Mortgage When My Spouse Has Bad Credit

I am married, have a good credit score, and my spouse has bad credit. Can I apply for a mortgage on my own?

I have been married for about one year and we want to buy a condo, but my spouse has bad credit that will hold us back on a good loan. My credit is good. Can I apply for a loan on my own, for the purpose of buying a house as a married person? I would need to borrow about $250,000. I am a teacher (15 years).

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Applying for a Mortgage When Spouse has Bad Credit
Highlights

  • Review how to apply for a mortgage when your spouse has bad credit.
  • Understand how debt to income ratio affects qualifying for a mortgage.
  • Examine how a credit score is determined.

The quick answer is: Yes! You need not apply for a joint mortgage with your spouse.

Generally speaking, if you and your spouse apply for a loan jointly, the lender will look at your combined income, combined debt-to-income (DTI),and both of your credit scores. If your spouse does not have income, or you do not need his or her income to qualify, then you may apply for a loan without him or her.

Banks want four things in a perfect borrower:

  1. Stable income — 2 years or more
  2. Attractive credit history — a high credit score and few mishaps
  3. Low debt-to-income ratio — the less debt you have the better
  4. A down payment — a minimum of 3.5%, but more is better

If a potential borrower lacks in any one (or more) of these, the potential borrower find qualifying for a loan difficult.

Work with a broker and see what mortgages you qualify for. Download a Uniform Residential Loan Application (Form 1003), complete it using only your income and credit. Then, complete a second Form 1003 with both your income and the income of your spouse. Finally, start shopping. Get mortgage quotes from up to four pre-screened lenders from Bills.com.

Reasons to Apply for a Joint Mortgage

If your low-credit-score spouse makes a high income, there is a chance his or her income would improve your DTI ratio and thus increase your likelihood of obtaining a loan despite the low credit score.

Some spouses feel more secure in a property where their name is on the lease or mortgage. When both spouses are on a mortgage and one spouse dies, the other can assume the mortgage and depending on how the property is titled, the surviving spouse will have 100% ownership of the property without it going through the probate process.

There are legal tools available that bring a non-signatory spouse to the same place legally. Regarding the death of the mortgaged spouse, the ownership of the property can be handled with a will or trust. Life insurance can pay the mortgage if the signatory spouse dies.

Reasons to Not Apply for a Joint Mortgage

However, if you apply for a mortgage on your own, you solely carry the burden of that mortgage obligation. If you default you alone have liability. This can be a positive or negative depending on your perspective. Let us assume your spouse rebuilds his or her credit score. Let us assume you and your spouse encounter unexpected financial difficulty, and become delinquent on the mortgage, or allow a foreclosure. Your credit score will take the fall, while your spouse becomes a credit score lifeboat that allows you two to continue to find credit.

Or let us assume an equally dire circumstance where you and your spouse decide to divorce. Usually one spouse will want to stay the marital property. In that case, there is is a 50-50 chance the spouse who has the property in his or her name alone will keep the status quo on the mortgage and title. If the mortgage is jointly held there is a 100% chance the mortgage will need to be refinanced to remove the non-occupying ex-spouse from the mortgage. For these two reasons I recommend that if spouses, partners, friends, or family members who wish to occupy a house together can afford to do so they put the property in one person’s name only.

Recommendation

First, a competent mortgage loan officer will explain how to qualify for a mortgage. A great loan officer will help you find the best loan for your needs. Visit the Bills.com mortgage savings center to get no-cost quotes from up to five pre-screened lenders.

Second, if you have a high credit score and your spouse does not, do not to add yourself to your spouse’s credit cards. Add your spouse to your cards as an authorized user, which will help pull their credit score up. The spouse with poor credit should pay off any delinquent cards or accounts as quickly as possible and negotiate a pay for delete to remove these harmful accounts from their credit report.

Third, it might be important to understand how a credit score is calculated. A credit rating is based on several variables, including:

  • Payment history (do you have any late payments, charge-offs, etc.)
  • The amount and type of debt owed
  • Any maxed-out trade lines
  • Several secondary factors including length of credit history and how many recent inquiries have been made on a credit history.

Paying down maxed-out trade-lines will almost always boost a credit score. If you would like more information, please visit the Bills.com credit resource page.

Finally, spend a few minutes to learn if a no-cost mortgage is right for your situation.

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.

