If you’ve never had a mortgage before, or you’ve only had limited exposure to the lending industry, it’s important to understand how debt to income ratios work. Lenders determine how willing they are to loan to someone not only based on their credit worthiness, but also on how much other debt they have. They want to see that borrowers have plenty of financial wiggle room for emergencies, since they really don’t want to get the house back.
For most loans, that means a debt to income ratio (DTI) under about 43 percent. Anything you’ve agreed to pay over a longer term, like your student loans, are added into this calculation and compared to your actual income. When your car loan, student loan, rent or current mortgage payment, and credit cards are all combined, does that or does that not exceed 43 percent of your income? This is the first and most basic question. Various loan programs will have ways to compensate for high DTIs, to a point, and there are different DTIs for different programs, though generally they’re in the same ballpark. So if your DTI is high, it’s not yet time to panic. However, you should be cautious about your next move.
This is why, if you have large student loans, it’s even more important to carefully consider the debt obligations you’re taking on as you take them. Student loans aren’t the only hurdle, but they are definitely a very large one for many students. Imagine having 10 percent or more of your income suddenly discounted because your deferred student loans are suddenly counted against you, even if you don’t have to make a payment! That’s the situation some borrowers find themselves in when they go to apply for a mortgage they believe they’re ready for.