## Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio

Loan-to-value (LTV) ratio is an assessment of lending risk that financial institutions and other lenders examine before approving a mortgage. Typically, assessments with high LTV ratios are higher risk and, therefore, if the mortgage is approved, the loan costs the borrower more.

Additionally, a loan with a high LTV ratio may require the borrower to purchase mortgage insurance to offset the risk to the lender.

The process involves dividing the total mortgage loan amount into the total purchase price of the home. For instance, a home with a purchase price of \$200,000 and a total mortgage loan for \$180,000 results in a LTV ratio of 90%. Conventional mortgage lenders often provide better loan terms to borrowers who have LTV ratios no higher than 80%.

An LTV ratio is calculated by dividing the amount borrowed by the appraised value of the property, expressed as a percentage. For example, if you buy a home appraised at \$100,000 for its appraised value and make a \$10,000 down payment, you will borrow \$90,000 resulting in an LTV ratio of 90% (i.e., 90,000/100,000).

LTV and Loan Underwriting

The LTV ratio is a critical component of mortgage underwriting, whether it be for the purpose of buying a home, refinancing a current mortgage into a new loan, or borrowing against accumulated equity within a property.

Lenders assess the LTV ratio to determine the level of exposure to risk they take on when underwriting a mortgage. When borrowers request a loan for an amount that is at or near the appraised value and therefore a higher LTV ratio, lenders perceive that there is a greater chance of the loan going into default because there is little to no equity built up within the property. Should a foreclosure take place, the lender may find it difficult to sell the home for enough to cover the outstanding mortgage balance and make a profit from the transaction.

Factors Impacting the LTV Ratio

The main factors that impact LTV ratios are down payment, sales (contract) price, and appraised value. To achieve the lowest (and best) LTV ratio, raise the down payment and try to lower the sales price. This is important because the lower the LTV ratio, the greater the chance that the loan will be approved, the lower the interest rate is likely to be, and the less likely you will be required to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI).

LTV Ratio and Interest Rates

While the LTV ratio is not the only determining factor in securing a mortgage, home-equity loan, or line of credit, it does play a substantial role in how much borrowing costs the homeowner. In fact, a high LTV ratio can prevent you from qualifying for a loan or refinance option in the first place.

Most lenders offer mortgage and home-equity applicants the lowest possible interest rate when the LTV ratio is at or below 80%. A higher LTV ratio does not exclude borrowers from being approved for a mortgage, although the total cost of the loan rises as the LTV ratio increases. A borrower with an LTV ratio of 95%, for instance, may be approved, but the interest rate may be up to a full percentage point higher than for a borrower with an LTV ratio of 75%.

In addition, if the LTV ratio is higher than 80%, you will likely have to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI), which can add anywhere from 0.5% to 1% of the entire loan amount on an annual basis. PMI of 1% on a \$100,000 loan, for example, would add \$1,000 to the amount paid per year or \$83.33 per month. PMI payments continue until the LTV ratio is 80% or lower. The LTV ratio will decrease as you pay down your loan and as the value of your home increases over time.

Requiring an 80% (or lower) LTV ratio to avoid PMI is not law, but it is the practice of nearly all lenders. Exceptions are sometimes made for borrowers with high income, lower debt, or other factors like a large investment portfolio.

The maximum loan-to-value ratio is the largest allowable ratio of a loan’s size to the dollar value of the property. The higher the loan-to-value ratio, the bigger the portion of the purchase price that was financed. Since the home acts as collateral for the loan, the loan-to-value ratio is a measure of risk used by lenders. Different loan programs are viewed to have different risk factors, and thus have different maximum LTV ratios.

Loan Types and LTV Ratio

Certain loan types have special rules when it comes to the LTV ratio.

FHA Loans

FHA loans, which allow an initial LTV ratio of up to 96.5%, require a mortgage insurance premium (MIP) that lasts for as long as you have that loan no matter how low the LTV ratio eventually goes. Most people refinance to a conventional loan once the LTV ratio reaches 80% to eliminate the MIP.

VA and USDA Loans

VA and USDA loans, available to current and former military or those in rural areas, respectively, do not require private mortgage insurance even though the LTV ratio can be as high as 100%. However, both VA and USDA loans do have additional fees.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Fannie Mae’s HomeReady and Freddie Mac’s Home Possible mortgage programs for low-income borrowers allow an LTV ratio of 97% (3% down payment) but require mortgage insurance until the ratio falls to 80%.

Streamline refinance options, which waive appraisal requirements (meaning the home’s LTV ratio doesn’t affect the loan), exist for FHA, VA, and USDA loans. For those with an LTV ratio over 100%, also known as being underwater or upside down, Fannie Mae’s High Loan-to-Value Refinance Option and Freddie Mac’s Enhanced Relief Refinance, which are designed to replace the HARP Refinance Program that expired Dec. 31, 2018, are available.

Ranking the LTV Ratio

An LTV ratio of 80% or lower is considered good for most mortgage loan scenarios. An LTV ratio of 80% provides the best chance of being approved, the best interest rate, and the greatest likelihood you will not be required to purchase mortgage insurance. As noted above, however, VA and USDA loans allow for a higher LTV ratio (up to 100%) and still avoid costly private mortgage insurance, though other fees do apply.

For most refinance options, unless you are applying for a cash-out refinance, the LTV ratio doesn’t matter, so there is no such thing as good or bad. If you apply for a cash-out refinance, an LTV ratio of 90% or less is considered good.

LTV vs. Combined LTV (CLTV)

While the LTV ratio looks at the impact of a single mortgage loan when purchasing a property, the combined loan-to-value (CLTV) ratio is the ratio of all secured loans on a property to the value of a property. Lenders use the CLTV ratio to determine a prospective home buyer’s risk of default when more than one loan is used, for instance if they will have two or more mortgages, or a mortgage plus a home equity loan or line of credit (HELOC). In general, lenders are willing to lend at CLTV ratios of 80% and above to borrowers with high credit ratings. The LTV ratio considers only the primary mortgage balance.

Limitations of LTV

The main drawback of LTV is that it only includes the primary mortgage that a homeowner owes, and does not include other obligations such as a second mortgage or home equity loan. Therefore, the CLTV is a more inclusive measure of a borrower’s ability to repay a home loan.

Summary

~ LTV is often used in mortgage lending to determine the amount necessary to put in a down-payment and whether a lender will extend credit to a borrower.
~ Most lenders offer mortgage and home-equity applicants the lowest possible interest rate when the loan-to-value ratio is at or below 80%.
~ Fannie Mae’s HomeReady and Freddie Mac’s Home Possible mortgage programs for low-income borrowers allow an LTV ratio of 97% (3% down payment) but require mortgage insurance until the ratio falls to 80%.

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