Can you change jobs while buying a house?
Changing jobs while buying a house could derail your loan application. But changing jobs before applying for your home loan should cause less turmoil.
You still need income that is reliable, stable, and likely to continue in the future. And your new job should be an upward — or at least lateral — move within the same industry.
As long as those criteria are met, changing jobs before you buy a house shouldn’t be a problem.
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How lenders look at employment and income
As long as your current job does not have a termination date, most lenders consider your employment permanent and ongoing.
For a standard mortgage application, underwriters need to see a two-year work history. If you’ve been at your job — or within the industry — for that long, no further questions should be needed.
If you’ve spent less than two years in your career, your employment history comes into play. Here’s what the lender looks for:
- Your qualifications and training
- The health of your industry and company
- How often you change jobs
- Extended periods of unemployment
- Increases in pay and responsibility over time
- Work history within the same field
- Jobs that match your pay and training
If you start a new career before applying for a mortgage, lenders will have questions, and they will want more information from you.
Be prepared to explain why you changed jobs, and list your qualifications for the new position.
How lenders view your job change
There’s a big difference between changing jobs before buying a house and changing jobs while buying a house.
Changing jobs before applying for a mortgage
If necessary, you could change jobs in the months or weeks before you begin the loan application process. In fact, if you get a promotion, your loan application shouldn’t be affected at all.
But some job changes could complicate your application even if you haven’t applied for a loan yet. We’ll explain more below.
Changing jobs while applying for a mortgage
Changing jobs after you’ve applied for a mortgage but before the loan closes could wreak havoc on your application.
When you change jobs after applying for a loan, underwriters have to start their work all over again, basing your application off your new job. Plus, if you’re changing professions, you’d have a shakier employment history from the lender’s point of view.
You may still get approved based on your new job, but only after some delays.
Acceptable job changes before buying
Most job changes should not affect a mortgage application if you haven’t applied for your mortgage yet.
But you should find out how your lender will view your career move before you apply for your new mortgage loan. If the job change raises a red flag for your loan officer, consider delaying your job change until you close on your new home loan.
Usually, job changes that resemble the following scenarios won’t cause problems for your loan application — as long as you complete the career transition before you start the home buying process:
Same industry, higher income
Bill has been working as a tax accountant for several years for the same company. He has been recruited by another firm, and it’s offering him 20 percent more income than his current company.
He wants to accept, but his new home is under construction, and he’ll need a new mortgage when the home is completed in two more months. Bill is concerned that a job change will affect his mortgage approval.
Bill’s job change should not impact his application negatively. In fact, the additional income will be viewed as beneficial:
- His total work history exceeds two years
- He does not change jobs frequently
- His new job is in the same industry
- His industry is stable
The lender will require, at a minimum, an offer letter from the new employer. Bill will also supply a pay stub if he receives one before closing of the loan.
The next-level career move
Pat is moving to take a new job and wants to buy a house right away. In fact, she’d like to buy her house before she starts work in her new town, but she’s worried about being approved for a mortgage when she’s not yet working.
She’ll be coaching a college volleyball team and has been given a five-year contract. She has coached high school girls for over a decade, but this is her first college team.
Pat’s new job will also be viewed as a positive change because:
- Her contract is for five years, exceeding the three-year minimum
- Her new job is a promotion from high school to college sports
- She has a strong track record in the industry
Note that frequent job changes do not disqualify applicants as long as they make sense.
The Federal Housing Administration, which backs FHA mortgages, says a borrower who continues to advance in their line of work should be considered favorably.
Don’t make an “unacceptable” job change
Not all career moves are acceptable to mortgage lenders, even if you get paid more in your new career.
This is where you have to be careful. The following is a list of changes that could jeopardize your mortgage approval:
- Switching from a salaried position to a bonus or commission structure
- Altering your status from W-2 employee to contract employee; this would be one of the worst things you could do since it interrupts your work history paper trail
- Changing to a completely different industry or position
- Moving jobs with no change in pay, responsibility, or location
Even if your pay increases, be careful about your pay structure. A seemingly small change can make a big difference in your approval status.
Let’s look closer at each of these scenarios:
New bonus or commission pay structure
Sometimes, companies change employee pay structures. They move a bigger portion of pay — or all of it — to bonus or commission.
