Here’s some good news: After falling through the floor in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, housing prices are finally enjoying a sustained upswing. According to the CoreLogic Home Price Index, year-over-year home prices rose by an impressive 11.8% in 2013, making it the best year for home price appreciation since 2005. According to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, the U.S. housing market is “on a roll,” with year-over-year gains of over 20% in some parts of the country. After years of fretting, you may now be sitting on some valuable home equity you didn’t even know you had! The question is, how can you harness that increased equity?
Tying the knot comes with a lot of financial implications. It can raise your taxes. It can lower them (if you’re lucky). It can affect the types of retirement accounts you can get. It can affect how much you pay for insurance. And, in some cases, it can even affect your mortgage.
There are a lot of things to consider when you’re getting ready to buy a house. But if you’re married, one that you might not have thought about is whether you and your spouse should both be on the home loan. In some cases, having only one spouse on the mortgage might be the best option.
If you’re looking to get a mortgage without your spouse, or if you’re just wondering why in the world someone would do this, I’ve got a few answers. I spoke with Lindsay Villasenor, a Quicken Loans operations director, to get some insight on what happens when only one spouse is on a mortgage. If you’re married and you’re taking the plunge into the real estate market, here’s what you should know about buying a house with only one spouse on the loan.
Why Would You Buy a House Without Your Spouse?
There are a couple of reasons why you might leave your spouse off the mortgage. Let’s take a look.
One Spouse Has a Low Credit Score
Unfortunately, mortgage companies won’t simply use the highest credit score between the two of you, or even the average of your scores; they’ll pay the most attention to the lowest credit score. So if your spouse has a credit score that would prevent you from getting the best possible rates, you might consider leaving your spouse off the mortgage – unless you need your spouse’s income to qualify for a decent loan amount.
One Spouse’s Income Doesn’t Meet the Requirements
According to Lindsay, “2/2/2 is a general rule for all documentation requirements.” This simply means that you’ll need two years of W2s, two years of tax returns and two months of bank statements. Depending on your situation, more documentation may be required. Conversely, less documentation may be required depending on the type of loan you’re getting, but you should be prepared with these documents just in case.
Now if one spouse doesn’t meet these requirements – say this spouse doesn’t have two years of W2s – then it might make sense to leave this spouse off the mortgage. If your spouse is self-employed, he or she will usually need two years of business returns (although this may vary depending on the loan type and the structure of the business). If your spouse is unable to provide this documentation, for instance if he or she has only been in business for a year, then it may make sense to leave this spouse off the loan.
Things to Know About Leaving Your Spouse Off the Mortgage
If you’re the only one on the mortgage, the underwriter will only look at your stuff, right? It’s not always that simple. Here are a few things to know if you’re getting a mortgage without your spouse.
You Will Probably Qualify for a Smaller Loan Amount
If you’re part of a two-income household, getting a mortgage with both spouses usually means you’ll qualify for a bigger home loan. However, if your spouse isn’t on the loan with you, your lender won’t consider your spouse’s income. Therefore, you’ll probably have to settle for a smaller, less expensive home.
Joint Bank Accounts Are Just Fine
So what if you’re only using one income to qualify, but you have a joint bank account with your spouse? According to Lindsay, this doesn’t really impact underwriting.
“As long as our client is on the account and it’s a joint account, it’s determined that they are both legally allowed to access all of the funds,” says Lindsay. As long as you’re on the account, it’s your money and it won’t pose any problems for your home loan.
Your Mortgage Company May Look at Your Spouse’s Debt
When your mortgage company approves you for a loan, they look at your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which is the percentage of your gross income that goes toward debt. Your DTI can have a huge impact on your home loan.
If one spouse has a lot of debt, you might consider leaving them off the mortgage to decrease your DTI ratio. However, if the home is in a community property state and you’re getting a FHA or VA loan, both spouses’ debts will be taken into consideration.
So what’s a community property state? In a community property state, all assets and all debt belong to both spouses. Says Lindsay, “The phrase, ‘What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is yours’ is actual law in these states.” There are currently nine community property states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. If you live in one of these states and you’re getting a FHA or VA loan, your mortgage company will look at the debts of both spouses.
Well, there you have it. Are you and your spouse considering a one-spouse mortgage? Leave your questions in the comments section below!