How to Qualify for a Joint Mortgage

Qualifying for a joint mortgage requires a positive financial profile from both applicants but relies more on the primary applicant than on the co-borrower. This is one of the largest benefits of a joint mortgage application: the option to add second borrower actually works in the borrowers favor and not the lenders.

Combine Income

The main reason people apply for a joint mortgage is the chance to combine their two incomes. There are a number of factors to be considered when a mortgage company evaluates whether you are a qualified borrower. Only some of these will have to do with your debt and credit score. One large factor will be you income, and applying for a joint mortgage gives you the chance to list a combined income. Most couples will be able to increase the income listed on their application by 30 to 50 percent just by adding a second applicant. Your total household income will then be used to determine your income to debt ratio.

Combine Debt

You will also be required to combine your debt, which can either work for you or against you depending on how much debt you carry as a couple. However, the main benefit comes if the person with the highest income also has the highest debt. This is often true in cases where one member of the application is a doctor or lawyer with a high income but still a large percentage of student debt. The debt is considered against the total income of the two people. On the whole, a couple's debt to income ratio is likely better than the ratio of one person alone.

Split Credit

While you have the opportunity to combine your income to enhance your ability to achieve a loan, you will only be evaluated on the credit of the borrower with the higher credit score. For most couples, the person with the higher income will tend to have the higher credit score, and this will work in the applicants favor. Unfortunately, this may not be the case for all borrowers, and you do not get to choose whose credit to use. Some lenders may allow you to combine or average credit scores. You can ask if this would be permitted if your co-borrower has a very high credit score but lower income than the primary borrower. In most cases, your mortgage lender will raise your rate, however.

Single Applicant Option

If one of the two persons in your couple has a very bad credit score, is unemployed or otherwise a risky borrower, it may be better to elect a single-applicant option. In this case, you will not be able to capitalize on the ability to list a combined income on a mortgage application. You will have to take out a lower mortgage loan. However, your loan will be much more affordable using just one good credit borrower than using two if one of them is very high risk. You will have to work out options to decide how ownership in the home will be structured if only one person is listed on the mortgage.