Does a Mortgage Have to Be in Both Married Names?

Just one spouse can apply for a mortgage loan.

Just one spouse can apply for a mortgage loan.

Married couples often apply for mortgage loans jointly. By using both their incomes, they can potentially qualify for a larger loan. There are times, though -- usually when one spouse has a weak credit score -- when it makes sense for only one member of a married couple to apply for a mortgage. Just because only spouse has his or her name on a mortgage loan, though, doesn't mean that both spouses can't have their names on the deed to their new home.

Spouses and Mortgage Loans

In many cases, both members of a married couple apply jointly for a mortgage loan, especially if both spouses work. This allows married couples to use both their incomes when seeking a loan approval. This is important because lenders rely partly on a couples' debt-to-income ratio when deciding who qualifies for a loan. Typically, lenders want a couple's total monthly debts -- a figure that includes their new mortgage payment -- to equal no more than 36 percent of their gross monthly income. It's easier for couples to hit this ratio if they have two income streams to present to lenders.

Bad Credit

Lenders, though, also consider credit scores when deciding whom to give a mortgage loan. When married couples apply for a mortgage, lenders use the score of the spouse with the poorer credit. If one spouse has an excellent credit score of 740 and another a weaker score of 640, the lender will use the lower score when determining whether the couple will qualify for a loan and at what interest rate. Because of this, couples will often let the spouse with the highest credit score apply for a mortgage loan in his or her name only, even if this does leave them with a lower qualifying income.

Responsibilities

If a couple misses mortgage payments and eventually defaults on the loan, the credit score of the spouse whose name is on the loan is the one that will take the hit. That's because the spouse whose name is on the loan is legally the only one responsible for paying it back.

Title

Both spouses can have their names on a home's title even if only one spouse has his or her name on the mortgage loan. The spouse whose name is on the loan can add his or her spouse's name to the home's title by filing a quitclaim deed -- which changes the ownership status of a home -- with the county recorder's office in the county where the home is located.

About the Author

Don Rafner has been writing professionally since 1992, with work published in "The Washington Post," "Chicago Tribune," "Phoenix Magazine" and several trade magazines. He is also the managing editor of "Midwest Real Estate News." He specializes in writing about mortgage lending, personal finance, business and real-estate topics. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Illinois.

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