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Debt-To-Income Ratio for A Mortgage

Matthew Levy Updated: June 26, 2023 • 5 min read

The debt-to-income ratio, abbreviated as DTI, is a proportion obtained by dividing monthly debt payments by monthly gross income.

It is used by lenders to estimate how much money individuals can spend on debt payments in relation to their average income. To put it another way, it aids them in determining their ability to repay a debt.

How is the Debt-to-Income Ratio Calculated?

Your DTI ratio is one of many factors used to assess your borrowing risk. Lenders employ these kinds of checks to see if (and what) you can afford to pay. Institutional lenders prefer borrowers who are less risky. These are persons who are likely to make steady and regular payments over time. It is not enough that the borrower earns a certain income; They must also demonstrate their ability to pay on a consistent basis.

Furthermore, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued new DTI assessment rules a few years ago, further highlighting its importance among lenders.

What does the DTI ratio mean?

Banks and other lenders consider the maximum amount of debt that their customers may bear before experiencing financial difficulty, and they use this information to determine loan levels. While the recommended maximum debt load varies per lender, it is frequently around 36%.

For instance, when applying for a mortgage, you must adhere to the maximum DTI criteria so that your lender is certain you are not taking on more debt than you can handle. Lenders prefer low debt-to-income ratio borrowers since they are less likely to default on their loans.

DTI Formula

DTI = Total of Monthly Debt Payments / Gross Monthly Income

DTI RATIO formula

To determine your debt-to-income ratio, sum up all your monthly payments. This includes monthly payments on credit cards, vehicle loans, and other obligations, as well as housing costs, which may include rent or the cost of a primary mortgage, plus interest, property taxes, and insurance, as well as any homeowner association fees.

The debt-to-income ratio is then calculated by dividing the total monthly debt payment by the gross monthly income.

DTI ratio example

For instance, if you pay $1,000 on credit cards, $500 on a car loan, and $2,000 on housing expenditures, your monthly debt totals $3,500. If you earn $6,000 a month, your DTI would be $3,500 divided by $6,000, or 0.58.

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Types of Debt-To-Income Ratios

  • Front-End Ratio

The front-end DTI ratio is a subset of the DTI that determines how much of an individual's gross income is spent on housing costs. If a homeowner has a mortgage, the first DTI is normally determined by dividing the housing expenditures (as described above) by gross income. In other words, this ratio is limited to housing-related costs - it is sometimes referred to as the mortgage-to-income ratio or housing ratio.

  • Back-End Ratio

The back-end DTI itemizes all of the monthly minimum needed debts. Along with housing-related charges, the ratio contains all mandatory debt monthly payments discovered on your credit report by your lender. This includes credit card debt, school loan debt, vehicle loan debt, and personal loan debt.

The back-end DTI is what most lenders look at because it provides a more complete picture of your monthly spending.

What Is a Good Debt-To-Income Ratio

Your DTI should be as low as possible. In most circumstances, lenders prefer DTIs lower than 36%. However, the particular criterion varies by lender. Usually:

  • Lower than 36%: These are regarded to be favorable levels - Debt is most likely manageable in relation to your income. You should have little difficulty securing more credit lines.
  • Between 36% and 42%: This level of debt may cause some lenders to express concern, and they may impose additional eligibility requirements.
  • Between 43% and 50%: Some creditors may decline additional credit requests at these levels.
  • Greater than 50%: Borrowing options will be limited, as repayment of existing debt is considered challenging.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) also offers some general advice on DTI levels:

The CFPB advises homeowners to keep their DTI ratio for all obligations, including their monthly mortgage payment, at 36% or less. Furthermore, it emphasizes that the maximum DTI ratio for a qualifying mortgage is 43%. According to the same organization, tenants should limit their entire debt DTI ratio between 15 and 20% (rent payments not included).


How to Lower Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

As depicted above, you may want to take action to minimize your debt-to-income ratio if it is near or above 36%. You could do so by:

  • Lower your interest rates - You may be able to find strategies to lower the amount of interest you pay on some of your obligations. Debt refinancing, for example, is one of the most popular strategies for qualified borrowers to lower their interest rates on personal loans, student loans, and mortgages. You might be able to negotiate directly with your creditor for a reduced interest rate.
  • Extend the repayment period - Extending a loan's term can help you save money on your monthly debt payments. However, some lenders may ask for a higher interest rate.
  • Look for another source of income - Finding a secondary source of income can help you boost your income, which would lower your DTI ratio while also meeting your debt obligations.
  • Attempt to get your debts forgiven – Although it is not a frequent option for private loans, loan forgiveness might be an option for federal loans, particularly student loans.
  • Keep track of your non-essential spending - Control your non-essential expenditures to avoid adding to your credit card debt. This is an undeniably effective technique for lowering your DTI over time, as more of your credit card payments go toward the principal of your loan rather than interest.
  • Consider a debt consolidation loan - A debt consolidation loan is a loan that you can use to pay off many loans that you have. It is advantageous because you will only have to manage one loan balance with one interest rate rather than many loan balances with different interest rates, and you might save money by paying less interest on the new loan than on your prior loans.

The Bottom Line

Whether you are purchasing your first house or applying for a personal loan, your lender will almost certainly assess your DTI ratio.

The DTI ratio is a useful indicator of financial health because it indicates how much of your monthly income is dedicated to debt payments. When a borrower applies for a new loan, lenders examine the possibility of payback when determining the loan's interest rate and term. The lower your DTI ratio, the more likely it is that you will obtain the best rate.

All things considered, as valuable as it is as a metric, the DTI has its limitations. For starters, it does not account for taxes. Second, it also does not fairly indicate how much one is spending on debt repayment, as it relies on minimum payments. Finally, it excludes daily expenditures, resulting in an inaccurate representation of someone's true budget.

Written by Matthew Levy

Matthew is a freelance financial copywriter with 14+ years in financial services. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics with business and finance options and is a CFA Charterholder. He is from Vancouver, Canada, but writes from all over the world.