The 9 Top Reasons Mortgage Loans Are Denied in the U.S.

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Construction Coverage.

Although interest rates have inched up recently, they remain at historic lows, spurring demand in both home purchases and mortgage refinancing. However, many lenders have tightened up their borrowing standards due to the economic uncertainty of the pandemic, and hopeful loan applicants may find it hard to get approved.

According to loan-level mortgage data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, the denial rate for conventional, single-family loans was 18.8% (excluding withdrawn and incomplete applications) in 2019.

To find the top reasons mortgage loans are denied, researchers at Construction Coverage analyzed the latest data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. The researchers ranked reasons mortgage loans are denied based on the percentage of all denials mentioning each reason. For each reason that mortgage loans are denied, researchers also calculated the total annual denials and the percentage of denials that were due to that reason for several loan types: home purchase, refinancing, cash-out refinancing, and home improvement.

Following are the top reasons mortgages are denied in the U.S.

1. Debt-to-income ratio

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  • Percentage of all denials: 37.2%
  • Total annual denials: 765,772
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 36.2%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 38.0%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 35.4%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 37.2%

The debt-to-income ratio (DTI) ratio is the share of gross monthly income (pre-tax) that goes toward debt payments (rent or mortgage, car payment, credit cards, student loans, etc.). A lower DTI can help applicants get approved for a mortgage.

2. Credit history

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  • Percentage of all denials: 34.8%
  • Total annual denials: 715,393
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 34.2%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 24.8%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 25.8%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 44.8%

A mortgage applicant’s credit history gives lenders an idea of how risky it is to loan the applicant money. Credit history is a record of how an individual repays debts, such as credit cards, mortgages, car loans, and other bills.

3. Collateral

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  • Percentage of all denials: 19.7%
  • Total annual denials: 404,084
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 13.9%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 18.5%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 19.6%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 23.4%

Insufficient collateral means that the home an applicant is trying to purchase, refinance, or borrow against is not worth enough compared with the proposed loan amount.

4. Other

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  • Percentage of all denials: 12.9%
  • Total annual denials: 265,772
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 13.2%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 12.9%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 15.0%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 12.0%

The “Other” category covers all other reasons that an applicant could be denied a home loan besides the eight covered by the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and listed here.

5. Credit application incomplete

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  • Percentage of all denials: 8.9%
  • Total annual denials: 183,024
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 8.5%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 14.4%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 14.6%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 4.1%

Incomplete credit applications lack the necessary information for the lender to make a credit decision, resulting in a loan denial.

6. Unverifiable information

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  • Percentage of all denials: 6.7%
  • Total annual denials: 137,968
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 8.9%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 5.8%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 4.5%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 6.4%

Mortgage denials due to unverifiable information often arise from inaccuracies in an applicant’s employment history or tax records, or discrepancies between the application and credit report.

7. Insufficient cash (down payment, closing costs)

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  • Percentage of all denials: 4.0%
  • Total annual denials: 82,354
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 8.6%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 4.0%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 4.4%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 1.4%

Mortgage applicants must have sufficient funds to cover down payments and closing costs and fees, or lenders may deny their application.

8. Employment history

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  • Percentage of all denials: 1.8%
  • Total annual denials: 37,567
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 3.9%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 1.4%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 1.6%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 1.0%

Mortgage lenders prefer that applicants have worked in the same field for at least two years. However, a new job is not necessarily a hurdle to securing a loan as long as it pays a steady salary.

9. Mortgage insurance denied

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  • Percentage of all denials: 0.1%
  • Total annual denials: 1,665
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 0.2%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 0.1%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 0.0%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 0.0%

Mortgage insurance protects the lender and allows borrowers making a down payment of less than 20% to still qualify for a home loan. Applicants who are denied mortgage insurance that need it are also likely to be declined for their loan.

Methodology

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To find the top reasons mortgage loans are denied, researchers at Construction Coverage analyzed the latest data from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. The researchers ranked reasons mortgage loans are denied according to the percentage of all denials mentioning each reason. For each reason that mortgage loans are denied, researchers also calculated the total annual denials and the percentage of denials that were due to that reason for several loan types: home purchase, refinancing, cash-out refinancing, and home improvement.

Only conventional, single-family mortgage applications were considered in the analysis. In the calculation of denial rates, withdrawn and incomplete applications were excluded.

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