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A debt-to-income ratio (often abbreviated DTI) is the percentage of a consumer's monthly gross income that goes toward paying debts. (Speaking precisely, DTIs often cover more than just debts; they can include certain taxes, fees, and insurance premiums as well. Nevertheless, the term is a set phrase that serves as a convenient, well-understood shorthand.) There are two main kinds of DTI, as discussed below.
The two main kinds of DTI are expressed as a pair using the notation
x/y (for example, 28/36).
If the lender requires a debt-to-income ratio of 28/36, then to qualify a borrower for a mortgage, the lender would go through the following process to determine what expense levels they would accept:
In the U.S., for conforming loans, the following limits are currently typical:
Back ratio limits up to 55 became common for nonconforming loans in the 2000s, as the financial industry experimented with looser credit, with innovative terms and mechanisms, fueled by a real estate bubble. The mortgage business underwent a shift as the traditional mortgage banking industry was shadowed by an infusion of lending from the shadow banking system that eventually rivaled the size of the conventional financing sector. The subprime mortgage crisis produced a market correction that revised these limits downward again for many borrowers, reflecting a predictable tightening of credit after the laxness of the credit bubble. Creative financing (involving riskier ratios) still exists, but nowadays is granted with tighter, more sensible qualification of customers.
The business of lending and borrowing money has evolved qualitatively in the post-World-War-II era. It was not until that era that the FHA and the VA (through the G.I. Bill) led the creation of a mass market in 30-year, fixed-rate, amortized mortgages. It was not until the 1970s that the average working person carried credit card balances (more information at Credit card#History). Thus the typical DTI limit in use in the 1970s was PITI<25%, with no codified limit for the second DTI ratio (the one including credit cards). In other words, in today's notation, it could be expressed as 25/25, or perhaps more accurately, 25/NA, with the NA limit left to the discretion of lenders on a case-by-case basis. In the following decades these limits gradually climbed higher, and the second limit was codified (coinciding with the evolution of modern credit scoring), as lenders determined empirically how much risk was profitable. This empirical process continues today.
The Vanier Institute of the Family measures debt to income as total family debt to net income. This is a different ratio, because it compares a cashflow number (yearly after-tax income) to a static number (accumulated debt) - rather than to the debt payment as above. The Institute reported on February 17th, 2010 that the average Canadian Family owes $100,000, therefore having a debt to net income after taxes of 150%