These changes may help an employee earn more, but they can also complicate the mortgage application process.
To count as income, incentive pay must have been received for 12 to 24 months, depending on the overall strength of your mortgage application and loan program.
FHA loans, though, allow commission-based income to be counted with less than a 12-month history. The employer must have changed the employee’s pay structure, and the employee must be in the exact same position with the same employer.
Contractors and consultants
You might sit at the same desk. You might do the same job for the same people. You might make more money.
But once you become a contractor, you become self-employed. If you’ve been self-employed for less than five years you’d need to share your income tax forms to document your income.
If you own your own business, you could show your income via business tax forms.
Sometimes lenders will let borrowers use bank statements to show income in the form of bank deposits.
It’s one thing to go from driving a forklift for Ace Construction to driving one for Tip Top Builders.
It’s another to switch from a pharmaceutical sales rep to a nightclub manager. Delay the radical career change until you close on your mortgage and start making mortgage payments.
A strong letter of explanation to show why you changed industries could ease your lender’s concerns. For example, if you explain you’ve changed industries to earn a higher salary, underwriters would likely be more understanding.
Frequent lateral moves
A recent job change is not a big deal, unless it’s the latest move in a history of job hopping.
Going from college intern to full-timer at the same company to manager at a new firm makes sense. You’re checking the boxes and moving up.
However, “progressing” from multi-level marketing to Uber driving to personal training to dog walking makes you appear flighty. Lenders want to see a long-term, steady employment history.
They are, after all, issuing a loan at a low fixed rate for up to 30 years.
Mortgage approval factors besides employment
Mortgage lenders care about employment history because it can predict an applicant’s ability to repay their new home loan.
But other factors matter, too. Along with a stable work history, you’ll be a stronger loan applicant if you have:
- A lower debt-to-income ratio (DTI): DTI measures flexibility in your monthly budget. If you have a lot of credit card debt, for example, your DTI will be higher
- A higher credit score: Your credit score shows your history of repaying debts. A score of at least 620 can create more loan options, but it is possible to get an FHA home loan with a score in the 500s
- A bigger down payment: Most mortgages require you to pay at least 3 percent down, though VA and USDA loans let you skip the down payment. Exceeding the minimum down payment can help you qualify for some loans
Along with helping you qualify, a stronger application can also lower your monthly payments because it helps you lock in a lower interest rate.
Does my work history affect refinancing?
Employment history matters when homeowners refinance an existing home loan.
A refinance replaces your current loan with a new loan. Since you’re getting a new loan, the lender will ask for verification of employment and a credit check — just like it would if you were buying a home.
There are some exceptions.
A Streamline Refinance, for example, may not require verification of employment. Streamline refinancing can also skip the credit check and even the home appraisal, lowering closing costs and saving time.
But Streamline Refinancing also requires you to stick with the same mortgage type: an FHA loan must stay an FHA loan, for example.
FAQ about changing jobs while buying a house
Changing jobs after you apply for a mortgage but before the loan closes could jeopardize your loan. If you have no choice but to change jobs, tell your loan officer or mortgage broker immediately. Underwriters will need to start processing your application again. You may still get approved despite the job change, but you might not.
Avoid changing jobs until after you’ve completed the mortgage application process and closed on the loan. Switching jobs before closing affects your loan approval process. At best, your closing could be delayed. At worst, you may no longer qualify for the loan.
No. Once your loan closes, the lender won’t reopen your loan, so it has no reason to verify employment after closing. However, changing jobs after closing could affect your ability to refinance the loan if you plan to do that within the first couple years of homeownership.
Quitting your job before closing will put your mortgage loan at risk. Lenders won’t approve your home loan if you don’t have enough income to make the loan’s monthly payments. You may be able to quit a part-time job if you aren’t using the income to qualify for your loan. But it’s best to avoid any big changes until after the loan closes.
What are today’s rates?
Mortgage applicants can achieve homeownership when they can show a steady work history and meet other credit qualifications.
With interest rates still hovering at historic lows, homebuyers can often qualify for larger home loan amounts at lower monthly payments.
Even if you think you can’t receive an approval, it’s worth checking your home mortgage eligibility.