Jumbo loans are for home financing with loan amounts higher than conventional loans. Jumbo mortgage rates are typically slightly higher than traditional mortgage interest rates. During the housing boom and bust that roiled the country in the early 2000s, jumbo loans with exceedingly large balances became a microcosm of the crisis. Experts agree they contributed to a rise in house prices and household debt, combined with a loosening of requirements and standards for borrowers approved for higher and higher loan-to-value (LVT) ratios.

Today, jumbo mortgage loans are still seen as a good fit for homebuyers on incredibly stable financial footing and can afford what some in the industry call a “luxury mortgage.” With that being said, jumbo mortgage requirements have tightened for those willing to take on a significant financial burden.

What Are the 2024 Jumbo Loan Limits?

While the maximum amount a mortgage lender is willing to offer as a jumbo loan can vary, the crucial question for most borrowers is when a loan transitions into the jumbo category. In 2024, the Federal Housing Finance Agency established the conforming loan limit for one-unit properties in many parts of the United States at $766,550. This was a significant increase of $40,250 from the 2023 limit of $726,200.

In practical terms, this signifies that in numerous regions of the country, if your mortgage exceeds $766,550 in 2024, you’ll need to seek a jumbo mortgage loan. It’s worth noting that loan limits are elevated for properties with 2 to 4 units. However, the conforming loan limits can surpass $766,550 for a single unit, depending on the location of the property purchase.

The Breakdown on the Jumbo Mortgage Loan Program

As a homebuyer, you might be familiar with the phrase “conforming loan limit.” This is a number set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) that puts a cap on the size of a mortgage purchased or guaranteed by the Federal National Mortgage Association (also known as Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (known as Freddie Mac). The FHFA is the federal regulator of mortgages meeting criteria for backing by these two agencies and sets an annual limit adjusted each year to compensate for changes in the average price of homes across the country.

jumbo mortgage loan requirements

A jumbo mortgage loan is one in excess of the limits set by the FHFA. In 2020,  the limit is $510,400 in most of the US, with some noted exceptions. In some states and territories where the cost of living is higher — including Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands — the limit is $765,600.  Consequently, anyone applying for a jumbo mortgage loan rather than a conventional home loan will pay more and have to meet strict qualification guidelines.

What are the Jumbo Loan Qualifications?

A jumbo loan might let you afford a larger home (complete with that in-ground pool, unobstructed views, flagstone terrace, and four-car garage), but there are a lot of strings attached to your application. Every lender you speak to will have different qualifications, but here are some standard guidelines:

  • You’ll Need a Great Credit Score.  All lenders will likely require you (and/or a spouse or co-signer) to have a minimum credit score of 680 to apply for a jumbo loan, but others might require a score of 700 to 720 or higher. That’s because a jumbo loan presents significantly more risk than a conforming or conventional loan. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, some applicants were turned down even with near-perfect scores as lenders tightened their standards.
  • You’ll Need to Make a Significant Down Payment. As the coronavirus crisis ravaged the economy in early 2020, the Wall Street Journal said some non-bank lenders cut off all applications for jumbo loans. Others required anywhere from 20% to 35% for down payments. Why? When conforming loans stop getting paid, government agencies step in; with jumbo mortgage loans, there’s no safety net for the mortgage owner if the borrower can’t make payments. That means lenders will require a lot more than good faith from more affluent clients. There are no available no down payment mortgage options for jumbo loan amounts at this time.
  • You’ll Need to Consider Your Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio. Add up all your monthly expenses and then divide that number by your gross monthly income. The number you come up with is your debt-to-income ratio, or what you pay out on existing debts each month vs the money you bring in. For a jumbo mortgage loan, a lender might require your DTI to fall somewhere around 40% or lower. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, studies suggest borrowers with a higher DTI are more likely to have missed monthly payments or default on the loan entirely, so any lender willing to provide you with a jumbo loan offer wants to make sure it can be paid back.
  • You’ll have to have more than money in the bank. Any lender offering you a jumbo mortgage loan will want solid evidence of all your assets and cash reserves. This will include savings accounts, checking accounts, stocks, bonds, and retirement funds, as well as assessed values of things like real estate, jewelry, vehicles, and more. To protect themselves, lenders typically require a jumbo mortgage applicant to have up to one year’s worth of mortgage payments accessible.

