What Is a Jumbo Loan?
Another name for a jumbo mortgage is a Non-Conforming mortgage not to be confused with a Non-QM mortgage. This is a loan a lender makes you that doesn’t “conform” to the guidelines of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Created by Congress in 1938 and 1970 respectively, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provide stability and affordability to the mortgage market by buying “conforming” mortgages from lenders, which gives lenders liquidity to make more mortgages.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac only buy mortgages meeting their guidelines for down payment, credit score, post-closing reserves, and loan amount.
For most Florida counties, the 2019 conforming loan limit went up to $484,350 (for a single-family home purchase). That’s the “baseline” limit used for most counties across the United States. The one exception is Monroe County, Florida. In that county, the 2019 FHA loan limit will remain at $529,000.
Loans greater than these limits are usually called Jumbo Mortgages and can also be called non-conforming mortgages.
When Should I Use a Jumbo Mortgage?
You’d use a jumbo mortgage when you’re seeking a loan amount that’s greater than the conforming loan limit in your area. In most of the country, that means you’ll use a jumbo mortgage if your loan amount is greater than $417,000.
In certain areas that are deemed high cost, the conforming loan limits go above $417,000, and you have to look up your area’s loan limits to know exactly. The FHFA site has this information.
Certain lenders will categorize anything above $417,000 as a jumbo, even if the loan is being made in a high-cost area where the conforming limit goes as high as $625,500.
But don’t assume this applies if you’re in an area where your conforming limit goes above $417,000. You must ask your specific lender what kind of loan you’ll be eligible for.
Is Qualifying for a Jumbo Mortgage Different?
Jumbo mortgages have the same overall qualifying methodology as a conforming loan. Lenders will look at credit score, down payment size, total monthly debt obligations relative to income (called your debt-to-income ratio), and money left over after closing.
Credit score requirements are about the same for conforming and jumbo: a credit score down to 680 generally gets you most available loan options, albeit with a higher rate than you’d get with a top-tier credit score of 780 or greater.
As for money left over after loan closing — often called reserves or post-closing liquidity — jumbo loans will be more stringent than conforming. Typically jumbo lenders want to see 12 months of reserves after the close, half liquid (in a checking or savings account), and half calculated from retirement assets. Conforming loan reserve requirements range from 0 to 12 months, depending on factors such as credit score, down payment, and DTI . Jumbo exceptions are available if your debt-to-income ratio is low and your down payment is high.