March 24, 2023

Debt to Income Ratio Calculator: How to Calculate DTI & What it Means

The debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is pivotal for real estate investors, impacting loan approval, financial health, and investment strategies. In this article, learn to calculate, interpret, and improve your DTI ratio to navigate the complexities of real estate investing successfully.

Debt-to-Income Ratio Calculator

Are you looking to expand your real estate portfolio but find yourself hitting roadblocks in financing? You're not alone. Many investors overlook a crucial puzzle piece that can make or break their investment dreams.

The debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, a simple yet powerful metric, is a beacon for lenders to gauge your financial health and lending risk. Understanding and optimizing your DTI can unlock doors to previously closed financing, offering a clear path to growth and success in the competitive world of real estate investing.

Imagine easily securing the financing needed to purchase your next rental property, thanks to a favorable DTI ratio. You could achieve lower interest rates, better loan terms, and a stronger portfolio with the right balance between your income and debt. The key to this financial leverage? A thorough grasp of your DTI ratio and strategic steps to improve it.

Ready to turn your real estate investment dreams into reality? Dive deeper into the significance of your DTI ratio, learn how to calculate it accurately, and discover actionable strategies to enhance your financial standing. 

What is the debt-to-income ratio (DTI)?

Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is a financial metric used to assess the ability of a borrower to repay their mortgage. It is calculated by dividing the borrower's total monthly debt payments (including the proposed mortgage payment) by their gross monthly income.

Lenders use this ratio to evaluate the risk of lending to a borrower, as a higher DTI ratio may indicate that the borrower is more likely to default on their mortgage. Lenders typically have a maximum DTI ratio they will accept for a loan.

For example, a lender may have a maximum DTI ratio of 45%, meaning that a borrower's total monthly debt payments cannot exceed 45% of their gross monthly income.

In the case of rental properties, lenders also consider rental income to be a form of income, which is included in the ratio calculation. This is known as the debt coverage ratio or debt service coverage ratio (DSCR).

Why your DTI is so important

The debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is a key financial metric for rental property investors. This ratio, calculated by dividing your monthly debt payments by your gross monthly income, plays a pivotal role for several reasons:

1. Mortgage approval

When you're looking to finance a rental property, lenders will scrutinize your DTI ratio to assess your borrowing risk. A lower DTI ratio signals to lenders that you have a healthy balance between your debt and income, making you a more attractive candidate for loan approval. 

2. Financial health indicator

Your DTI ratio is a clear indicator of your financial health and stability. It helps you understand how much of your income is dedicated to debt payments and whether you're overextended. This is important for rental property investors, as it affects your ability to manage and invest in additional properties. 

A high DTI ratio could mean you must reassess your debt strategy or find ways to increase your income before expanding your investment portfolio.

3. Investment strategy planning

Knowing your debt-to-income ratio helps you plan your investment strategy. For instance, if your DTI is on the high side, it might be wise to focus on paying down existing debt or increasing rental income from your properties before acquiring more. Conversely, a low DTI ratio could indicate that you have room to grow your portfolio.

4. Interest rates and loan terms

Lenders use DTI ratios not only to determine loan eligibility but also to set interest rates and terms. A lower DTI can lead to more favorable loan conditions, such as lower interest rates, which directly impact the profitability of your rental properties. 

Over the life of a loan, a lower interest rate can save you thousands of dollars, increasing your return on investment.

How is the debt-to-income ratio calculated?

To calculate a debt-to-income ratio, you'll need to identify your total monthly debt payments and gross monthly income.

You can determine your total monthly debt payments by adding up your outgoing payments for each month. Such items can include:

  • Monthly mortgage payments on your primary residence.
  • Monthly mortgage payments on your rental properties.
  • Property taxes.
  • Property insurance payments.
  • Landlord insurance payments.
  • HOA payments, if applicable.

Find gross monthly income by determining the total amount of money earned before taxes and other deductions are applied. Here's an inclusive (but not exhaustive) list of examples of what falls into this bucket:

  • Income from employment.
  • Rental income.
  • Spousal support payments.
  • Child support payments.
  • Disability payments.

Once you've arrived at the above numbers, simply divide the total monthly debt payments by the gross monthly income. The resulting percentage is the relevant DTI ratio.

Debt-to-income ratio example calculation

With the above details in mind, let's now work through a quick example to make sure we understand how DTI is calculated:

Let's say you have the following monthly payments:

  • A car loan payment of $300.
  • A student loan payment of $200.
  • A credit card payment of $150.

Your total monthly debt payments would be $650 ($300 + $200 + $150).

If your gross monthly income is $5,000, you would divide your total monthly debt payment of $650 by $5,000 to get a DTI ratio of 0.13, or 13%.

Remember that, when calculating DTI for rental properties, rental income is also included as a form of income. So, if you have a rental income of $1,000/month and your total monthly debt payments is $650 as in above example, then your DTI would be $650/($5000+$1000) =0.1083 or 10.83%.

As mentioned previously, lenders typically have a maximum DTI ratio they will accept for a loan. This ratio varies with the type of loan and lender.

What do debt-to-income ratios tell us?

It is important to note that a high DTI ratio does not necessarily mean that a borrower will be denied a loan. When evaluating a loan application, lenders may consider factors such as the borrower's credit score, the down payment, and the type of property being purchased. 

Additionally, some programs may have different guidelines for DTI ratios, such as FHA loans, which may allow for higher DTI ratios than conventional loans.

Debt-to-income ratio limitations

While the debt-to-income ratio is an important metric in assessing financial health and borrowing capacity, especially for rental property investors, it's not without its limitations. 

