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Overcoming High Debt-to-Income Ratios: A Guide to Loan Approval

Shirel Berchowitz Updated: February 21, 2024 • 5 min read
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Key Points:

  • Your Debt-To-Income (DTI) ratio compares your total monthly debt payments to your gross monthly income.

  • Securing a loan is heavily influenced by your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio.

  • Here are ways to improve your chances of securing a loan with a high Debt-To-Income ratio.

Securing a loan is heavily influenced by your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, a critical measure lenders evaluate to determine your capacity for new debt. For instance, a DTI ratio of 50%—meaning half of your monthly income goes towards debt repayment—can significantly hinder your loan approval chances, marking you as a high-risk borrower. Here are ways to improve your chances of securing a loan.

Securing a loan is heavily influenced by your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio.

What is the Debt-To-Income Ratio?

Your Debt-To-Income (DTI) ratio is a financial measure that compares your total monthly debt payments to your gross monthly income. This ratio is a key indicator that lenders use to assess your ability to manage monthly payments and repay borrowed money. Calculating your DTI ratio is straightforward.

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How is your DTI Ratio Calculated?

To calculate the DTI ratio, sum up all monthly debt obligations, including mortgage or rent payments, car loans, credit card payments, student loans, and other debts. Then, divide this total by your gross monthly income—the amount you earn before taxes and other deductions. 

For example: If your monthly debt payments total $2,000 and your gross monthly income is $5,000, your DTI ratio would be 40% ($2,000 ÷ $5,000 = 0.4 or 40%).

Lenders typically consider a DTI ratio of 36% or lower as ideal, with no more than 28% of that debt going towards servicing mortgage or rent payments.

A high DTI ratio, generally viewed as 43% or above, signals to lenders that a borrower may have trouble managing additional loan payments, making them a higher risk. Different lenders and loan types may have varying thresholds for acceptable DTI ratios, but the lower the DTI, the better the chances of loan approval. High DTI ratios can lead to higher interest rates or outright denial, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a balanced debt-to-income level.

Common Causes of High DTI Ratios

  • Excessive Debt: Overusing credit cards and loans increases your DTI ratio.
  • Low Income: Earning too little makes existing debts consume a larger income share.
  • Medical Bills: Unexpected healthcare costs can add significant debt.
  • Student Loans: Large educational debts heavily contribute to DTI ratios.
  • Mortgage Payments: High home prices lead to large mortgages, raising DTI ratios.
  • Lifestyle Inflation: Increasing spending with income rises without saving adds to debt.
  • Divorce Costs: Legal fees and setting up a new household increase debt.
  • Poor Financial Planning: Lack of budgeting and emergency savings can lead to reliance on credit.
  • Economic Downturns: Job loss or reduced income during recessions can elevate DTI ratios.

Addressing these factors often involves reducing debt, increasing income, and improving financial habits.

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How to Get a Loan With a High Debt-To-Income Ratio

Getting a loan with a high debt-to-income (DTI) ratio can be challenging, but it's not impossible. Here are steps and strategies to improve your chances:

1. Understand Your DTI Ratio: First, calculate your DTI ratio by dividing your total monthly debt payments by your gross monthly income, then multiply by 100 to get a percentage. Lenders typically prefer a DTI ratio of 43% or lower.

2. Improve Your DTI Ratio: Focus on paying down high-interest debts, such as credit card balances, to lower monthly obligations and find ways to boost your income through side gigs, overtime, or seeking higher-paying employment.

3. Explore Different Loan Types: Programs like FHA, VA, and USDA loans often have more lenient DTI requirements or look at secured loans which can make lenders more willing to approve your loan, even with a high DTI.

4. Enhance Other Aspects of Your Application

  • Improve Your Credit Score: A higher credit score can help offset concerns about your DTI ratio.
  • Save for a Larger Down Payment: This reduces the loan amount and the lender's risk.
  • Consider a Co-Signer: A reliable co-signer with a strong credit profile can significantly improve your loan approval chances.

5. Shop Around: Different lenders have different criteria and tolerance for risk. Credit unions and online lenders may offer more flexibility than traditional banks.

