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How Much Debt is Too Much to Buy a House?

February 20, 2019 · 5 minute read

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How Much Debt is Too Much to Buy a House?

Perhaps you’ve found your dream home, or maybe you’re still in the exciting stages of looking for the house you want. In either case, you’re likely thinking about getting a mortgage loan—and you may be wondering if the amount of debt you currently have will become a stumbling block to qualifying for a mortgage.

To qualify for a mortgage, a lender needs to be confident that you can responsibly manage the amount of debt that you’re currently carrying along with a mortgage payment. The formula used to determine that is called a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio.

More specifically, a DTI ratio is the percentage of your qualifying monthly income, before taxes, that is needed to cover ongoing debts. This could include student loan payments, a car payment, credit card payments, and so forth. If the DTI ratio is too high, then a lender may see you as a higher risk.

This post will describe DTI in more detail, including how to calculate yours, what lenders typically like to see, and what might be too much debt to buy a house. We’ll also share strategies to manage your debt and lower your DTI ratio to help you qualify for the house of your dreams.

Understanding How Your DTI Ratio Can Affect Your Mortgage Options

The DTI formula is pretty simple. First, make a list of all your debts with recurring payments. Then, if you’re a W2 earner, take your pre-tax monthly income and divide your monthly expenses by this amount. That percentage is your DTI ratio .

Note that, with a mortgage, to calculate your DTI ratio, you’ll need to have a reasonable estimate of monthly property taxes on the home, insurance (homeowners, for sure, and PMI and flood insurance, if applicable), and HOA dues, if applicable. Even if you wouldn’t necessarily pay those bills on a monthly basis, you’ll need the bill broken down into a monthly amount for DTI calculation purposes. (And remember these are just examples. Your actual DTI, as calculated by a lending professional, may differ.)

If your debt-to-income ratio is too high, it can impact the type of mortgage you’ll qualify for. Each mortgage lender will have their own preferred DTI ratio, of course, and lenders can and do make exceptions based on your unique financial situation. Here’s an explainer on desirable debt-to-income ratios from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Preparing for When You Need a Mortgage

If you know you’ll want to buy a house within, say, the next year or two, then there is time to manage your finances to make getting a mortgage approval easier. Perhaps you can’t pay off all your debt in that time frame, but there are strategic moves to make to position yourself better when mortgage time is upon you.

First, be careful. There are plenty of debt-related myths, but let’s address two debt-related realities:

1. Having a lot of debt in relation to your income and assets can work against you when applying for a mortgage.
2. If you are consistently late on debt payments, lenders may question your ability to pay your mortgage on time.

Here are a few tips that can help with some of the most common debt challenges:

Student Loan Debt

If you’re looking to take control of your student loan debt, consider refinancing your student loans into one new student loan with a potentially lower interest rate.

This can make paying back your loans easier, because there is just one monthly payment to make. Plus, with a (hopefully) lower interest rate, you can pay back less interest, overall. And, if you’re concerned about your monthly DTI ratio being too high when you go to apply for a mortgage, you may be able to refinance your student loan to a longer term for lower monthly payments, to reduce your current monthly DTI ratio. (Keep in mind, though, that extending your loan term may mean paying more interest over the life of your loan.)

When you refinance at SoFi, you can combine federal loans with private ones, something not many lenders permit. Request a quote online to see what you can save. Note that SoFi does not have any application fees or prepayment penalties, and there are no hidden fees.

Credit Card Debt

When you have a significant amount of credit card debt, the monthly payments can negatively impact your DTI ratio.

If you’re concerned about managing credit card debt payments while paying a mortgage, you could even consider focusing your efforts on getting out of credit card debt before you start the homebuying process.

To manage your credit card debt, and ultimately eliminate it, here are a few debt payoff methods to consider

•  The snowball method. List your credit cards from the one with the lowest balance to the one with the highest. Then, focus on paying off the one with the smallest balance first, while still making minimum payments on the rest. When that first card is paid off, focus on the next one on your list and so forth.

•  Tackling high-interest debt first. Using this method, you list your credit cards from the one with the most interest to the one with the least. Then, focus on paying off the credit card with the highest interest while making minimum payments on the rest. Then tackle the next one, and then the next one.

•  Consolidating credit card debt using a personal loan before you apply for a mortgage loan. When you do this, you’ll have just one loan, and personal loans typically have lower interest rates than credit cards (if you qualify). Ideally, keep credit cards open while only using them to the degree that you can pay off in full each billing cycle. And as with all debt payments, make all personal loan payments on time.

By reducing and managing your credit card debt, you can better position yourself for a mortgage loan on the house of your dreams.

Consolidating Your Credit Card Debt with a Personal Loan

Ready to consolidate credit card debt into a personal loan? SoFi makes it fast and easy, and it only takes minutes to apply. Plus, our personal loans have the following perks:

•  Low rates

•  No fees

•  Access to live customer support seven days a week

•  Community benefits; ask about how, if you lose your job, we can temporarily pause your personal loan payments and help you to find a new job

We look forward to helping you achieve your financial goals and dreams. Learn how a personal loan from SoFi can help.


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Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.
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