Today’s Jumbo Mortgage Rates

Lenders often justify higher interest rates on jumbo mortgages due to the elevated risk associated with them, as mentioned earlier. However, market trends indicate that jumbo mortgage rates are highly competitive with prevailing market pricing.

In the current rate environment, the variance between conforming and non-conforming mortgages typically falls within the range of only 0.25% to .75%. According to Quicken, “some jumbo loans even offer lower interest rates compared to other types of mortgage financing.

The Pros and Cons of a Jumbo Mortgage Loan

The one big advantage of a jumbo loan is obvious — you can borrow more than you can with a conventional mortgage (an obvious benefit for anyone trying to buy in markets like New York City or San Francisco). However, there are a number of disadvantages with this type of loan beyond needing a great credit score and more money for a down payment.

Like any other loan, a jumbo loan rate will ultimately depend on your financial situation, the term length you’re asking for, and how much money you’re putting toward a down payment. But usually, jumbo loan rates will be higher than conforming loans, meaning you’ll pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

Overall, jumbo loans have strict underwriting requirements including the possibility of two appraisals instead of just one. That’s because a lender backing the jumbo loan will want to make sure the price you’re paying is justified.

Finding a Jumbo Loan Lender

If you’re shopping for a jumbo loan, you’ll want a lender that specializes in putting them together (likely someone serving clients in high-cost areas). That’s because jumbo mortgages are available for primary residences, second (or vacation) homes, and investment properties. They’re also available with fixed rates or adjustable rates and require a lending specialist familiar with all the terms and conditions that will apply.

It’s best to shop around for a jumbo mortgage lender and get information on expected down payments and adherence to a debt-to-income ratio. Do your homework on jumbo mortgages and be thorough with each lender you speak to or use a mortgage broker to do most of your research.

More Jumbo Mortgage Requirements

Jumbo mortgages are home loans that exceed the conforming loan limits set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, had specific requirements that borrowers needed to meet. Keep in mind that these jumbo loan requirements may have evolved since then, so it’s essential to check with a current source or a lender for the most up-to-date information.

Reserve Requirements: Borrowers might be required to have more cash reserves. Lenders want to ensure that you have sufficient funds to cover your mortgage payments and other expenses in case of unexpected financial hardships.

Stringent Documentation: Lenders could ask for more extensive documentation of your financial situation. This might include several years of tax returns, bank statements, and proof of assets.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): Jumbo loans often don’t allow for PMI. This means borrowers must be prepared to put down a substantial down payment to avoid PMI costs.

Interest Rates: Interest rates on jumbo loans can be slightly higher than those on conforming loans due to the increased risk for jumbo lenders.

Remember that these jumbo loan requirements can vary among lenders, and some may have more flexible terms than others. If you’re considering a jumbo mortgage, it’s advisable to shop around, compare offers from different lenders, and carefully review the specific requirements and terms they offer. Additionally, with the housing market and financial regulations continually evolving, it’s crucial to consult with a current, reliable source or a trusted loan officer for the most accurate and up-to-date information on jumbo mortgage requirements.

The Bottom Line on Jumbo Home Loans

There’s a lot more risk for lenders when it comes to jumbo loan requirements, and that means borrowers will have to meet strict standards to even apply. Remember, jumbo loans have no government backing, so lenders are going to be careful with jumbo loan customers. While getting a mortgage already means enduring long waits for approval and navigating all the rules in place, you can expect maximum adherence to that with a jumbo mortgage loan application.

One of the bigger mistakes you can make is not understanding your current financial state and falling in love with the home of your dreams before getting prequalified for a jumbo loan. You may have to talk to a variety of lenders and mortgage brokers to structure a deal you’re comfortable with. As today’s lending environment is more complicated, pricing and approval can vary widely, even if you’re well-qualified. Throughout the process, you may need to adjust your buying strategy as long as you’re dealing with a jumbo mortgage loan.

Just as with any home loan, your initial step will be selecting a jumbo mortgage lender. It’s crucial to be particularly thorough when comparing various jumbo lenders to identify the one offering the most advantageous terms. Given the substantial size of this jumbo loan, even a minor variance in the interest rate can result in substantial savings over the loan’s duration.