Mortgage rate increases have begun slowing down but there’s no getting around the fact that 3% mortgage rates are well in the rearview mirror. Higher mortgage rates turn into higher mortgage payments and for a lot of homebuyers, this means they can no longer afford houses with a higher price tag. Especially for first-time homebuyers who have been saving diligently over the past few years, watching mortgage rates rise can be discouraging. Asking a family member or friend to be a co-signer on a mortgage application could help you qualify for a better home loan.
If you’re ready to buy a home but the mortgage rates are pushing up faster than your savings account, a co-signer might be worth considering. A co-signer can help you meet some of the requirements for a home loan and may help you qualify faster. That said, having a co-signer on your mortgage isn’t always the best choice and there are a few restrictions to keep in mind.
This article can help.
When is a co-signer a good idea for a mortgage?
In general, most homebuyers benefit from a co-signer when they need a boost with their income, employment history, or credit score.
A good fit for a co-signer will be a person with a high credit score, steady income, stable employment history, and solid credit history. If you’re falling short in any of these four areas, then adding a co-signer to your mortgage application could help you get approved faster and secure better terms on your home loan.
In many cases, adding a co-signer to a mortgage application can help push your mortgage approval across the finish line, but it’s not a guarantee.
For example, if a mortgage applicant doesn’t have the means to pay back the mortgage or if the lender considers the homebuyer a high risk, adding a cosigner typically won’t sway the lender’s decision.
Connect with a local mortgage advisor to talk through your specific situation. You might be closer than you think to a great mortgage and the keys to your dream home.
Related: How to boost your credit score in 60 days
TOP 3 BENEFITS TO HAVING A CO-SIGNER ON A MORTGAGE
1. A co-signer can help you meet the credit score requirements.
In general, a cosigner will not be able to override negative marks in your credit history, such as bankruptcy or loan defaults. But a cosigner with a strong credit history can give your credit profile a bit of a bump if you land in the medium range. The typical mortgage lender will look at your mortgage application in its entirety to determine risk and decide if you’ll be able to pay back the loan as agreed.
If your credit score is in the midrange and you have a cosigner with a strong credit history, this reduces risk in the eyes of the mortgage lender. More importantly, it increases your chance to secure a great mortgage.
2. A co-signer can provide support to help you meet employment criteria.
If you have good employment but a short employment history, a cosigner with stable long-term employment can help you qualify for a preferred mortgage. In many cases, borrowers just beginning their career or starting a new career path might have a good employment profile, but it isn’t steady enough for the best mortgage. A co-signer can help boost your profile in this area.
Related: How to Qualify for a Mortgage if You’re Self-Employed
3. A co-signer may help you qualify for a larger home loan.
To qualify for a mortgage with a co-signer, the mortgage lender considers both incomes. For this reason, you might be able to qualify for a bigger home (and a better loan) by having a co-signer on your mortgage application. The co-signer will be responsible if the borrower defaults, so verifiable income for both parties is an important factor. That said, an individual borrower will only qualify if they have the independent resources to pay back the loan as agreed. Ultimately, the mortgage lender will decide the level of risk and whether or not they approve the mortgage application.
Who can qualify as a co-signer on a mortgage application?
To be eligible as a co-signer, the individual must be a family member close to the borrower. Family members such as parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles all qualify by definition. Family-type relationships are also eligible for a cosigner on a mortgage. For example, friends in this category would be someone you’ve had a close, long-term relationship with for most of your life, or someone you’ve lived with for an extended period of time.
This requirement is in place to protect the borrower from having a cosigner who has divided interests. For instance, a real estate agent or a builder might want to be a cosigner since they would directly benefit if your mortgage application is approved. For this reason, non-family members are not eligible to cosign a mortgage.
Related: Buying a House With a Friend or Relative–Everything You Need to Know
3 THINGS A CO-SIGNER ON A MORTGAGE APPLICATION CAN’T DO
A co-signer cannot make the minimum down payment on your behalf.
The homebuyer must meet the minimum requirements for making the down payment, typically 5% for most home loans. Fannie Mae sets this guideline, which requires that the home must be the borrower’s primary residence, and the loan-to-value ratio cannot exceed 95%. The cosigner can increase the down payment, but the resident borrower must provide the minimum down payment required.
A co-signer cannot improve your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio.
The homebuyer must meet the minimum requirements set by the lender for the DTI ratio. In most cases, mortgage lenders allow borrower’s a maximum DTI of 43%. This is your debt-to-income ratio. DTI is calculated by combining all recurring debt payments such as credit cards, car loans, and student loans and measuring the total debt against your income.
Therefore, even if your cosigner has ample assets and minimal debt, the main borrower must meet the loan requirement with a DTI ratio of less than 43%.
A co-signer cannot override or erase your credit history.
While a co-signer’s credit history can help boost your mortgage application, it cannot override substantial credit implications such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, or a credit score below 580. If you have a credit score in the mid-range, check out our recent post on how to boost your credit score in 60 days.
Are there risks to having a co-signer on a mortgage?
Deciding to ask a family member to cosign on a mortgage is a serious decision. For the most part, the co-signer takes on more risk than the designated borrower. This is because the cosigner will be legally responsible for the mortgage, along with the borrower, until the mortgage is paid off.
For this reason, the borrower should make every attempt to remove the cosigner from the mortgage as soon as reasonably possible. The best option is to refinance the mortgage as soon as the homeowner can qualify for their own mortgage.
In addition, the mortgage will be reflected on the cosigner’s credit report. As such, it will affect their buying power for future opportunities. Finally, late payments will be reflected on the credit reports for both the borrower and the cosigner as well. Download a free copy of your credit report here.
An important note–if the borrower defaults on the mortgage, the cosigner will be legally responsible for paying the loan obligations in full. If the cosigner isn’t on the title of the property (which is often the case), they will have to meet the financial obligation with their own assets.
One of the best first steps you can take is to start your mortgage application. Once you’ve started the process, talk with your mortgage advisor about adding a co-signer. Adding a co-signer to a mortgage application can be a difficult decision but it may help you qualify for a better mortgage. We can guide you through the process and help you determine if a co-signer on your mortgage will help you qualify for a preferred home loan. Either way, discussing your options can give you a jump start on your mortgage goals. Connect with a local mortgage advisor to get started. We’d love to help.