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What Do I Need to Qualify for a Mortgage in Florida?

By: Justin DeValerio, Mortgage Sales Manager

Posted on 4/14/2023 1:05:01 PM

A smiling woman proudly holds up the keys to her new home.

Thinking of buying a home in the Sunshine State? Before you start picking out paint swatches, it's important to know what it takes to qualify for a mortgage in Florida. With its beautiful beaches, warm weather, and diverse housing market, Florida offers plenty of opportunities for prospective homebuyers. But whether you're a first-time buyer or a seasoned real estate investor, understanding the requirements for a mortgage is key to making your dream home a reality. So, let's dive in and explore what you need to know to secure financing for your Florida home.

Minimum Mortgage Requirements

Credit Score and History

When it comes to qualifying for a mortgage in Florida, your credit score and credit history play a crucial role. For conventional mortgages, a credit score of at least 620 is generally considered the minimum requirement, although some lenders may require a higher score for riskier borrowers. Government-backed loans such as FHA, USDA, and VA loans may allow lower credit scores, making them a good option for borrowers who don't meet the minimum requirements for conventional loans.

Your credit score can have a significant impact on the terms of your mortgage, including your interest rate and monthly payments. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rates will be, and the better loan terms you'll be able to get. This can translate into significant savings over the life of your mortgage. Lenders will also evaluate your credit history, including any derogatory marks such as bankruptcies or foreclosures. While these negative marks can stay on your credit report for several years, lenders will typically be more willing to work with borrowers who have demonstrated a positive credit history in the years since the negative mark occurred.

Consistent Employment History

Lenders want to see that you have stable income coming in to pay for mortgage payments, and they typically require at least two years of stable job history for most loan types. For those who are self-employed, you will need to be able to show two years of consistent income, which can sometimes be more challenging to document.

In some cases, time spent in school or other forms of training may count towards your job history, which can be helpful for recent graduates or those who are transitioning to a new career. It's important to note that for certain government-backed loans, such as USDA and VA loans, a two-year job history is not always required. For USDA loans, a minimum of 12 months of employment is generally required, while VA loans may require a minimum number of days of service. However, be sure to check with your lender to understand the specific requirements for the loan you're interested in.

Regardless of the loan type, it's crucial to have an explanation for any gaps in your employment history. Lenders will want to understand why there were gaps, and how you plan to address any potential income disruptions in the future.

Steady Income

Having documented steady income goes hand-in-hand with your employment history when qualifying for a mortgage. Lenders evaluate your income to ensure that you're not borrowing more than you can afford. This includes examining base pay, bonuses, overtime income, second job income, self-employment income, and other forms of income. It's vital to provide all necessary documentation and proof of income for each source of income.

For USDA loans, income limits must be met to qualify. The limits vary based on household size and location to ensure that these loans are accessible to those who need them most.

Low Debt-To-Income Ratio

The debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is calculated by dividing your total monthly recurring debts by your gross monthly income, which is your income before taxes.

Each loan type has a different maximum allowed DTI ratio, but typically, anything less than 36% is preferred by lenders. However, some lenders may approve ratios all the way up to 50-52%. It's important to note that with higher DTIs, other requirements might have to be met to get approved, such as a higher down payment, better credit score, or financial reserves.

Down Payment

Down payment requirements can vary by loan program, with some requiring as little as 0-3% down. Government-backed loans, such as FHA and VA loans, offer no down payment options or down-payment assistance programs to make homeownership more accessible. For conventional loans, down payment requirements typically range from 5% to 20% of the purchase price of the home, with most conventional loans requiring at least 5% down.

Typically, mortgage insurance is required for FHA loans and most conventional loans if you put down less than 20%. This insurance protects the lender in case the borrower defaults on their loan. While a lower down payment may be appealing for those who don't have significant savings, it's essential to consider the long-term financial impact of a smaller down payment. A lower down payment typically means higher monthly mortgage payments and more interest paid over the life of the loan.

A smiling couple sits across from their lender at a desk as they sign their mortgage paperwork.

Required Documentation to Get Preapproval for a Mortgage

Getting preapproved for a mortgage not only gives you a better idea of how much home you can afford, but it also makes you a more competitive buyer in a seller's market and can help streamline the homebuying process. Take a look at the required documentation you will need below to find out how to get your preapproval started.

