What Are the Debt to Income Ratios for Mortgages?

A form that asks the question if you know about debt to incomeIf you plan to apply for a mortgage, you've likely heard of the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. But what is this ratio, and what is its role in the mortgage application process?

The DTI ratio is an important metric that lenders use to determine borrowers' ability to repay their loans based on their income and existing debts.

In this article, we'll look at the debt-to-income ratio, its calculation, and how lenders use it to evaluate borrowers. We'll also discuss the different types of mortgage loans and their corresponding DTI ratio requirements and, finally, provide tips on improving your DTI ratio before applying for your next mortgage.

What is the Debt-to-income Ratio?

The debt-to-income ratio, or DTI, is a financial measure lenders use to assess an individual's loan repayment ability. It is calculated by dividing monthly debt payments by gross (before taxes) monthly income.

This ratio is important because it helps lenders decide if borrowers can manage loan payments based on their financial responsibility and obligations.

Mortgage lenders use the debt-to-income ratio to determine the size of a mortgage loan a person can obtain and the loan's terms. Generally, a higher debt-to-income ratio indicates a higher risk of default on a loan. As a result, lenders will typically require a lower loan-to-value ratio, a higher credit score, and a lower monthly payment.

In addition to the debt-to-income ratio, lenders consider other factors when evaluating a borrower's ability to repay a mortgage loan. These factors include credit score, loan-to-value ratio, employment history, monthly cash flow, down payment amount, and other financial obligations.

The debt-to-income ratio is an essential factor in the mortgage lending process, as it helps lenders assess an individual's ability to manage their debt load responsibly. Borrowers should carefully consider their budget before applying for a loan to ensure their debt-to-income ratio is low enough to meet the lender's criteria.

How is the DTI Ratio Calculated?

The debt-to-income (DTI) ratio represents an individual's financial health. Lenders, including mortgage lenders, use this ratio to assess an individual's creditworthiness. It is calculated by taking an individual's monthly financial obligations, such as loan and credit card payments, and dividing them by their gross monthly income.

When determining a DTI ratio, lenders typically assess a few factors, including the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio, credit score, and monthly payment. The loan-to-value (LTV) ratio indicates how much of a loan is applied to the value of an asset, such as a home or a car.

The credit score is a measure of a person's creditworthiness determined by a credit bureau. The monthly payment suggests how much of an individual's gross income goes toward loan payments and other financial obligations.

Lenders will use these factors and the individual's debt load to calculate the DTI ratio. The resulting ratio can give lenders an indication of how much debt an individual is carrying relative to their income. Generally, a higher DTI ratio indicates a more significant debt load and a lower DTI ratio indicates a lower debt load. 

Lenders typically prefer borrowers with lower DTI ratios, as it suggests they have a higher ability to manage their debts and meet their financial obligations.

Different Types of Mortgage Loans and DTI Ratio Requirements

Different types have varying DTI ratio requirements. Lenders set these requirements, which may vary depending on the loan program and the borrower's credit profile.

Traditional Loans: The government does not insure or guarantee conventional mortgage loans. They usually have stricter DTI ratio requirements compared to government-backed loans. Generally, traditional lenders prefer a maximum DTI ratio of around 43%, although some lenders may allow up to 50% in some instances.

FHA Loans: Backed by the Federal Housing Administration, FHA loans are designed to help borrowers with lower credit scores and smaller down payments. The maximum DTI ratio allowed for FHA loans is typically 43%, although some lenders may be more flexible and accept higher ratios.

FHA Compensating Factors Chart

VA Loans: VA loans are available to eligible veterans, active-duty service members, and spouses. The Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees these loans. VA loans usually have more flexible DTI ratio requirements, with some lenders allowing ratios of up to 50% or higher.

USDA Loans: The U.S. Department of Agriculture backs USDA loans, which are available to borrowers in rural areas. Like VA loans, USDA loans often have more lenient DTI ratio requirements, with some lenders accepting ratios of up to 50%.

Tips for Improving Your DTI Ratio

If you're considering applying for a mortgage and your current DTI ratio is higher than you'd like, there are several steps you can take to improve it:

  1. Pay off Existing Debts: Prioritize paying off high-interest debts such as credit cards or personal loans. By reducing these monthly obligations, you can lower your DTI ratio.
  2. Increase Income: Consider working part-time or freelancing to supplement your income. A higher income can help offset your debts and improve your DTI ratio.
  3. Reduce Monthly Expenses: Look for ways to reduce your monthly expenses. This could involve cutting unnecessary subscriptions, reducing dining-out costs, or downsizing your living arrangements.
  4. Avoid New Debt: Avoid taking on new debts or applying for new credit cards while preparing for a mortgage. This will prevent your DTI ratio from increasing further.
  5. Consult with a Financial Advisor: Seeking guidance from a financial advisor can provide you with personalized strategies to improve your financial situation and lower your DTI ratio.

By following these tips and being mindful of your overall financial health, you can work towards achieving a lower DTI ratio, making you a more attractive borrower to potential mortgage lenders.

Remember, while the debt-to-income ratio is essential in the mortgage application process, it's not the only consideration. Lenders also consider other aspects of your financial profile, such as your credit score and employment history. It's essential to maintain a good credit standing, save for a down payment, and demonstrate financial responsibility to increase your chances of securing a favorable mortgage loan.

Additionally, it's important to note that lenders may have their specific criteria and guidelines when evaluating a borrower's DTI ratio. Some lenders may be more lenient and willing to make exceptions for borrowers with vital compensating factors, such as a high credit score or substantial assets.

It's also worth mentioning that while a lower DTI ratio is generally preferred, it doesn't guarantee loan approval or the best interest rates. Lenders will still assess other factors, such as credit history, employment stability, and property.

To determine your DTI ratio, you can calculate it by dividing your total monthly debt obligations by your gross monthly income and multiplying the result by 100. This will give you a percentage representing your DTI ratio.

It's crucial to remember that a higher DTI ratio doesn't necessarily mean you won't qualify for a mortgage. It simply means that you may have limited borrowing options or need to adjust your financial situation before applying for a loan.

Suppose you're concerned about your DTI ratio. In that case, consulting with a mortgage professional who can assess your unique circumstances and provide guidance on the best course of action can be beneficial. They can help you understand the available loan programs and their specific DTI requirements and advise on improving your financial profile.


In conclusion, understanding and managing your debt-to-income ratio is crucial when applying for a mortgage. Maintaining a healthy balance between your income and debt obligations is critical to demonstrating financial stability and increasing your chances of securing a mortgage loan.

By taking proactive steps to reduce debts, increase income, and seek professional guidance, you can work towards achieving a favorable DTI ratio and ultimately fulfill your goal of homeownership.

Conventional Loan
FHA Module 4: Manual Underwriting of the Borrower

Recommended Reading
Maximize Your Home Purchase with a Tri Merge Credit Report
PA First-Time Homebuyers: Get Mortgage Assistance Now
PHFA: Keystone Government Loan Program
10 Home Buying Tips for First Time Buyers 

If you found this information useful, please tell a friend.