  • Should be 28-31% of your gross income
  • Divide the estimated monthly mortgage payment by the gross monthly income

b)  Back End or Total Debt Ratio:

  • Should be less than 43% of your gross monthly income
  • Divide the estimated house payment plus all consumer debt by the gross monthly income

Remember, the DTI Ratios are based on gross income before taxes.  Lenders also prefer to use W2’s or tax returns to verify income and employment.

However, the adjusted gross income is used to calculate DTI for self-employed borrowers on most loan programs.  Since there is room for interpretation on these guidelines, it’s important to review your personal income / employment scenario in detail with your trusted mortgage professional to make sure everything fits within the guidelines.

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Calculating Loan-to-Value (LTV)

Understanding the definition of Loan-to-Value (LTV), and how it impacts a mortgage approval, will help you determine what type of loan amount and program you may qualify for.

Since the LTV Ratio is a major component of getting approved for a new mortgage, it’s a good idea to learn the simple math of calculating the amount of equity you may need, or down payment to budget for in order to qualify for a particular loan program.

The LTV Ratio is calculated as follows:

Mortgage Amount divided by Appraised Value of Property = Loan-to-Value Ratio

*On a purchase transaction for a residential property, the LTV is calculated using the lesser of either the purchase price or appraised value.

For Example:

Sally qualifies for a 96.5% Loan-to-Value FHA program, which means she’ll have to bring in 3.5% as a down payment.

If the purchase price is $100,000, then a 96.5% LTV would = $96,500 loan amount. And, the 3.5% down payment would be $3,500.

$96,500 (Mortgage Amount) / $100,000 (Purchase Price) = .965 or 96.5%

In addition to determining what mortgage programs are available, LTV also is a key factor in the amount of mortgage insurance required to protect the lender from default.

On a conventional loan, mortgage insurance is usually required if you have an LTV over 80% (one loan is more than 80% of the home’s appraised value). On that point, if you are currently paying mortgage insurance and think that your LTV is less than 80%, then it may be time to refinance, or call your lender to restructure the payment.

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Frequently Asked LTV Questions:

Q:  Why do the lenders care about Loan to Value?

Lenders care about the LTV because it helps determine the exposure and risk they have in lending on a certain property. Statistics show that borrowers with a lower LTV are less likely to default on their mortgage.  Also, with a lower LTV the lender will lose less money in case of a foreclosure.

Q:  Can I drop my mortgage insurance on an FHA loan?

The mortgage insurance on an FHA loan is structured differently than a conventional loan. On a 30 year fixed FHA loan, the monthly mortgage insurance can be removed after five years, as well as when the borrower’s loan is 78% LTV.

Q:  What does CLTV stand for?

CLTV stands for Combined Loan To Value. The CLTV calculation is as follows:
(1st Mortgage Amount + 2nd mortgage amount) / Appraised Value of Property = CLTV

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Common Documents Required For A Mortgage Pre-Approval

Even though many lenders are still quoting quick 10 minute pre-qualifications over the phone or online, a true mortgage approval that holds any weight is one that has been issued by an underwriter who has had an opportunity to review all of the necessary documents.

With a constant stream of new lending guidelines, volatile mortgage rates and tightening regulation from Washington, very few real estate agents will show new homes to a First-Time Home Buyer without at least a pre-qualification letter.

A Pre-Approval Letter will help you in three ways:

It’s obviously a good idea to get your paperwork prepared ahead of time so that the pre-approval process is as thorough as possible.

In order to get a pre-approval letter, you’ll start by filling out a loan application and submitting a few documents for the loan officer and / or underwriter to review.

Common Loan Pre-Approval Documents:

Income / Assets for Wage Earner:

  • Last 2 year W2s and Tax Returns
  • 2 most recent Pay Stubs
  • 2 most recent Bank Statements, 401(K), Liquid Assets, Investment Accounts

Income / Assets for Self-Employed:

  • Last 2 year Tax Returns – Business and Personal
  • Last Quarter P&L Statement

Letter of Explanation For:

  • Employment Gap or New Line of Work
  • Late Payments / Judgments / Bankruptcy on Credit Report

Other:

  • Bankruptcy Discharge
  • Child Support Documentation
  • Lease Agreements (If own other Rental Properties)
  • Mortgage Payment Coupons (If own other Real Estate)

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Most borrowers also want an opportunity to learn more about the loan officer before digging up all of these personal documents. Spend 15 minutes on the phone asking the loan officer to explain how mortgage rates work, quizzing them on some basic industry vocab or just to see if they know what to prepare your agent for ahead of time. The Q&A session can be more than just a lender qualifying you, as long as you’re prepared to ask the right questions.

