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Addbacks and Offsets: Qualifying for Rental Investments

General Marlies Romich 28 May

Addbacks and Offsets: Qualifying for Rental Investments

It may sound like we’re talking about football formations here, but if you are considering the purchase of a rental property or already own a rental property, knowing about addbacks and offsets is an important concept to understand when qualifying for your next mortgage. Addbacks and offsets are two different methods for accounting for the rental income from an investment property.

Before I explain the differences and provide an example of how these two methods impact your mortgage qualification, note that regardless of the method, lenders use only a percentage of the rental income in the equation and for most lenders this percentage is 50% of the rental amount. This is just fine if your employment income is high enough and you have a significant down payment and a small amount of other debts. But this treatment isn’t going to make the investment opportunity work for many people. As a mortgage broker and a real estate investor myself, I feel the frustration of this 50% approach. Imagine a strategy to own a rental property for 10 years but assuming it will be vacant for 5 of those years. That’s what the 50% assumption would suggest, and that just doesn’t make sense. Fortunately, some lenders use 60% of the rental income, a few use 80%, and I know of one lender that actually uses 100% of the rental income. The difference between 50% and 100% has a significant impact on your overall qualification as 50% of the rental income can make a rental property look like it’s losing money when it’s actually cash flow positive.

Similarly, there is also a big difference between the addback and offset methods. Many lenders use the addback method to account for the rental income on investment properties. What this means is that they will add the rental income to the rest of your income in order to calculate your ability to make payments on the mortgage and other debts, hence the term addback. Now if rent is $1,600 a month ($19,200 per year), this is not going to add a lot to the mortgage amount you qualify for. On the other hand, an offset approach does far more for you to qualify and is the more favorable of the two approaches. An offset applies the monthly rental income against the monthly housing costs, and only the difference must be covered by your other income. The monthly rental income used in the calculation is based on the percentage of income used by that particular lender, and the housing costs refer to the mortgage payments, property tax, heating costs, and half of the maintenance fees if the investment property is a condo or townhome.

An example is the best way to understand the real impact of these two methods: Assume a couple earn $100,000 a year in household income, the rental property they wish to purchase is a condo for $380,000 with expected rental income of $1,600, and they are requesting a mortgage of $300,000. Factoring in some reasonable estimates for their existing property, a car loan, and the property tax, heat, and maintenance fees on the rental property, the addback approach using 50% of the rental income would result in their mortgage application being declined. In fact, it would suggest they need to earn $110,000 per year to qualify. Yet the offset approach using 50% of the rental income would indeed allow them to qualify. In fact, it would allow them to qualify if they earned $96,000 per year. Touchdown! The offset method versus the addback method can be the make or break of whether an investment opportunity becomes a reality for this couple trying to get ahead in building their wealth through real estate. Their employment income would need to be $14,000 or 15% higher under the addback method – when was the last time you got a 15% raise?

Mortgage brokers like myself know the policies of each lender we work with and can balance the likelihood of qualification under different rental income treatments while finding a mortgage that prioritizes the four mortgage strategies that every mortgage should consider: lowest cost, lowest payment, maximum flexibility, and lowest risk.

Give your local Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker a call to assess how to finance your rental investments!

Todd Skene
Dominion Lending Centres – Mortgage Professional