Debt-to-Income Ratios – Everything You Need to Know

debt-to-income ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio is used by lenders to determine how much a borrower qualifies for.

Lenders also use your debt-to-income ratio to assess risk.

The higher your DTI ratio the more of a risk the loan is.

In this article we’re going to explain what a debt-to-income ratio is, how to calculate it, and what is the maximum ratio you can have for a mortgage.

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What is a Debt-To-Income Ratio?

Your debt-to-income ratio is the amount of your monthly debt obligations compared to your monthly income.

For example if your monthly income is $5,000 and you have a car payment for $300 and a $200 student loan payment and your estimated mortgage payment is $1,000 a month for a total of $1500 in monthly debt payment obligations your debt-to-income (DTI ratio) is 30%.

How to Calculate Your Debt-To-Income Ratio

In order to calculate your debt to income ratio you will take your total monthly debt payments.

This includes credit card minimum payments, student debt loans and other personal loans, auto loans, and your mortgage payment.

You will then divide your total monthly payments by your gross monthly income, that’s your income before taxes.

If your total monthly debt including your mortgage payment is $2,000 you will enter it on a calculator.

monthly payments

Then you will divide your monthly payments by your gross income. Let’s say your income is $5,000 before taxes.

Divide by $5,000

monthly income

This will give you your debt-to-income ratio which is 40%.

debt-to-income ratio

Front-End and Back-End Debt-to-Income Ratios

Front-end DTI ratio – The front-end ratio is the ratio of your debt vs. your monthly income before your mortgage payment is added to your debt payments.

Back-end DTI ratio – The back-end ratio is the ratio of your estimated monthly mortgage payment vs. your monthly gross income and does not include other debt obligations.

Costs Included in Housing Expenses

When factoring your DTI ratio you will need to include a couple of expenses into the monthly payment.

  • Principle and Interest
  • Homeowner insurance
  • Property taxes

Homeowner association dues are not factored into your housing expense. Insurance and property taxes are included in your monthly payment and put into an escrow account to be paid annually.

Debt-to-Income Ratio Needed for a Mortgage

Typically a mortgage lender will want a back-end debt-to-income ratio of 36 percent after figuring in your monthly mortgage payment. However, most mortgage loans will allow up to a 41 percent DTI ratio.

An FHA loan or VA loan will allow you to have a higher DTI ratio than a conventional mortgage, sometimes up to 50 percent.

Use our mortgage calculator to see how much home you can afford

Why Your Credit Score Matters

Lenders look at your credit score very heavily as a factor that determines risk. The higher your credit score the lower risk you present and the higher DTI ratio the lender will accept. Because of this you will want to make sure you’re maximizing your FICO scores.

A quick tip to increasing your credit rating is to lower your credit utilization ratio. Credit utilization is the amount of available credit you have used up on your open credit card accounts. You should work on paying down your credit card balances below 15% of their credit limit.

Read more tips to increasing your credit scores in a hurry

Compensating Factors for a High DTI Ratio

Lenders are able to accept a higher DTI ratio if a borrower has compensating factors that reduce the overall risk. These factors will allow you to get away with a DTI ratio on the high side.

  • High down payment (low loan-to-value ratio)
  • Large amount of cash reserves
  • Long length of time at current employer
  • High credit score

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