Should You Have a Co-Signer on a Mortgage?

  • October 12, 2021
  •   •  
  • 4 min. read time
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Adding a co-signer on a mortgage application could help you qualify for a better home loan. Mortgage rates are still low and no one knows how long it will last. If you’re ready to buy a home but in a tough financial position, you may have considered applying for a mortgage with a co-signer. A co-signer can help you meet some of the requirements for a home loan, but not all of them.

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 a mortgage application could help you get approved and secure better loan terms.

In many cases, adding a co-signer to a mortgage can help push your mortgage application across the finish line, but it won’t make up for everything. For example, if a mortgage applicant doesn’t have the means to pay back the mortgage or is considered too high risk by the lender, adding a cosigner typically won’t sway the lender’s decision.

Related: How to boost your credit score in 60 days

TOP BENEFITS TO HAVING A CO-SIGNER ON A MORTGAGE

1. Provide flexibility with 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 mortgage lender is looking at the 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.

2. Provide backup with employment requirements

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. Opportunity 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, a borrower will only qualify if they have the 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 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 CAN’T DO 

A co-signer cannot make the required down payment.

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 change your DTI (debt-to-income) 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, student loans and measuring against your income. Therefore, even if your cosigner has ample assets and low debt, the residential borrower must meet the loan requirement with a DTI ratio less than 43%.

A co-signer cannot override 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.

What are the risks to having a co-signer on a mortgage?

Deciding to ask a family member to cosign on a mortgage is a serious decision. 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 reasonable. The best option is to refinance the mortgage as soon as they can qualify.

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.

Next Steps

Adding a co-signer to a mortgage application can be a difficult decision. We can guide you through the process and help you determine if a co-signer on your mortgage will help you qualify for 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.

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