6. Consult with a Financial Advisor: A financial advisor can provide personalized strategies to improve your financial situation and increase your loan eligibility.

7. Be Transparent with Lenders: Honesty about your financial situation can help lenders work with you to find a suitable loan product.

8. Prepare for Rejection and Keep Trying: Not every lender will be willing to offer a loan to someone with a high DTI ratio. If you're rejected, ask for feedback, make the necessary adjustments, and try again with other lenders.

9. Consider Debt Relief Options: If your DTI ratio is too high and you're struggling to manage your debt, consult a debt counselor about relief options like debt management plans or consolidation.

What Are the Best Loans to Apply for With a High DTI Ratio?

When you have a high debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, finding a loan you're eligible for can be challenging, but several types of loans and lenders might be more accommodating. Here are some of the best loan options to consider if you have a high DTI ratio:

1. FHA Loans

 FHA loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration and are designed for low-to-moderate-income borrowers. They allow higher DTI ratios than many conventional loans, sometimes up to 57% with compensating factors.

2. VA Loans

VA loans are available to veterans, active-duty service members, and their families and are backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans do not have a strict DTI limit, focusing instead on the residual income method to ensure borrowers have enough money left after paying their debts.

3. USDA Loans

USDA loans are intended for homebuyers in rural and some suburban areas and are backed by the United States Department of Agriculture. They offer no down payment and have flexible credit requirements, with a DTI ratio limit of 41%, which can be exceeded with strong credit.

4. Personal Loans from Online Lenders

Online lenders may offer more flexible lending criteria compared to traditional banks. Some online lenders specialize in lending to individuals with higher DTI ratios or less-than-perfect credit.

5. Credit Union Loans

Credit unions are member-owned financial institutions that often provide more personalized service. They may offer more flexible loan terms and are sometimes willing to consider borrowers with higher DTI ratios, especially if you're a long-standing member with a good history.

6. Secured Loans

These loans are backed by collateral, such as a car or a savings account. The presence of collateral reduces the lender's risk, making them more inclined to approve your loan despite a high DTI ratio.

7. Debt Consolidation Loans

These loans are specifically used to pay off high-interest debts, consolidating them into a single loan with a lower interest rate. While not directly a solution to high DTI, consolidating debt can lower your monthly payments and eventually help reduce your DTI ratio.


With a high debt-to-income ratio, the loan application process is challenging but not impossible. We've discussed strategies for improving your DTI ratio, such as reducing debt and increasing income, and explored loan options that are more accessible, such as government-backed loans. It's not a blockade; it's a hurdle.

Don't hesitate to consult with financial advisors or lenders who can offer personalized advice tailored to your unique situation. Start by assessing and adjusting your financial habits to lower your DTI ratio.



Can I get a mortgage with a high DTI ratio?

With a high DTI ratio, you can get a mortgage, but it's not easy. Some loan programs, such as FHA loans, can accept DTIs up to 43-50%. However, you'll likely have to show compensatory factors, such as a strong credit score or substantial savings.

What is the highest DTI ratio lenders will accept?

The maximum DTI ratio lenders will accept varies by loan type and lender. Generally, a DTI ratio of 43% is considered the upper limit for conventional mortgages, but government-backed loans may allow higher ratios. Some lenders may go up to 50% or slightly above under certain conditions.

How quickly can I lower my DTI ratio to improve loan eligibility?

The speed at which you can lower your DTI ratio depends on your ability to increase your income or reduce your debt. Quick strategies include paying off high-interest debts, seeking higher-paying employment, or taking on additional work. Significant improvements can be seen within a few months to a year, depending on your financial situation.

Are there specific lenders who specialize in high DTI loans?

Yes, some lenders and loan programs specialize in serving borrowers with high DTI ratios. These include online lenders, credit unions, and government-backed loan programs like FHA, VA, and USDA loans, which often have more flexible lending criteria.

How does a co-signer affect my loan application with a high DTI?

You can significantly improve your loan application with a co-signer who has a strong credit profile and a low DTI ratio. Their financial stability can compensate for your high DTI ratio. A co-signer will, however, be legally responsible for the loan.