You may have come across the notion of debt service ratio while learning all there is to know about mortgages (DSR). Debt service ratio is one of those interesting financial words that gets tossed around a lot without a clear definition. Don’t worry, debt service ratios aren’t too difficult to comprehend.

Because ratios are useful indications of your financial situation, it’s critical that you grasp what they are and how to calculate them. They are also a key signal that a lender will consider when determining your mortgage loan conditions, as well as a consideration in the mortgage stress test. This is essential information for anyone looking to purchase a home.

What is a debt service ratio, and what does it mean?

The debt service ratio is the proportion of your revenue to your debt payments. This ratio is significant since it is a straightforward approach to determine how well you can manage your debt payments in relation to your income. In most cases, your ratio is reported as a percentage. A debt-to-income ratio of 20%, for example, suggests that your yearly debt payments are equal to 20% of your annual gross revenue.

It’s important to keep in mind that your debt ratios are based on your gross income, which is income before deductions and taxes. That implies that although the proportion of your gross income you wish to devote toward housing may be 20%, it will reflect a bigger percentage of your available finances in terms of real disposable income.

Different types of service ratios

Your debt-to-income ratio isn’t a single number. The gross debt service ratio (GDS) and the total debt service ratio (TDSR) are the two main kinds of ratios (TDS). These measurements are comparable, although they vary slightly enough to be helpful in various contexts.

–       Ratio of gross debt service (GDS)

The ratio of your housing expenditures to your gross income is known as your gross debt service ratio. Your monthly mortgage payment, as well as monthly property tax payments, heating expenses, half of your condo fee if applicable, and any other housing-related fees, are all included in your housing costs.

You’ll need to estimate the different statistics in order to determine your gross debt service ratio for a home you don’t own yet.

Simply add all of your monthly housing-related costs together and divide by your estimated monthly gross (before tax) income. You may also apply this formula in reverse by dividing your income by a GDS percentage you want to achieve. This can help you figure out how much debt you can pay off with your current salary.

–       Ratio of total debt service (TDS)

Your total debt service ratio is the proportion of your gross income divided by all of your monthly loan payments, including housing. Your total debt service ratio includes any monthly debt obligations you have, such as credit card bills, auto payments, line of credit payments, and more, in addition to the housing expenses mentioned above.

When all extra debt payments are included in, the total debt service ratio is roughly the same as the gross debt service ratio.

Related: What Is The Income Needed To Get A 400K – 900K Mortgage In Canada?

Is rental revenue taken into account when calculating debt service ratios?

When applying for a new mortgage, if you currently have rental income and want to purchase another home, your net rental income will be included into your debt service ratios.

When applying for a mortgage on a rental property, you may only count up to 50% of the projected gross rental income as income when calculating your debt service ratios. If you intend to live in one of the units of a multi-unit rental as your main home, there is one exemption. In such instance, you may use 100% of the gross rental revenue to calculate your ratios.

What is the significance of debt service ratios?

The debt service ratio is crucial since it will influence the amount of money you may borrow. Naturally, depending on your monthly income, there is a limit to the amount of monthly mortgage payments you can afford. Mortgage lenders, on the other hand, will not allow you to spread your funds too thinly.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) regulates the maximum debt-to-income ratios that may be used to qualify for a mortgage loan. The goal of this option, like the mortgage stress test, is to keep borrowers from taking on mortgages they can’t afford to keep up with. The CMHC also sets a debt-to-income ratio restriction for applicants seeking mortgage default insurance.

If your debt-to-income ratio is too high, you’ll need to lower it to a level below the maximums to qualify for a mortgage. Otherwise, you’ll have to borrow money from a private lender who isn’t bound by the CMHC’s rules.

The CMHC has set a strict maximum of 39 percent for GDS. Most banks prefer to keep borrowers’ debt ratios around 32 percent and will only give loans with greater debt ratios in exceptional situations, such as with a large down payment, excellent credit, or significant assets.

The CMHC has a 44 percent ceiling for TDS, while most banks would prefer a borrower to keep below 42 percent for mortgages.

What can I do to improve my debt-to-income ratio?

If your debt-to-income ratios are too high to qualify for a mortgage, you’ll need to reduce them.

It’s the simplest to minimize since your GDS is generally based on a fictional property you wish to buy. Essentially, you’ll need to change the mortgage conditions or look for a new home. You may make a smaller monthly mortgage payment and free up room in your GDS by choosing a longer amortization term or a lesser-priced house.

Lowering your TDS is a little more difficult since one of the major ways to do it is to pay off debts. Naturally, everyone wants to pay off their obligations as fast as possible, but there are times when this is not possible. One thing you may be able to do is improve your income by changing jobs or finding other sources of money. Again, you may not always have control over this, but if you can make it work, it’s an excellent alternative.


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