Twenty years ago the economy was putting the dot-com bubble behind it, and people were buying homes. The high majority of folks worked for someone else; they received a paycheck, were given a W-2 from their employer, and filed their income tax returns accordingly.
This also provided easy documentation to loan officers when folks wanted to borrow a mortgage to buy a home. As of 2019 36 percent of workers in 2020 were identified as bona fide gig workers per the federal government, or a bit more than 1 out of every 3 workers. That change translates to mortgage application processes today.
However, house loan processes have been particularly strict since 2009, especially due to how flexible and liberal loan reviews were at the time during the 2000s real estate bubble that ended that year and almost took down the major banking system in the collapse. For gig workers who essentially function as their own small businesses or as independent contractors, there is no consolidated income report aside from income tax filings.
Most have earned their money from multiple sources to make up a full living income. As a result, matching gig income to a traditional mortgage model can be challenging. Here’s what gig workers should anticipate and be prepared to answer as a result.
Definitive Proof of Income
For the gig worker proof of income is practically the same as showing how a small business produces a net profit sufficient to be invested in when asking for a business loan. As a gig worker, you won’t have a W-2 statement that is accepted as universal proof of your income and ability to pay a loan payment. So, you will need to provide a substitute that can be independently verified.
That means your income proof will need to show your bank statements evidencing all major payments coming in as well as matched by your IRS Schedule C and IRS Form 1040 showing how your income is arrived at. Because IRS forms are under penalty of perjury, they are considered a reliable income proof source for lenders. Some lenders may go further and want to see MISC 1099 forms received by clients for the last three years as well. Bank statements can reinforce assets’ availability as well, but they are not a full substitute.
Keep Your Credit Card Debt Nil or Low
Many independent workers ride on credit cards to pay bills in between jobs. Unfortunately, this also inflates personal debt, which mortgage lenders don’t want to see. To be successful with a mortgage as a gig worker, your credit card balances need to be kept as low as possible. You can have other debt, but it is best to be structured like a student loan or car loan. These don’t change from month to month and are predictable, but a credit card balance can grow quickly, creating a lending risk. Pay pending bills, lower the balance, and shift the debt to other financial tools if you can. The less revolving debt (credit cards), the better.
Boost the Down Payment
Having a larger down payment works wonders in any mortgage application. The traditional amount is 20 percent of the price of the home you want to buy. If you’re in that range, great. If not, save more. Talk with your lending professional to find out about lower down payment options as well. Don’t forget your closing costs. In some cases, those can be contributed by the seller of the home. Once again, your lending professional will be able to give you the best advice for your situation.
Finally, don’t apply for a mortgage well beyond your income level and savings. You’re just wasting a lot of time and setting up for a disappointment. Focus instead on having a sizable down payment, documented income, and a home price well within your combined payment range. This will bolster your application and resolve a lot of concerns that otherwise get a denial.
Talk with your real estate and mortgage lending professionals for details based on your personal situation.