Loans have become an integral part of American financial life. We need a mortgage to buy our first home, and an auto loan to purchase a car. More recently, people are turning to personal loans to cover surprise bills and avoid high-interest credit card debt. But just because you need a loan doesn’t mean a lender is going to give you the loan — and interest rate — you want.
If you’re struggling to qualify for a loan, a friend or family member may be able to help by becoming a co-borrower. By leveraging their income, credit score, and financial history, you may qualify for better loan terms. Let’s dive into the details.
What is a Co-borrower?
A loan co-borrower basically takes on the loan with you, and their name will be on the loan with yours. They will be equally responsible for paying the loan back and will have part ownership of whatever the loan buys. When you take out a mortgage with someone, the co-borrower will own half the home.
When applying for a loan, your partner is called a “co-applicant.” Once the loan is approved, the co-applicant becomes the co-borrower.
Spouses often co-borrow when buying property, and when taking out a home improvement loan for a remodel. In other circumstances, two parties become co-borrowers in order to qualify for a larger loan or better loan terms than if they were to take out a loan solo.
Recommended: All About Variable Interest Rate Loans
Co-borrower vs. Cosigner
A cosigner plays a slightly different role than a co-borrower. A cosigner’s income and financial history are still factored into the loan decision, and their positive credit standing benefits the primary applicant’s loan application. But a cosigner does not share ownership of any property the loan is used to purchase. And a cosigner will help make loan payments only if the primary borrower is unable to make them.
Cosigning helps assure lenders that someone will pay back the loan. Typically, a cosigner has a stronger financial history than the primary borrower. This can help someone get approved for a loan they might not qualify for on their own, or secure better terms.
For example, a parent with a strong credit history might cosign their child’s mortgage. The parent’s income likely lowers the child’s debt-to-income ratio. This, along with the parent’s longer credit history and typically higher credit score, allows the child to get a lower interest rate on their home loan. The parent doesn’t co-own the home, but they do have to make mortgage payments if their child can’t.
Recommended: What Is Revolving Credit?
Benefits of a Co-borrower
Having a co-borrower can help two people who both want to achieve a financial goal — like first-time homeownership or buying a new car — put in a stronger application than they might have on their own. The lender will have double the financial history to consider, and two borrowers to rely on when it comes to repayment. Therefore, the loan is a less risky prospect, which translates to more favorable terms.
Having a co-borrower has the potential to improve the borrowing power for both partners. Having a cosigner, on the other hand, is generally more beneficial to the primary applicant than it is for the cosigner.
Risks of a Co-borrower
By essentially taking on a financial partner, co-borrowers take on significant risk. Both parties are responsible for the loan from the beginning. And any bad financial decisions made by one borrower (like getting mixed up in short-term loans) can affect the other if it means the struggling borrower can’t make their payments.
Then there is the personal risk to the relationship. Money conflicts can sour a bond and even lead to the partnership being dissolved. Before taking on a co-borrower or agreeing to become one, it’s important to have an honest discussion. Both parties must be open about their credit history, financial habits, and goals.
Consider drawing up a contract — separate from the loan agreement — that outlines how responsibility will be divided and what happens in worst-case scenarios. While it may feel awkward, it can save you both a more heated argument later on.
When Does Having a Co-borrower Make Sense?
Applying with a co-borrower makes the most sense when you’re working as a team toward the same financial objective. Spouses buying a house together is a common example, but a joint personal loan with a partner might also be considered.
Personal loans are often used to fund home improvements or used for debt consolidation. Business partners may also co-borrow loans to help get their ventures up and running.
Many companies, including SoFi, now allow qualified individuals to co-borrow on personal loans. That means you and your co-borrower (whether a spouse, friend, or family member) may be able to qualify for a better personal loan interest rate and fund your financial goals much more easily.
Awarded Best Personal Loan of 2023 by NerdWallet.
Apply Online, Same Day Funding
Taking out a loan is a big decision, and doing so with a co-borrower carries additional risks. A co-borrower is a partner in the loan and any property the loan is used to purchase. If one borrower cannot make their payments, the co-borrower will be on the hook for the full amount. But if both parties can come to an agreement about how they’ll handle any financial hardships, co-borrowing can have major benefits. By pooling their income and debt, they may lower their debt-to-income ratio and qualify for a mortgage or personal loan with a lower interest rate and better terms.
Photo credit: Stocksy
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.