Underwriting Rental Income

Written By: Frankie Lacy, Op-Ed Writer

Calculating qualifying rental income is one of the more complex income calculations an underwriter can perform. This is particularly true when the borrower owns multiple investment properties. The challenge is determining when rental income can be used to qualify and, once income is calculated, reconciling the total debt ratio.

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Rental income can be used if all of the following conditions apply:
• The borrower has a two year history of managing rental properties as demonstrated by two years personal tax returns (1040’s) and schedule E.
• If the borrower wishes to qualify with rental income on the subject property in an investment transaction, they must provide evidence of rent loss insurance to cover six month’s rent in the event of a property vacancy.
• If the borrower owns a rental property that is not yet reflected on schedule E, they may use income from this property to qualify with a lease agreement. However, if the borrower does not have a two year demonstrated history of managing rental properties, this guideline is not valid. Also note, when a property is reflecting on the schedule E of the personal tax returns, lease agreements may not be used to determine qualifying income for any reason.

Once the gross rental income has been calculated from the schedule E of the tax returns OR using 75% of the monthly lease payment, you must deduct the monthly housing expense to determine net rental income. Net rental income is the final figure that is used to calculate the total debt ratio. For example:
• Using a 24 month average of the calculated schedule E the underwriter has determined there is $300 monthly gross rental income.
• The underwriter then verifies the monthly PITI (principle, interest, taxes, and insurance) of $450 on the rental property. Note: If the rental property has a mortgage insurance or homeowners association dues expense, these amounts will be included in the PITI calculation.
• $300 gross rental income minus $450 monthly PITI nets a rental loss of $150. As a result, a $150 monthly liability is added to the total debt ratio.
This calculation is commonly referred to as “washing” the housing expenses on the property. Even though we still have a net loss that is included in the debt ratio, we were able to “wash” $300 of the $450 monthly PITI thereby improving our total debt ratios.

It is extremely important that the underwriter verify the correct net loss or net gain is carrying over to debt ratios in the loan origination system and the automated underwriting system findings. Reconciliation of the debt ratio when there are multiple rental properties can be an arduous task until you familiarize yourself with your system and learn all relevant “work-arounds”. The best way to insure the integrity of your data is to manually calculate the debt ratio. This will make it easier to backtrack through the system and identify the discrepancies.

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Finally, I encourage underwriters to create an excel spreadsheet to organize your rental income calculations. This will serve as a resource for double checking the accuracy of income calculations. It is also an excellent way to demonstrate transparency for investors. A properly crafted excel spreadsheet can make the calculation of rental income more efficient.


About The Author

Frankie Lacy - As an op-ed writer, Ms. Frankie Lacy is a 15+ year mortgage industry veteran with extensive conventional mortgage underwriting experience. Topics of Frankie's expertise include: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, USDA Rural Housing, underwriting to investor overlays, self-employed borrowers, personal and business tax return analysis, rental income, condos/co-ops/PUDs, and more. Frankie is a Davenport University graduate with a degree in Business Administration.


Opinion-Editorial (Op-Ed) Disclaimer For NAMP® Library Articles: The views and opinions expressed in the NAMP® Library articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect any official NAMP® policy or position. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world application as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of NAMP®. Nothing contained in this article should be considered legal advice.