Skip to Content

Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio Guidelines for VA Loans

At a Glance

VA lenders will take a deep dive into your finance to determine if you are eligible for a VA home loan. One of the most important metrics is the Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio.


One of the key financial metrics for lenders is the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio when it comes to getting a VA home loan.

The debt-to-income ratio is an underwriting guideline that looks at the relationship between your gross monthly income and your major monthly debts, giving VA lenders an insight into your purchasing power and your ability to repay debt.

Some loan types require a look at two forms of DTI ratio:

  • Front-end looks at the relationship between your gross monthly income and your new mortgage payment
  • Back-end ratio considers all of your major monthly expenses

For VA loans, lenders consider only the back-end ratio, which offers a more holistic look at your monthly debt-and-income situation.

What is the DTI for VA loan?

The VA doesn't set a maximum DTI ratio but does provide lenders with the guidance to place additional financial scrutiny on borrowers with a DTI ratio greater than 41%.

The VA views the DTI ratio as a guide to help lenders, and it doesn't set a maximum ratio that borrowers must stay under. But the VA doesn't make home loans, and mortgage lenders will often have in-house caps on DTI ratio that can vary depending on the borrower's credit, finances and more.

Calculating DTI Ratio for a VA Loan

Only certain types of debts and income count toward your DTI ratio.

Lenders will consider your major revolving and installment debts, mostly pulled directly from your credit reports. These are expenses like mortgages, car loans, student loans, credit card debt and more. But lenders can also consider obligations that don't make your credit report, like child-care costs, alimony and even commuting expenses.

If you have collections or charge-offs on your credit report, lenders won't typically factor those into your DTI ratio calculation unless you're making regular monthly payments on those debts.

But lenders may have a cap on how much of this derogatory credit you can have. Guidelines and policies can vary by lender.

The biggest debt is likely to be your projected monthly mortgage payment, which will include the principal and interest on the loan along with estimated escrow amounts for property taxes and homeowners insurance. On VA loans, lenders will also include an estimated cost for monthly utility bills, multiplying the home's square footage by 0.14.

Lenders will add up these debts and divide them by your gross (pre-tax) monthly income. The VA allows lenders to "gross-up" tax-free income to create a pre-tax figure to calculate the DTI ratio.

How to Calculate DTI

Car Loan $200
Student Loan $150
Child Care/ Child Support/ Alimony $300
New Mortgage Payment (PITI) $1,200
Utility Costs $200
Major Monthly Debts $2,150
Gross Monthly Income $5,500
DTI Ratio = 39% ($2,150/$5,500)

It's also important to understand that mortgage lenders don't consider all income equally. Some forms of income will count toward qualifying for a mortgage with no problem. But other forms, like overtime, self-employment income and others, will often require at least a two-year history. And some forms of income, like GI Bill housing allowances, won't be counted as effective income toward a mortgage.

Lenders don't count all your debts, either. Things like cell phone bills, car and health insurance, groceries and other expenses aren't factored into this calculation.

Calculating your DTI ratio is one step. But the question is: How does that number affect your ability to land a VA home loan?

In these cases, borrowers will get an up-close look at the link between DTI ratio and the VA's guideline for discretionary income, known as residual income.

See What You Qualify For

Answer a few questions below to speak with a specialist about what your military service has earned you.

DTI Ratio & Residual Income

VA residual income guidelines require borrowers to have a minimum amount of discretionary income left over each month after paying major expenses. The minimum amount varies depending on your loan amount, family size, and the country you're buying.

For example, a Midwestern family of four would typically need $1,003 in residual income each month after paying their mortgage and other major debt obligations.

But VA buyers need even more residual income on hand if their DTI ratio is higher than 41 percent. These borrowers will need to exceed their residual income guidelines by 20 percent to satisfy the VA and lenders.

If our example Midwestern family of four has a DTI ratio above 41 percent, here's what their residual income requirement would look like:

$1,003 x 20 percent = $200

$1,003 + 200 = $1,203

Our example family of four would need $1,203 in residual income every month to keep their loan moving forward, at least at the current loan amount.

And that's also something to keep in mind: A huge piece of your DTI ratio is your projected monthly mortgage payment.

Dealing with High DTI Ratio

Having too high of a DTI ratio can force borrowers to make tough decisions.

One is to hold off on buying a home until they have a better balance of debts and income. Another option is to seek a lower loan amount.

For example, if your DTI ratio is too high with a $300,000 loan, you might be able to move forward with a $250,000 mortgage. Readjusting your homebuying budget is often disappointing, and it might not be realistic depending on your real estate market, needs, and other factors. But it's an option for dealing with a high DTI ratio.

Talk with a Veterans United VA Loan Expert if you have questions about your debts, income, and purchasing power.

About Our Editorial Process

Veterans United is recognized as the leading VA lender in the nation, unmatched in our specialization and expertise in VA loans. Our strict adherence to accuracy and the highest editorial standards guarantees our information is based on thoroughly vetted, unbiased research. Committed to excellence, we offer guidance to our nation's Veterans, ensuring their homebuying experience is informed, seamless and secured with integrity.

Enter to win $80,000 toward your new home! No purchase necessary; see official rules for details.