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Mastering Debt to Income Ratio: Insights from Fannie Mae, FHA, VA, and Non-QM Lenders

Debt to Income Ratio

The debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is a significant financial indicator that compares a person’s monthly debt payments to their total monthly income. It plays a big role in determining whether or not you qualify for a loan and how stable your finances are. Gainesville, Jacksonville, Tampa, and St. Petersburg have recently recorded an increase in DTI ratios, raising worries among the general public. Today we’re going to be analyzing various programs, including Fannie Mae, FHA, VA, and non-qualified mortgage (Non-QM) lenders, and also give answers to the most frequently asked issues about DTI ratios.

debt to income ratio

Understanding Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI)

The debt-to-income ratio determines what proportion of a person’s income is used to pay off debts. It is calculated by subtracting gross monthly income from the total monthly debt payments. Lenders use this ratio to evaluate a borrower’s capacity for debt management and on-time repayment. Loan applications and financial stability may be affected by a greater DTI ratio, which shows a more significant percentage of income going toward debt.

Debt to Income Ratio Florida - image of palm trees

Debt to Income Ratio Florida

Rising DTI Ratios in Gainesville, Jacksonville, Tampa, and St. Petersburg

These cities’ Debt To Income ratios have risen recently for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Housing costs: utility charges and healthcare costs have all increased in these areas. People could find it difficult to keep their DTI ratio low as a result.
  • Limitations on Wage Growth: Despite economic expansion in these cities, wages have not kept up with inflation. Higher DTI ratios result in people having a harder time keeping their finances stable while trying to cover their bills due to stagnant income.
  • Student Loans: Many people, especially in places with colleges and universities, are burdened with student loan debt. Higher DTI ratios result from student loan repayments, making it challenging for borrowers to be approved for additional loans.
  • Consumer Debt: Increasing DTI ratios are also a result of debt from consumers, which includes credit card debt and personal loans. High-interest rates and minimum payments can substantially impact the ability of a person to efficiently manage their debts.

Addressing Frequently Asked Questions about Debt to Income Ratio (DTI)

It is important to answer some frequently asked questions about DTI ratios and offer guidance on qualifying for a mortgage with a high DTI ratio as the public grows concerned about rising DTI ratios in areas like Gainesville, Jacksonville, Tampa, and St. Petersburg.

What is considered a good DTI ratio?

Depending on the terms of the loan and loan provider, various parameters might be used to determine what a healthy DTI ratio is. However, a DTI ratio of 36% or less is regarded favorably as a general rule. A good rule of thumb is to keep your overall monthly debt payments at a maximum of 36% of your total monthly earnings. It’s essential to verify with loan providers or loan programs to determine their exact DTI standards because different loan plans may have different rules.

What are the strategies to improve the DTI ratio?

There are several methods you may utilize to lower your DTI ratio if it is high, these include:

  • Pay off high-interest bills: Make paying off high-interest debts, including credit card balances or personal loans, a top priority. You can decrease your total monthly debt payments and lower your DTI ratio by paying off these high-interest debts.
  • Consider debt consolidation: Combining all your loans into one loan with a reduced interest rate will make your payments easier to manage and possibly lessen your monthly debt payments, which will help your DTI ratio.
  • Increase your income: Look into ways to do this, such as getting a second job, doing freelance work, or starting a side business. Your DTI ratio can be improved by raising your income, which can help regulate your monthly loan payments.

How can I qualify for a mortgage with a high DTI ratio?

Even if your DTI ratio is high, you can still qualify for a mortgage. There are loan programs and strategies that can help people with high DTI ratios in getting a mortgage:

  • Explore loan options with DTI requirements that are flexible: The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Fannie Mae, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and non-qualified mortgage (Non-QM) lenders all have loan programs that are specially made to accommodate borrowers who have higher DTI ratios. These programs frequently have broader qualifying requirements and consider various factors other than just DTI ratios when assessing loan applications.
  • Boost your credit score: You may be more likely to be approved for a mortgage with a high DTI ratio if your credit score is higher. You can raise your credit score by paying bills on time, lowering credit card balances, and taking care of any unresolved issues on your credit report. In the view of loan providers, a high DTI ratio can be balanced out by a stronger credit profile.
  • Seek professional guidance: When navigating the difficulties of securing a mortgage with a high DTI ratio, working with an experienced mortgage specialist can be extremely helpful. To increase your chances of getting a mortgage, they can assist you navigate the numerous loan programs, evaluate your financial condition, and give you specialized advice.
Mastering Debt to Income Ratio: Insights from Fannie Mae, FHA, VA, and Non-QM Lenders 1

Exploring programs with flexible DTI ratios

In this section we would be taking a detailed look into various loan programs that accommodate borrowers with higher debt-to-income ratios, some of these programs include Fannie Mae, FHA, VA, and NON-QM loan programs.

Exploring Fannie Mae Programs: Understanding Loan Options and DTI Requirements

A government-sponsored company called Fannie Mae offers a variety of mortgage options to assist people in achieving their dream of becoming homeowners. It is necessary to examine the intricacies of Fannie Mae’s programs as part of an extensive study of lending programs and debt-to-income ratio (DTI) standards.