Understanding these limitations can help investors make more informed decisions and consider additional metrics when evaluating their financial situation and investment strategies. Here are some key limitations of the DTI ratio:

  • Does not account for asset value: The DTI ratio focuses solely on income and debt levels, without considering the value of an investor's assets. This can provide a skewed view of an investor's financial health, especially if they own significant equity in real estate or other investments that could be liquidated if necessary to cover debts.
  • Lacks detail on expense breakdown: DTI calculations do not differentiate between types of debt or expenses. For example, investment-related debt might generate income that can offset costs, whereas consumer debt does not. This lack of granularity can make assessing the quality of an investor's debt and spending habits difficult.
  • Income fluctuations: For rental property investors, income can fluctuate due to vacancies, turnover, or maintenance issues. The DTI ratio, typically calculated using static monthly income figures, may not accurately reflect the dynamic nature of rental income, leading to potential misrepresentations of an investor's financial stability
  • Geographic and market variability: The cost of living and real estate prices vary significantly across different regions. A DTI ratio that might be considered high in one area could be average in another, where higher living expenses and property prices are the norm. This variability means the DTI ratio doesn't always provide a complete picture of an investor's financial leverage or risk.
  • Does not reflect future income potential: The DTI ratio is a snapshot of an investor's current financial situation, without accounting for future income potential from career advancements or increased rental income due to property improvements or market rent increases. This can limit its usefulness for investors who are on the cusp of significant positive financial changes.

How to improve your DTI

After laying the groundwork, we'll now focus on strengthening your financial standing, with an emphasis on your debt-to-income ratio.

Improving your DTI ratio is key for real estate investors, especially those focusing on rental properties, as it directly impacts your ability to secure financing and expand your portfolio. 

A healthier DTI ratio signals to lenders that you're a lower-risk borrower, potentially leading to better loan terms and interest rates. Here are practical strategies to improve your DTI ratio:

1. Increase your income

Increasing your gross monthly income can effectively lower your DTI ratio. For rental property investors, this might involve optimizing rent prices based on current market rates, investing in property improvements to justify higher rents, or expanding your portfolio to generate additional rental income. Consider alternative income streams, such as a side business or part-time job.

2. Reduce your monthly debt payments

Paying down high-interest debts or consolidating multiple debts into a single loan with a lower interest rate can reduce your monthly debt obligations. Focus on debts with the highest interest rates or monthly payments first to see the most significant impact on your DTI ratio.

3. Refinance existing loans

Refinancing mortgages or other loans to secure lower interest rates can reduce your monthly payments, thereby improving your debt-to-income ratio. This is particularly effective in a low interest rate environment or in the case that your credit situation has improved since you originally secured the loans.

4. Avoid taking on new debt

While working to improve your debt-to-income ratio, avoid taking on new debts that can increase your monthly obligations. This includes holding off on large purchases that would require financing, such as cars or expensive equipment.

5. Use windfalls wisely

Use any windfalls, such as tax refunds, bonuses, or inheritances, to pay down debt rather than making discretionary purchases. Even small windfalls can make a difference when applied to your debt.

6. Budget and expense management

Adopting a strict budget and cutting unnecessary expenses can free up more money to pay down debt. Tools like Azibo can help rental property investors manage their finances more effectively by offering comprehensive expense tracking and budgeting features. This can lead to more available funds to reduce debt and improve your DTI ratio.

7. Consider a longer mortgage term

For your existing properties, consider refinancing to a longer mortgage term. This can reduce your monthly payments and improve your debt-to-income ratio, but be aware that it may result in higher interest costs over the life of the loan.

8. Utilize Azibo for efficient property management

Azibo’s services can play a crucial role in improving your debt-to-income ratio. Efficient rent collection ensures a steady income stream, while expense management tools help keep track of your financial obligations. Additionally, Azibo's tenant screening can aid in finding reliable tenants who pay on time, contributing to stable and predictable rental income, which is essential for maintaining a healthy debt-to-income ratio.

Debt-to-income ratio for investment property, explained

Understanding and optimizing your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is a cornerstone of successful real estate investing. The DTI ratio, an important financial metric, is essential for rental property investors seeking to finance their next property purchase. 

By calculating your DTI ratio — your total monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income — you gain insights into your borrowing risk as perceived by lenders. A lower DTI ratio not only enhances your chances of mortgage approval but also reflects positively on your financial health, indicating a well-balanced relationship between your debt and income.

For rental property investors, managing DTI is not just about securing financing; it's about strategic portfolio growth and sustainability. By incorporating rental income into your DTI calculations, you can present a more accurate picture of your financial stability, particularly when lenders consider the debt-service coverage ratio (DSCR). 

Improving your DTI involves a multifaceted approach: increasing income through strategic rent adjustments or portfolio expansion, reducing debt by paying down high-interest obligations, and refinancing existing loans for more favorable terms. 

Additionally, leveraging financial management tools like Azibo can significantly enhance your ability to manage rental properties efficiently, ensuring steady income streams and controlled expenses, which in turn positively impacts your DTI ratio.

The DTI ratio is a pivotal financial metric for rental property investors, influencing financing opportunities, investment strategy, and overall financial health. By understanding how to calculate, interpret, and improve your DTI ratio, you can better navigate the complexities of real estate investing, ensuring a robust and profitable investment portfolio.

Rental rundown background image
Rental rundown hero image

Whether you’re a property owner, renter, property manager, or real estate agent, gain valuable insights, advice, and updates by joining our newsletter.

Subscriber Identity

I am a

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Streamline Your Rental Business with Azibo Accounting!

Get real-time insights, painless transaction management, and effortless tax prep.

Click 'Request a Demo' to experience accounting built for landlords.

Request a demo

Latest articles