Best,

Bill

Bills.com

238 Comments

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  • MP
    Mar, 2013
    M
    I am not currently on our mortgage or deed. My credit is much better than my husbands. If I go on the deed, will this damage my credit? We are underwater as well. Can I refinance myself?
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Mar, 2013
      Bill
      Allow a brief digression to define several terms before we tackle your question. A deed is a document used to convey real property from one person to another. The name on a title determines who owns the property. If, for example, Oscar wants to sell his property to Bob, Oscar will give Bob either a quitclaim or warranty deed to his property, which Bob will then bring to the county recorder's office so that the owner's name on the property's title can be updated. On to your questions.

      It is unlikely your spouse using a deed to add you as a concurrent or sole owner of his real property will change your credit score. It is unlikely either conveyance will appear on your credit report.

      Let us say your spouse adds you as a concurrent owner, or conveys the property to you entirely. Doing so does not change your spouse's liability for the loan. Nor does it make you a co-borrower on the existing loan. Therefore, you would not, from legal or financial perspectives, be refinancing the loan to add you as a borrower or co-borrower. You would be qualifying for a home loan from scratch. This is neither good nor bad, nor is my explanation here meant to discourage you from contacting HARP lenders to learn what rates and terms you qualify for. If you yourself qualify for a HARP loan, be prepared to consult with a lawyer about filing a quitclaim deed to convey the property from your spouse to you.
      0 Votes

  • MK
    Apr, 2012
    Melissa
    My husband and I are planning on applying for a VA guaranteed home loan as he qualifies and we don't have a large amount for a down payment. His credit score is terrible, 606, due to defaulting on student loans a few years back. (All of which are now paid and closed). My score is much better at 797. However, I am a stay-at-home mom and have no income. It is my understanding that my score will not come into play since the lender will only take the lower into consideration. Are we SOL unless he somehow gets his score up? Or do we have options? For what it's worth, we have zero debt. Thank you in advance.
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Apr, 2012
      Bill
      I recommend that you speak with a loan officer. His 606 credit score is not good, but it is not quite in the terrible range. Your strong score will not help the loan application, due to your current lack of income. The fact that you have zero debt helps your debt-to-income ratio, which strengthens the application. If his loans are still in default or in collections, that could be a barrier to qualifying.

      A quality loan officer will let you know if you qualify or what needs to be changed, in order to be approved. You can get a free, no obligation mortgage quote for a VA loan.
      1 Votes

  • DP
    Apr, 2012
    Dave
    BTW I should add, the major improvement to her score was from fixing the alleged late payment from a few years back, which no one recommended I try to do (it was just something I thought up and did on my own). I would recommend to anyone going that route to dispute with the original bank FIRST, before trying to dispute with the credit reporting agencies, because if they re-affirm you can get stuck with your dispute being called "frivolous" and then it's harder to fix if you address it with the bank later.
    0 Votes

    • BM
      Jun, 2012
      Brian
      You may have already got what you need but if you have not go to this website https://www.optoutprescreen.com, it bumps your score 10 to 15 points. You opt out of receiving credit card offers for 5 years and you can reverse it any time.
      0 Votes

  • DP
    Apr, 2012
    Dave
    Reporting back... I was able to get my wife up over 750 and we moved in last week. It was a bit tricky: I had to call the bank that originally made the billing error and get them to change their record (the hard part was finding the phone number, a 30-second conversation got it fixed) then because they had previously affirmed the record, one of the reporting agencies labelled the dispute "frivolous" and refused to re-check it, until my lender went through the whole "rapid rescore" process. The lender also recommended she pay off a $12 credit card balance, but finally her score came back good enough for their best rate. FYI the rules were changed in 2008, adding her to my credit card apparently doesn't do much of anything anymore.
    0 Votes

  • DC
    Apr, 2012
    Donna
    My husband just received his residency in July of 2011. He makes approx. 45k a year, and has a joint credit card with me. Everytime we request a credit score they say that because he has only been here since July they don't have any information. I am currently a stay at home mother and do not have an income but my fico is about 660-670. I currently have one loan that I pay about 100 a month on for the next 2 years. Is there anything we can do to purchase a home with the credit issue that my husband is having?
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Apr, 2012
      Bill
      Try to apply for a joint mortgage. Consider an FHA loan. Follow the page I just mentioned to learn more about FHA loans, and how to apply for an FHA loan.
      0 Votes

    • BM
      Jun, 2012
      Brian
      I have only been in the country for just over 3 years and i had the same problem up until a few months ago. I had to get high interest credit cards and make the payments on time for 2 years before my score get high.
      0 Votes