Different Fannie Mae Loan Options

To meet the varying demands of borrowers, Fannie Mae provides a range of lending options. It may be easier for borrowers to choose the best solution for their situation if they are aware of the primary features of these programs. Popular Fannie Mae loan choices include the following:

  • HomeReady®: The HomeReady® program helps borrowers with low to moderate incomes become homeowners. It offers lower down payment requirements of just 3% and also decreased mortgage insurance needs. Additionally, HomeReady® offers flexible income requirements and permits consideration of household members who are not borrowers in terms of income.
  • 97% LTV (Loan-to-Value) Options: Fannie Mae also offers lending programs that allow down payment as low as 3%, making homeownership easier to access for applicants with limited cash. These programs have a 97% LTV (lending-to-Value) ratio. These programs retain competitive lending rates while providing greater flexibility regarding required down payments. 

Specific DTI Requirements for Fannie Mae Loans

When establishing a borrower’s eligibility for Fannie Mae loans, DTI standards are very important. Fannie Mae typically establishes maximum DTI limits, though specific requirements can change depending on credit scores, down payments, and overall financial profiles. The maximum DTI ratio permitted by Fannie Mae at the moment is 50%. This indicates that the borrower’s entire monthly loan payments, including the planned mortgage payment, should be at most 50% of their total monthly income.

Exceptions and Considerations for Higher DTI Ratios

Some exceptions provide advantages for borrowers with higher DTI ratios although Fannie Mae sets maximum DTI limitations. Fannie Mae is aware that some borrowers might have higher DTI percentages as a result of particular circumstances or mitigating factors. The following are some significant exclusions and factors for increased DTI ratios:

  • Reserves: If the borrower has substantial cash reserves, Fannie Mae might be more understanding with higher DTI rates. After completing the down payment and closing charges, the borrower’s cash reserves are the remaining funds in liquid assets. Having a substantial reserve of money shows that you are stable financially and can handle unforeseen expenses.
  • Solid Credit Profile: Despite having a higher DTI ratio, a borrower with a solid credit profile a high credit score and a track record of on-time payments may still be given favorable consideration. Fannie Mae is aware that a solid credit history demonstrates prudent money management and can make up for a higher DTI ratio.
  • Automated Underwriting Systems: Fannie Mae evaluates loan applications using computerized underwriting systems, such as Desktop Underwriter® (DU®). These algorithms consider several variables, such as credit history, income, assets, and liabilities. While precise DTI standards are taken into account, automated underwriting systems can evaluate the borrower’s total risk profile, taking into account compensatory factors, and in some circumstances offer additional freedom.
  • Extenuating Circumstances: According to Fannie Mae, situations that are beyond one’s control such as sudden medical needs or short-term hardships can result in higher DTI ratios. Those borrowers who can back up these claims with the necessary paperwork could have their loan requests approved.

Exploring FHA Programs: Understanding Loan Options and DTI Requirements

FHA-insured loans are mortgages that are backed by the Federal Housing Administration, a part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These loans are intended to increase the accessibility of homeownership for borrowers with unsatisfactory credit, low income, or insufficient down payment resources. Key characteristics of loans with FHA insurance include:

  • Low Down Payment: The standard down payment for FHA loans is just 3.5% of the purchase price. These people who might not have enough resources for a higher down payment may benefit from the lower down payment requirement.
  • Lenient Credit Requirements: FHA loans are more lenient when it comes to credit scores than other types of loans. An FHA loan may still be available to borrowers with lower credit ratings, making it a feasible alternative for people who have previously faced financial difficulties.
  • Mortgage Insurance: To protect lenders from the danger of default, FHA loans require borrowers to pay mortgage insurance premiums (MIP). FHA mortgage insurance is generally more affordable than private mortgage insurance (PMI) bundled with conventional loans.

Maximum DTI Ratio for FHA Loans

A key element in assessing eligibility for FHA loans is the DTI standards. For FHA loans, the highest DTI ratio permitted is normally 43%. Therefore, a borrower’s total monthly loan payments, which include their mortgage payment, should not be higher than 43% of their gross monthly income.

Factors Influencing Eligibility with a Higher DTI Ratio

Although 43% is the maximum DTI ratio allowed for FHA loans, other factors can influence a borrower’s eligibility. These factors include:

  • Significant Cash Reserves: Having a significant amount of savings or cash reserves might show that one is financially stable and can cover unforeseen bills.
  • Strong Credit History: An applicant with a strong credit history including a high credit score and a track record of on-time payments can demonstrate responsible money management and counteract the effect of a higher DTI ratio.
  • Automated Underwriting System: The TOTAL Scorecard automated underwriting system is used to assess FHA loans. In addition to the DTI ratio, this approach also takes into account things like credit history, employment stability, and assets. The automated underwriting system evaluates the borrower’s whole risk profile, taking into account compensatory factors, and in some circumstances, it may be able to offer additional flexibility.
  • Down Payment Amount: Making a larger down payment can help offset a higher DTI ratio. A larger down payment shows the strength of finances and lowers the total loan amount, which lowers the monthly mortgage payment.
  • Employment and Income Stability: Lenders may take a borrower’s employment and income into account. Having a steady job record and a steady revenue stream might help allay worries about a higher DTI ratio.
Exploring VA Loan Programs: Benefits, DTI Evaluation, and Residual Income Considerations - image of soldier standing in civilians

Exploring VA Loan Programs: Benefits, DTI Evaluation, and Residual Income Considerations

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is committed to helping eligible surviving spouses, veterans, and active-duty service members purchase a house. VA loan programs are an essential component of that effort. Several advantages are provided by this program, including flexible DTI evaluation and consideration of residual revenue.