Income Verification

Providing documentation to verify your income is a crucial step when applying for a mortgage preapproval in Florida. The specific documentation required may vary depending on your type of employment and sources of income.

W-2 wage earners typically need to provide their two most recent IRS W-2 forms and two most recent pay stubs. If your income includes overtime, bonuses, or differential pay, you may need to provide your end-of-year pay stub as well.

Self-employed, freelance, and contractor applicants must provide a year-to-date profit and loss statement and two most recent years of tax returns to verify their income. Military applicants must provide their Leave and Earnings Statements (LES) to verify their income. If you'll be receiving alimony or child support payments, you must provide documentation that shows proof that you'll be receiving these payments for at least three years after the date of the mortgage application. Rental income typically requires the most recent tax return to verify.

Employment Verification

In addition to providing documentation to verify your income, lenders may also need to verify your employment status. Lenders may contact your current employer to verify employment, and they may also require an employment verification letter in addition to your paystubs. This letter will typically include information such as your job title, start date, and current salary.


Providing documentation of your assets is an essential part of the preapproval process. Assets can be liquid, non-liquid, or a combination of both. To verify your assets, you'll typically need to provide 60 days' worth of statements for each account whose assets will be used to qualify for the mortgage. This includes statements for checking and savings accounts, as well as two months of statements from IRAs, investment accounts, and CDs. If you have a 401(k), you'll need to provide the last quarterly statement.

If you're using gifted funds to help with your down payment, you'll need to provide a gift letter to show that the money is not a loan that you need to pay back. The gift letter should include information such as the amount of the gift, the date it was given, and the relationship between you and the person giving the gift. Most lenders will provide a gift letter template or pre-filled form. You'll also need to show evidence of the transfer of funds into your bank account.


Lenders will look at your monthly debt payments to calculate your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Your debts will automatically transfer from your credit report to the preapproval application. However, you may need to provide documentation for certain debts that aren’t reported to the credit bureaus, such as child support, alimony, or federal tax liens. 

If you have no credit history, some mortgage lenders will evaluate utility bills or records of other recurring payments to help you qualify for a mortgage. However, it's important to note that having a strong credit history can significantly improve your chances of mortgage approval.

If you currently have a mortgage, you'll need to provide your most recent statement showing the loan number, monthly payment, loan balance, and lender's name and address. You'll also need to provide the declarations page of the insurance policy to verify that you have adequate insurance coverage.

Personal Identification Documents

As part of the mortgage preapproval process, you'll need to provide documentation to verify your personal identification. This typically includes a government-issued identification such as a driver's license or passport. Your identification should be current and not expired.

You may also be able to use your Social Security card along with another form of identification to verify your identity. This could include a credit card, work ID, or utility bill with your name and address.

Other Records

Throughout the preapproval process, it's important to be aware of the other records you might need to provide. If you're currently renting, you'll need to provide proof of rent payments for the last 12 months and contact information for your landlords for the past two years. If you've been through a divorce and are receiving alimony or child support payments, you'll need to provide a copy of your divorce decree and court order for any such payments. By providing this documentation, you can help your lender verify your rental history and understand your financial obligations.

If you've been through bankruptcy or foreclosure, you'll need to ask your lender what specific documents are required. Depending on your circumstances, you may need to provide a copy of your bankruptcy or foreclosure paperwork, as well as any documentation related to your bankruptcy discharge or foreclosure sale.


In conclusion, qualifying for a mortgage in Florida requires careful consideration of your credit history, income and employment, DTI ratio, and potential down payment. By taking the necessary steps, educating yourself on the requirements, and gathering the required documentation, you can increase your chances of qualifying for a mortgage. Obtaining preapproval can also make you a more competitive buyer in a seller's market and give you a better idea of how much home you can afford. Remember that homeownership isn't out of reach with proper preparation and research. There are many programs available to help you make your dreams of owning a home a reality. With the right guidance and a bit of persistence, you can achieve the goal of owning your own home and building wealth for your future.

Community First’s Mortgage Champions are here to help you through every step of your homebuying journey. Give us a call at 904.371.8150 to get started!

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