Doctor mortgage loans, also known as physician mortgage loans, are being offered by an increasing number of banks. On this page, I'll explain what you need to know about physician mortgage loans, help you decide if a doctor loan is right for you, and the different banks that offer them.
What Is a Physician Loan?
A physician or “doctor” mortgage is a special loan program a lender puts in place to attract high-income clients by allowing health care professionals such as doctors and dentists to secure a mortgage with fewer restrictions than a conventional mortgage.
Common restrictions doctors run into are:
- no cash
- no job yet
- no credit
- terrible debt to income ratio
Amazingly, some doctors think banks should lend them money just for being doctors. Well, you don't get a pass on math, but there are quite a few institutions that recognize that the financial lives of doctors are a little bit unique, that they aren't as bad a credit risk as their high debt-to-income ratio would suggest, and that they can bring other valuable business to the bank.
How Do Physician Loans Work?
Physician mortgages work similarly to conventional mortgages but are much more accommodating to physicians and their unique circumstances.
Pros and Cons of a Physician Loan
The main advantages of physician mortgage loans are:
- No Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): No PMI is required despite a down payment of only 0-10%
- Little to No Down Payment: 90-100% financing is available depending on property location, credit score, and loan amount.
- Higher Loan Amounts Allowed: Physician mortgages have a higher loan limit than conventional mortgages. Typically you can expect to be loaned 95-100% up to $1 million and up to 90% for a $2 million loan amount.
- Special Treatment of Student Loans: Even if you have hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, you can still buy a house.
- Close on Your Home Before You Begin Working: You don’t have to wait until you begin employment to qualify for a mortgage loan. A contract in hand will be enough and some lenders don't even require that. Typically, lenders can close on your loan if you are 30-90 days before beginning employment
Some disadvantages of using a physician mortgage loan:
- You Don't Have a Down Payment: If you don't have savings for a down payment you need to ask if it's the right time to buy a home at all right now. This isn't a purchase to rush. Buy a home when your personal and professional life is stable.
- Buying More House Than You Should: Just because someone will lend you a lot of money doesn't mean the right financial move is to borrow it.
- You Already Have a Ton of Debt: You may already have a net worth of a negative $200,000 or $300,000. How much more debt are you willing to add to that burden?
Do Doctors Get Better Mortgage Rates?
Due to the lower downpayment requirement and waived PMI there is typically a price to be paid to use a doctor loan. That price can come in the form of a higher interest rate (0.125% to 0.25% higher than a conventional mortgage). However, it pays to shop around. Some doctors have found excellent rates that are comparable to a conventional loan. Remember that mortgage rates change daily. Also, there's more than just the rate to compare – don't forget to take into account fees and points.
Who Qualifies for a Physician Loan?
While appropriately named to target doctors, Physician Mortgage Loans are also available to other High-Income Professionals such as:
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA)
Can You Qualify For A Doctor Mortgage With Student Loans?
Student loans that are in Income Dependent Repayment programs (IBR, PAYE, REPAYE, etc) get special treatment under physician mortgage loan programs.
Josh Mettle of Neo Home Loans explains:
The mortgage underwriter will allow the lower income-driven repayment, as opposed to defaulting to a fully amortizing payment (as in a conventional loan). Also excluded is any student loan that is deferred for at least 12 months from the date of closing.
Required Credit Score for Physician Loan
You'll need to maintain good credit in the 720-740 FICO score range. However, under certain conditions, some of our recommended mortgage lenders will lend down to a 680 credit score if you have 6-12 months of cash reserves.
Frankly, if you have a credit score below 720, you probably aren't ready to be buying a house anyway. Pay off your credit cards (but don't close them), don't miss any payments, and don't borrow any more money and you should have a score over 720 soon. It's not the end of the world to rent for a year (and it is often a very good idea if going to a new area or a new job) and that is long enough to clean up your credit most of the time.
Are Physician Loans a Good Idea?
I'm not necessarily against doctor mortgages, but I think most people ought to at least consider saving up a real down payment and delaying that purchase, especially if you're looking at getting that dream house right out of residency (or worse, buying a house during a short residency).
