Marriage has many effects on financial life, but your marriage will only affect your mortgage application if you and your spouse apply for a mortgage together. Some spouses opt not to do this. When you apply jointly, the bank will examine your shared credit history, your debt-to-income ratio, your income and similar factors. Your spouse can either help or harm your chances of being approved.
Your credit report plays a significant role both in whether you are approved for a loan and in the rate you are offered. If you apply for a mortgage jointly, one spouse's low credit score could lower the other spouse's chance of being approved. If, however, your scores are roughly equal, marriage won't have much effect on the lender's perception of your creditworthiness.
Getting married can significantly raise your income, particularly if your spouse makes more money than you do. Mortgage lenders examine not only your income and assets, but also your debt-to-income ratio. Even if you're making lots of money, high debt could harm your chances. If your spouse has lots of debt but you don't, your chance of getting a mortgage can be lower if you apply together. If, however, your spouse makes lots of money and you both have relatively low debt, your chances could be improved.
The amount of money you have for a down payment, as well as how much money you have in savings and investments, can both affect lender perceptions of how risky giving you a mortgage is. Your employment history also plays a role. Your spouse can either help or hurt you in this regard. If your spouse has a long history of changing jobs or has very little in the bank, your chances of approval might be lowered, but if your spouse has a stable employment history and a steady record of saving money, your marriage could bring you closer to approval.
Separate vs. Joint
If one spouse is significantly less likely to be approved than the other, you might choose to apply separately from your spouse. In this situation, your approval will be based solely upon your income, not your joint income. If you're not sure how your spouse will affect your approval chances, try seeking pre-qualification for a home loan before you begin your search.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.