There are benefits to being self-employed. Not having to answer to a boss is a big one, as is being able to set your own work hours. However, when it comes to qualifying for a mortgage, being self-employed has drawbacks. The "stated income" loan application was originally intended to help the self-employed qualify for a traditional loan. However, leading up to the height of the real estate bubble, so many people abused this method that it has been discontinued by all traditional lenders and some private lenders.
You need to prove your income using your tax returns. There are two typical problems this causes the self-employed. First, most self-employed maximize their expenses on their income tax returns to minimize the taxes they pay. That means they show the lowest amount of income possible. Second, the process requires that the two most recent tax years be averaged to determine your stable income. Due to the slow recovery of the economy, previous year incomes were likely low and will bring your income average down compared to what you are currently earning.
Stated income loans are making a small come back on the secondary private lending market but only for the most qualified borrowers. Those with a credit rating of 720 or higher. You'll also likely need a 30% down payment and have to have six months of financial reserves available to cover all monthly obligations.
Your more likely option is showing income from your tax returns. Self employed loan applicants have to complete and submit Form 4506-T to the IRS. This form authorizes lenders to access your tax records. The lenders must receive the tax records directly from the IRS rather than a copy from you.
It's not unusual for the self-employed to report $90,000 in income but have $80,000 in expenses (or something similar). Of course, at the bottom line, this means only $10,000 of adjusted income is being shown. You're not at all likely to be given a mortgage if that's what your tax return is showing.
However, all is not lost if you can show an unusual expense such as a one time purchase of equipment or something else that will help you earn more income going forward. You might also still qualify if you can show a one time loss that is unlikely to happen again.
The bottom line is that in today's economy, the self-employed need to decide if avoiding taxes is more important than qualifying for a larger mortgage. You also need to plan at least two years in advance so that you can qualify under the two year averaging requirement. Your best first step is speaking with a qualified loan officer who can help you understand your options based on your personal financial situation.
You may also want to contact a community lender that holds their loans in their own portfolio instead of selling them to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. These lenders have more flexibility in how they qualify borrowers. The last option is searching the internet for private lenders. There are more out there than you are probably aware of. Individuals that have given up making a decent return from the stock markets are using retirement accounts to make personal loans. However, these private lenders charge interest rates north of 10% to compensate for the perceived increased risk.
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Author bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 35 years and writing about real estate investing for seven years. He also draws upon 30 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, a few short miles from a national forest. In the Olympic Mountains with the Pacific Ocean a couple of miles in the opposite direction.