So why would someone want to use these loans? Usually, it's because they are in a rush to buy a house, but after deferring gratification for 10-15 years, many of us are in a bit of a rush and we often have a much better use for our money than a down payment, such as maxing out retirement accounts or paying off student loans.
Using a Physician Loan for an Investment Property
On the other hand, utilizing a Doctor Mortgage for an investment property is an unacceptable level of risk. The best way to ensure your investment property will have positive cash flow? Put down 25-35% in cash. And if you're going to do that, you don't need a physician mortgage.
Should I Get a Physician Mortgage Loan?
There is a lot that goes into this question. It is my opinion that most residents and fellows should rent instead of buy for several reasons.
- You'll probably only be in that location for 1-5 years. It usually takes at least 5 years to break even on a home, obviously more if a real estate bubble bursts on you. The best resource to see how long it will take to break even in your particular circumstances is the New York Times Buy vs Rent Calculator. Even if you decide to stay in the same area as an attending, I've found that attendings don't usually like to live in their “resident home” for long once their income quadruples. For this reason, renting may be the best option for fellows and new residents.
- A resident/fellow doesn't make very much money and so usually takes the standard deduction on their taxes (now $12,550 single and $25,100 married for 2021). That means your mortgage interest is probably NOT deductible. Even if you itemize, most of your interest probably isn't going to be deductible. That increases the effective cost of your shelter.
- Homes require maintenance (expect 1-2% of the value of the home per year), which requires time and money, neither of which are abundant to a resident.
- There is a lot of hassle and expense involved with buying and selling a home. Renting a home is quick and easy by comparison. If you've ever tried to sell a home in a down market you know how tough it can be to sell it at any price, much less a reasonable one. Plus, there is a great deal of flexibility with renting. If you don't like the neighborhood, you just move. At worst, you're in for a one year contract. No big deal. New attendings, on the other hand, are much more likely to stay put and the interest is much more likely to be fully or nearly-fully deductible. The buy/rent ratio sways heavily toward buying for most.
If you’re on the fence about if a Physician Mortgage is right for you work through these scenarios.
Physician vs. Conventional Loan
If you've decided to buy a home, and you are committed to living in an area for more than five years, you should give serious consideration to putting 20% down and getting a conventional mortgage. The improved monthly cash flow will allow you a great deal of financial freedom and the ability to invest (and even spend.) You'll save hundreds of thousands on interest over the life of the loan, all guaranteed, unlike investing a potential down payment elsewhere. But if, for whatever reason, you're going to buy a home AND you can't or don't want to put 20% down, then a doctor's loan is a reasonable option and at least as good as the other non-20%-down options.
Alternatives to Physician Mortgage Loans
If you don't believe a traditional physician mortgage loan is right for you, you may be wondering what other options does a doctor have? It turns out plenty, and you can usually get most of these options from the same lenders who do physician mortgage loans.
Conventional 20% Down Mortgage
Conventional mortgages are loans that are not guaranteed by the Federal government. They are often the best choice for a mortgage as they generally offer the most options (30 year fixed, 15 year fixed, ARMs etc), the lowest fees, and the lowest rates. However, conventional mortgages require proof of earnings and a substantial sum of money to put down. That money, of course, becomes unavailable to invest or pay down student loans.
80/20 and 80/10/10 Loans
These disappeared from the scene after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, but have been making more of a resurgence since. The theory is that you would get an 80% loan at a slightly higher rate than on a 20% down loan, then get a 20% loan at a much higher rate. You would avoid PMI replacing it instead with more interest. The 80/10/10 and 80/15/5 were variations on the theme, with a downpayment required.
Conventional Mortgage with Less Than 20% Down
These loans have higher rates and fees than a 20% down mortgage. They also require you to purchase PMI. 3-5% down are common.
This loan has higher rates and fees than a 20% down loan (notably a 1.75% up-front mortgage insurance premium financed on top of the principal loan amount.) “funding” fee), a 3.5% required downpayment, and, since 2012, requires a monthly mortgage insurance premium (0.8-0.85% of the loan balance annually) for the life of the loan. FHA requires the lender to use the credit report amount of the student loan payment, or if none listed, 1% of the outstanding balance unless the borrower can provide documentation that the loan is in deferral. This makes this loan tricky for indebted residents to qualify for. The rates are generally, however, slightly lower than a doctor loan, but may not be when you add in the PMI costs.