Benefits of VA Loan Programs

  • No Down Payment: VA loans normally do not require a down payment, which is one of their biggest advantages. With the help of this feature, veterans and active-duty military personnel can buy a property without having to worry about saving up a substantial deposit.
  • Competitive Interest Rates: VA loans frequently provide borrowers with competitive interest rates that can result in long-term savings. They are a desirable choice for people looking for affordable financing because of this feature.
  • No Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): Contrary to conventional loans, VA loans do not demand that borrowers pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). With this exception, borrowers pay less each month for their mortgages.

Approach to DTI Ratio Evaluation by VA Lenders

DTI ratio evaluation is essential in determining a borrower’s eligibility for a VA loan. Here’s how VA lenders approach DTI ratio evaluation:

  • Maximum DTI Ratio: Though the VA does not specify a maximum DTI ratio, lenders often adhere to a guideline of 41% as the upper limit. However, if there are mitigating considerations, lenders are free to go above this cap on an individual basis.
  • Residual Income Consideration: In addition to the DTI ratio, VA lenders also take into account the borrowers’ residual income. The amount of money left over after monthly commitments are subtracted from a borrower’s gross income is referred to as residual income. After taking into account their debts, this evaluation ensures that borrowers have adequate income to meet their living expenses while sustaining a reasonable standard of living.

Residual Income as a Consideration for DTI Assessment

VA lenders consider residual income as an additional factor in the DTI assessment process. Here are some key points about residual income:

  • Regional Variation: The amount of residual income needed varies depending on the size of the family, the area, and the cost of living. The minimal required residual income for borrowers in various regions is determined by VA lenders using regional tables given by the VA.
  • Family Size: When determining the necessary residual income, VA lenders take family size into account. Families with more members often need a greater residual income to make sure there is enough money for living expenses.
  • Higher DTI Ratio Adjustments: For borrowers with higher DTI percentages, residual income estimates may be modified. The VA acknowledges that borrowers with higher DTI ratios can still have enough remaining income to pay their living expenses, and lenders are permitted to take this into account when approving a loan.

Exploring Non-Qualified Mortgage Loans: Debt to Income Ratios Flexibility

Non-QM loans are mortgages that do not meet the requirements for qualifying mortgages (QMs) as established by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). These loans are intended for borrowers who might not satisfy the strict standards of conventional mortgage programs but still can repay the loan. Key characteristics of non-QM loans include:

  • Flexible DTI Ratios: DTI standards for non-QM loans are more flexible than those for conventional mortgage programs. Due to this flexibility, borrowers who have higher DTI ratios can still be taken into consideration for a mortgage.
  • Alternative Documentation: Alternative paperwork may be accepted by non-QM lenders as proof of a borrower’s assets and income. People who are self-employed or have income from non-traditional sources may benefit from this.
  • Atypical Borrower Profiles: Non-QM loans are made to help borrowers with unusual situations, like those who are foreign nationals, have bad credit, or need jumbo loans that are larger than conforming to loan limitations.

Non-QM Lenders’ Approach to Debt to Income Ratios

Non-QM lenders take a more flexible approach to DTI ratios, recognizing that a higher DTI ratio does not necessarily indicate an inability to repay the loan. Their approach to DTI ratios includes:

  • Expanded Maximum DTI Ratios: In comparison to conventional mortgage programs, non-QM lenders often have larger maximum DTI ratios. While traditional mortgages may have a maximum DTI ratio of around 43%, Non-QM lenders may allow DTI ratios exceeding 50% or even higher in certain cases.
  • Compensatory Factors: When assessing loan applications, non-QM lenders take the DTI ratio into account in addition to compensatory variables. The borrower’s credit history, employment security, significant assets, or track record of on-time payments are a few examples of these factors.


Many people have recently become concerned about the increasing debt-to-income (DTI) ratios in areas like Gainesville, Jacksonville, Tampa, and St. Petersburg. Borrowers must understand the importance of DTI ratios, and they must be well-versed in the range of loan options that are accessible to them. Borrowers can better navigate the challenges of homeownership if they are given the information and tools they need to make wise decisions and responsibly handle their debt. 

About the Author

Brian Quigley
Brian Quigley
 NMLS# #244003

Brian Quigley has been in the Denver mortgage industry since 2003. Customer satisfaction has been his top priority while guiding clients through the home loan qualification process. He is proficient in all types of mortgage financing including FHA/VA, Conventional, USDA, Jumbo, Portfolio, 1031 Exchanges, Reverse Mortgages, Refinancing, Construction loans, and FHA 203K loans.

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