Getting a mortgage is typically necessary when buying a home. However, depending on your financial history, getting approved can be difficult. To that end, you have the option to obtain a co-signer or co-applicant. While the terms sound similar -- and are similar in many respects -- there are also some distinguishing aspects to consider. A clear understanding of both concepts will help you decide which option is right for you.
For a mortgage, a co-applicant is an individual who essentially tries to obtain a joint loan with someone else. If you and the other applicant -- whether you are the primary applicant or co-applicant -- plan to collectively own the property, this automatically splits the debt responsibility between you. For example, such an arrangement would be useful for married couples, since you and your spouse share all your assets, including real estate.
A co-signer's purpose is to assist someone who lacks good credit -- or any credit. Provided that the co-signer's credit is satisfactory to the lender, the individual then acts as a safeguard. If the borrower falls behind or defaults on the mortgage, the lender can pursue the co-signer to obtain the money.
One similarity between a co-applicant and a co-signer is that having either one increases the chances of getting approved for a loan. If you already qualify for a mortgage, either a co-signer or a co-applicant can raise the amount of money you obtain. The qualification criteria are also identical. Your co-signer's or co-applicant's credit and financial history will be examined. This includes things like debts, savings and credit scores. Also, in both cases, the individual's credit can be affected.
One difference between a co-applicant and a co-signer is responsibility. While payment obligation is immediately split between a co-applicant and primary applicant, co-signers are only responsible for paying if the borrower defaults on the loan. Another difference is that, when it comes to mortgages, a co-signer automatically becomes an owner along with you. With this in mind, make sure your co-signer is someone you trust and with whom you have amicable relations.