This loan requires that you qualify for VA benefits, which disqualifies many. It is an improvement on the FHA loan in that there is no downpayment nor mortgage insurance requirement. Rates are similar to FHA rates, but the funding fee is higher- 2.15% for first-time borrowers and 3.3% for subsequent use. That fee may be waived if you have a military disability rating.
Who Offers Physician Mortgage Loans?
There are a number of banks and agents listed below who can assist you with physician and dentist mortgage loans. I am confident there are others out there as well. Each of these only offers physician mortgage loans in certain states, so there might only be one or two of these options available to you. More specific information from each of the lenders below about their loan product can we found in this post. (Lenders- if you would like to be listed here, contact Cindy (at) whitecoatinvestor.com.
If you've decided to go ahead and get a physician mortgage loan, this section ought to help you narrow down your lender choices. The specific persons listed here for these lenders are paid advertisers on the blog. Thank you for supporting those who support the mission of The White Coat Investor.
Physician Mortgage Lenders
First Federal Lakewood:
First National Bank of Omaha:
First National Bank of Pennsylvania:
Contact Ken Roos (NMLS# 436834) at 412-951-6793 or [email protected]
AL, AR, CT, FL, GA, LA, NJ*, NY*, NC, SC, TN, TX
* Limited to Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean and Union counties
** Limited to Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), Nassau, New York (Manhattan), Queens, Richmond (Staten Island), Suffolk and Westchester counties
Contact: Karen Hackney (NMLS #659295) at 865-548-7313 or [email protected]
First United Bank:
Frandsen Bank & Trust:
Fulton Mortgage Company:
Golden 1 Credit Union:
Iberia Bank/First Horizon:
AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, KY, ME, MA, MD, MI, NC, NH, NJ, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA.
Contact: Mike DeRaspe (NMLS# 470264) at 603-828-1743 or [email protected]
Lake Michigan Credit Union:
All 50 states. All physician home loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender. NMLS # 399797
Contact: Americo Mendes (NMLS #108768) at 203-842-8921 Visit: Laurel Road
(Laurel Road’s digital application is available 24-hrs per day. Receive up to $650 in closing cost credits. For more information on closing cost credits see Laurel Road
Level One Bank:
Mercantile Bank of Michigan:
MI, OH, IN, KY
Contact: Barbara Reamer (NMLS #783173) at 517-853-2692 Office or 517-256-5364 Cell or [email protected]
Physician Group at Neo Home Loans
SeaTrust Mortgage (affiliate of Community First Bank):
South State Bank:
Suntrust now Truist:
CT, DC, DE, FL, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, NC, PA, RI, SC, VA, VT
Contact: see loan officer contact information for your state in the above map
AZ, CA, NV, OR, WA
Contact: Samuel Assael (NMLS# 282106) at 888-706-7658 or [email protected]
University Federal Credit Union:
Contact for approved states (email preferred)
Contact: Jonathan Brozek (NMLS #850168) at 916-788-7982 or [email protected]
West Coast Mortgage Group:
AR, KS, MO, OK
Contact: Jim Secrest (NMLS #1104170) at 913-634-2323 or [email protected]
BMO Harris Bank:
AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Contact Chris Minear (NMLS# 273313) at 330-835-2877 or [email protected]
Consumers Credit Union:
Contact: Greg Wierenga (NMLS #1636813) at 616-446-2567 or [email protected]
Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp:
First Citizens Bank:
*loanDepot.com, LLC. All rights reserved. NMLS ID# 174457 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/). For more licensing information, please visit loanDepot.com/licensing. Equal Housing Opportunity Lender.
++Equal Housing Lender. Member FDIC.
^ Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender. NMLS # 399797
How Do Physician Mortgage Loan Rates and Fees Compare?
