Another name for a jumbo mortgage is a non-conforming 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.
In 2017, the conforming loan size limit for a one-unit home is $424,100 nationwide, but can go higher in certain high-priced markets. See the FHFA site here. Loans greater than these limits are usually called jumbo mortgages, but can also be called non-conforming mortgages.
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.
However, jumbo loan approvals have some flexibility that conforming loans don’t have: