What Is a Jumbo Loan?
A jumbo loan, also known as a jumbo mortgage, is a type of financing that exceeds the limits set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). Unlike conventional mortgages, a jumbo loan is not eligible to be purchased, guaranteed, or securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Designed to finance luxury properties and homes in highly competitive local real estate markets, jumbo mortgages come with unique underwriting requirements and tax implications. These kinds of mortgages have gained traction as the housing market continues to recover following the Great Recession.
The value of a jumbo mortgage varies by state—and even county. The FHFA sets the conforming loan limit size for different areas on an annual basis. The limit for 2022 was set at $647,200 for most of the country. This was an increase of $98,950 from the 2021 limit of $548,250. For counties that have higher home values, the baseline limit is set at $970,800, or 150% of $647,200.
How a Jumbo Loan Works
If you have your sights set on a home that costs close to half a million dollars or more—and you don’t have that much sitting in a bank account—you’re probably going to need a jumbo mortgage. And if you’re trying to land one, you’ll face much more rigorous credit requirements than homeowners applying for a conventional loan. That’s because jumbo loans carry more credit risk for the lender since there is no guarantee by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. There’s also more risk because more money is involved.
Just like traditional mortgages, minimum requirements for a jumbo have become increasingly stringent since 2008. To get approved, you’ll need a stellar credit score—700 or above—and a very low debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. The DTI should be under 43% and preferably closer to 36%. Although they are nonconforming mortgages, jumbos still must fall within the guidelines of what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau considers a “qualified mortgage”—a lending system with standardized terms and rules, such as the 43% DTI.
You’ll need to prove you have accessible cash on hand to cover your payments, which are likely to be very high if you opt for a standard 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Specific income levels and reserves depend on the size of the overall loan, but all borrowers need 30 days of pay stubs and W2 tax forms stretching back two years. If you’re self-employed, the income requirements are greater: Two years of tax returns and at least 60 days of current bank statements. The borrower also needs provable liquid assets to qualify and cash reserves equal to six months of the mortgage payments. And all applicants have to show proper documentation on all other loans held and proof of ownership of non-liquid assets (like other real estate).