Physician mortgage loans and dentist mortgage loans generally have the highest rate of all these options. But the down payment is the smallest. The fees are where things get really blurry and hard to compare. On the one hand, the FHA and a conventional loan with less than 20% down require mortgage insurance, which unlike loan interest, is not tax-deductible for those with incomes over the phaseout range of $100-109K. It is often hard to tell if you're better off paying mortgage insurance or a higher rate/fees. It is much easier to get rid of origination/funding fees by putting 20% down. Most other loans, including the doctor's loan, will hit you with these fees. (Although at least one doctor's loan will waive this if you're willing to pay a higher interest rate.)
A doctor or dentist's mortgage loan rate is typically about 1/4% higher than a comparable FHA/VA loan but could be anywhere from 1/8% to 1% higher than a conventional loan. That difference can really add up over time. Plus, you don't have to pay the extra fees up front, and that money compounded over 30 days also adds up to tens of thousands of dollars. The benefit of using a regular old 30 year fixed loan with 20% down could be as much as $235,000 on a $500,000 home. This, of course, ignores the opportunity cost of that $100,000 down payment, which we'll discuss below.
Isn't it Better to Get as Big a Loan as Possible and Invest the Difference?
When you run the numbers, you can easily see you'll be better off borrowing as much money as possible and investing it at a higher interest rate. This is the benefit of leverage. Consider a hypothetical $500K home. You could save $235,000 using a 20% down conventional loan over the doctor's loan. But if you invested that $100K downpayment at 8% over 30 years, you'd end up with over $1 Million. The terms of this “margin investing” are favorable, in that you have a lot of time for the market to rebound and there are no margin calls on mortgages. Unfortunately, there are a few reasons why you probably don't want to do this:
1) Getting a lower interest rate on the mortgage is risk-free. That $235,000 is guaranteed. The $1 Million is not guaranteed. If there is anything the stock market has taught us over the last decade, it is that there are no guarantees. Risk of loss is very real. If you get 2% returns over the 30 years instead of 8%, you'd have been far better off with the lower rate mortgage.
2) Being underwater on a mortgage is no fun. Putting 0% down means you are immediately underwater since it generally costs 6-10% of the value of the home to sell it. If you think it is hard to sell a home in a down market, try doing it when your only options are a short sale, coming up with tens of thousands in cash, and letting the bank foreclose and ruining your credit.
3) Behavior. It is much easier to spend money than to invest it. To come out ahead you have to actually invest and keep investing that $100K for 30 years. Taxes and investment expenses, of course, can also reduce the rate of return on that money if you have poor investor behavior.
4) Cash flow and investing the difference. Putting 20% down lowers your mortgage payment dramatically. Again taking that $500,000 home example. With 20% down, your monthly principle and interest payment is $2027. With the doctor's loan, it is $2800. That $800 a month can really make a difference in your budgeting-giving you more spending and savings options as they become available. You can even use that $800 a month to pay down the mortgage by getting a 15 year fixed mortgage instead. That would lower your interest rate another 3/4%, saving you even more over the years and allowing for earlier retirement. Alternatively, you could just invest the $800 each month. At that same 8% rate of return, after 30 years you would have $1.2 Million, even more than the $1 Million that $100K down payment would grow to. So overall, if you invested the difference after 30 years of 8% annual returns, you'd come out over $400,000 ahead by putting 20% down. But, of course, you still have to come up with the 20% to put down, which isn't easy.
Need a Realtor or Relocating?
If you are in need of a realtor the White Coat Investor is partnering with CurbsideRealEstate.com, a free real estate concierge service for physicians, by physicians. After struggling through his first home purchase, Dr. Peter Kim founded Curbside Real Estate to address physician-specific issues encountered during the home buying process. In addition to providing news and information, CurbsideRealEstate.com is your physician-led “curbside consult” for physician mortgage loans, expert real estate agents, relocation, and everything in between. Whether you’re securing your first physician home loan, just beginning your home search, or you're not sure where to start, CurbsideRealEstate.com can help you navigate the home buying process confidently and efficiently, saving you valuable time and money.
Exclusive bonus for White Coat Investor readers: $100 bonus at closing.
Lenders — if you would like to purchase advertising space on this page, email Cindy (at) whitecoatinvestor.com.