How Debt-to-Income Ratios Affect Your Home Buying Power

Debt to income ratios factoring in multiple credit cards in your pocket

When applying for a mortgage and gathering home loan information you will need to understand how debt can affect your ability to have home buying power.

There are a lot of rules and best practices out there when buying a home. Let’s discuss how debt actually affects home buyers and their property purchasing power.

Debt-to-Income Ratios Factors for Mortgages

Your Debt-to-Income (DTI) ratio is a big factor that lenders consider when considering you for a new mortgage. What is a debt-to-income ratio?

When you apply for credit, lenders calculate your debt to income ratio, or DTI, in order to determine how risky it may be for you to add another payment, such as a new mortgage payment. It is another tool to assess your financial health, along with your credit score.

Simply put, the debt-to-income ratio compares how much you owe every month to how much you earn. Specifically, it is a percentage representing how much of your gross income is used monthly to pay bills like rent, mortgages, credit cards, and other debts.

How to Calculate Your DTI Ratio

Here is how you can find your debt-to-income ratio in 2 simple steps.

Step #1: Add Up Monthly Bills

To calculate your debt-to-income ratio add up your monthly bills which may include:

  • Monthly rent or house payment
  • Monthly alimony or child support payments
  • Student, auto, and other monthly loan payments
  • Credit card monthly payments (use the minimum payment)
  • Other debts

Also Note: Expenses like groceries, utilities, gas, and your taxes generally are not included.

Step #2: Divide the Total by Monthly Income

Divide the total by your gross monthly income, which is your income before taxes.

The result is your DTI, which will be in the form of a percentage.

What Debt-to-Income Ratio Percentages Mean

The lower the debt-to-income ratio percentages mean you are a less risky borrower to lenders.

Generally, a DTI of 35% or lower indicates a healthy debt management level. After you pay all of your current bills, you likely have enough left to make a reasonable mortgage payment.

A DTI of 35%-49% shows adequate financial management, but you may want to get this number lower in order to be in a better position to handle unforeseen expenses and to be considered for a new loan. In this range, a lender will probably ask for additional eligibility criteria.

50% or more DTI ratio means you don’t have much left to spend after bills and lenders will limit your borrowing options.

Good Debt & Bad Debt

Some people think any money owed is bad while others think money owed for certain purposes is ok if the interest rate and monthly payments are manageable or within their budget. Think of these as investments in your future.

Is there such a thing as good debt or bad debt? The answer depends on your personal approach to money management.

Good Debt Doesn’t Affect Your Credit

The main difference between good debt and bad debt is good debt does not affect your credit score.

Some examples of what may be considered Good Debt include:

  • Student Debt/ Education Loans
  • Medical Bills
  • Rent or house mortgage
  • Auto loan
  • Small Business debt

Bad Debt Will Cost You… A Lot

Bad debts, on the other hand, do not contribute to your future. Bad debt will cost you more than they’re worth and do not finance life better.

Bad Debts can include:

  • Credit Cards
  • High-interest loans
  • Borrowing to Invest
  • Personal loans

When is Debt Helpful?

Although the idea of debt may have a negative connotation, it’s not all bad and you’re better to have some debt on your credit report than none.

Debt gives you the opportunity to show good payment history and smart financial management. So how do you know which debts are actually “helpful?”

Types of Debt

There are 3 types of debt:

  • Revolving debt, such as credit cards, give you a line of credit on which you can borrow and make payments on a set schedule. Lenders like to see less than 30% utilization of these lines of credit. For example, you may be approved to spend up to $6,000 on your credit card, however, a lender will want to see less than $1800 of that as your owed balance. (note: different lenders and programs may require a different percentage of utilization)
  • Installment debt, like a mortgage, loans you a large sum of money upfront and you make regular payments to pay down the balance.
  • Open Debt is not something most people have. An example is a charge card which requires no collateral but requires you to pay off each month or pay very high penalties. Not a good choice as they also come with high annual fees.

Credit Diversity Mix

Having a mix of account types shows lenders that you can be responsible with payments. However, don’t go out and open up different types of loans just for the sake of diversifying your credit before buying a home.

Things You Shouldn’t Do When Buying a Home

Your credit diversity mix plays a small part in your overall credit review. More important is the credit utilization ratio which is best to keep under 30% as aforementioned.

If possible, it is a good idea to pay off or pay down debt prior to purchasing a home. This will simultaneously improve your debt-to-income ratio and raise your credit score – the two biggest factors in qualifying for a mortgage.

About the Author

A Realtor® in Boone and the High Country since 2003, I am passionate about offering a superior level of service, innovative marketing and a highly personalized, boutique-style experience to my clientele. I started my real estate career as an Investor and was Broker-In-Charge of my own firm upon moving to Boone. Since that time, I have excelled with other real estate firms and built a strong network of client friends. Together with my network of professionals such as mortgage, insurance, inspection companies, etc. and my own Professional Home Staging business, (, we will polish your home buying/selling experience with your goals as a priority. I’ve lived all over the United States from the NE to the SE and California before landing in Boone, NC. You’ve seen the signs, “The mountains are calling and I must go?” Well, that was me 15 years ago! I love bluegrass music and, it seems, many of the great pickers were born in NC with a guitar in their hands! I sing, play a little mandolin and keyboards and you can be found at outdoor festivals and concerts when I’m not showing property! I also participate in many of our area’s outdoor activities, from hiking and biking to kayaking- the New river is my summer home! Caring for the needs of High Country residents is also very important to me and through Cornerstone Summit Church’s ‘Trenches’ team, I serve in many ways from preparing and serving meals at the Hospitality House to School Events to Habitat for Humanity Home Builds. In addition, I am honored to serve our community as a Certified Guardian ad Litem, advocating for children in the courtroom.

The High Country of North Carolina is unique, with large second home and student populations driving much of the market. It’s important that you work with a Realtor® like myself who is experienced and educated in the area, guaranteeing our success together. The acronyms behind my Broker title are not just letters - they stand for something;

GRI - Graduate of the Realtor Institute. Brokers holding this designation have completed 12, 3 day courses over a period of 2 years or more for in-depth training.

ABR - Accredited Buyer's Agent. An (ABR®) designation means your Realtor® has made extra efforts to raise the bar, with additional courses and proven experience in serving BUYERS.

SFR - Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource Certification. Short sales and foreclosures are not for the faint of heart and the courses I've taken arm me with the knowledge to assist clients in this area.

My business approach is founded on building lasting relationships based upon commitment and trust and the majority of my business comes in the way of referrals from past clients. Make me Your Realtor of Choice and work with a person you can trust to take your needs to heart and to find the perfect property for YOU in the HIGH COUNTRY!