Either way, you’ll definitely want to have the above list of approval documents ready once you’ve decided on the right loan officer that you trust will meet your expectations.

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Ten Credit Do’s and Don’ts To Bear In Mind Prior To Getting Your Mortgage Loan

How can a fully approved loan get denied for funding after the borrower has signed loan docs?

Simple, the underwriter pulls an updated credit report to verify that there hasn’t been any new activity since original approval was issued, and the new findings kill the loan.

This generally won’t happen in a 30 day time-frame, but borrowers should anticipate a new credit report being pulled if the time from an original credit report to funding is more than 60 days.

Purchase transactions involving short sales or foreclosures tend to drag on for several months, so this approval / denial scenario is common.

It’s An Ugly Cycle:

  1. First-Time Home Buyer receives an approval
  2. Thinks everything is OK
  3. Makes a credit impacting decision (new car, furniture, run up credit card balance)
  4. Funder pulls new credit report and denies the loan

In the hopes of stemming the senseless slaughter of perfectly acceptable approvals, we’ve developed a “Ten credit do’s and don’ts” list to help ensure a smoother loan process.

These tips don’t encompass everything a borrower can do prior to and after the Pre-Approval process, however they’re a good representation of the things most likely to help and hurt an approval.

Ten Credit Do’s and Don’ts:

DO continue making your mortgage or rent payments

Remember, you’re trying to buy or refinance your home – one of the first things a lender looks for is responsible payment patterns on your current housing situation.

Even if you plan on closing in the middle of the month, or if you’ve already given notice, continue paying that rent until you’ve signed your final loan documents.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

DO stay current on all accounts

Much like the first item, the same goes for your other types of accounts (student loans, credit cards, etc).

Nothing can derail a loan approval faster than a late payment coming in the middle of the loan process.

DON’T make a major purchase (car, boat, big-screen TV, etc…)

This one gets borrowers in trouble more than any other item.

A simple tip: wait until the loan is closed before buying that new car, boat, or TV.

DON’T buy any furniture

This is similar to the previous, but deserves it’s own category as it gets many borrowers in trouble (especially First-Time Home Buyers).

Remember, you’ll have plenty of time to decorate your new home (or spend on your line of credit) AFTER the loan closes.

DON’T open a new credit card

Opening a new credit card dings your credit by adding an additional inquiry to your score, and it may change the mix of credit types within your report (i.e. credit cards, student loans, etc).

Both of these can have a negative impact on your score, and could result in a denial if things are already tight.

DON’T close any credit card accounts

The reverse of the previous item is also true. Closing accounts can have a negative impact on your score (for one – it decreases your capacity which accounts for 30% of your score).

DON’T open a new cell phone account

Cell phone companies pull your credit when you open a new account. If you’re on the border credit-wise, that inquiry could drop your score enough to impact your rate or cause a denial.

DON’T consolidate your debt onto 1 or 2 cards

We’ve already established that additional credit inquiries will hurt your score, but consolidating your credit will also diminish your capacity (the amount of credit you have available), resulting in another hit to your credit.

DON’T pay off collections

Sometimes a lender will require you to pay of a collection prior to closing your loan; other times they will not.

The best rule of thumb is to only pay off collections if absolutely necessary to ensure a loan approval. Otherwise, needlessly paying off collections could have a negative impact on your score.

Consult your loan professional prior to paying off any accounts.

DON’T take out a new loan

This goes for car loans, student loans, additional credit cards, lines of credit, and any other type of loan.

Taking out a new loan can have a negative impact on your credit, but also looks bad to underwriters and investors alike.

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Follow these Do’s and Don’ts for a smoother mortgage approval and funding process.

Just remember the simple tip: wait until AFTER the loan closes for any major purchases, loans, consolidations, and new accounts.

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