Alimony income helpful for mortgage approval

DEAR MR. MYERS: I got divorced about two years ago and now collect $600 each month in alimony from my ex-husband. Can I declare this money as extra income on a mortgage application in order to boost my chances of getting a loan to buy another house?

ANSWER: Yes, most lenders will consider alimony that a prospective buyer receives as income when reviewing a mortgage application, but only if certain conditions are met.

For starters, the bank likely will want to see a copy of your divorce decree or similar document that clearly spells out how much in alimony you will receive each month and when those payments will stop. That way, the bank will have the assurance that you can take your “ex” to court if he falls behind on his alimony checks or quits writing them altogether.

Most banks insist that your decree shows that those monthly checks you collect will continue to arrive for at least three years from the date that the mortgage application is filed. That provides a lender with at least some level of assurance that the person who collects the alimony support will have some time to get a college degree or find a better-paying job.

Many lenders also will want proof that the alimony payments have already been arriving on a regular basis, usually for at least a year or so. Copies of cash receipts that you may have given to your former spouse might suffice. So may copies of your own bank statements, especially if the money is automatically taken out of his checking or savings account each month and electronically transferred into yours.

Talk to several lenders and mortgage brokers for details. Also, use those discussions to get pre-approved for a loan so you’ll know how much you can borrow — with or without getting credit for the alimony you receive.

REAL ESTATE TRIVIA: Despite the widespread belief that couples who live under the same roof before marrying have a lesser chance of eventually getting divorced, the National Survey of Families and Households reports that “unions begun by cohabitation are almost twice as likely to dissolve within 10 years compared with all first marriages: 57 percent to 30 percent.”

DEAR MR. MYERS: So, Dave, what are the best buys for my home in April?

ANSWER: April isn’t a particularly good time to buy many types of household items, in part because there aren’t any holidays for retailers to hold major three-day sales. There are still good prices on plants and gardening equipment for the green thumbs among us, but that’s about it.

Still, if you missed out on the deep discounts on household tools, big appliances and mattresses that were offered earlier in the year, don’t fret: A little patience will go a long way toward saving money if you delay your next purchase for another six weeks or so, reports Benjamin Glaser, an expert shopper for bargain-hunting website

“Department stores almost always roll out special sales for holiday weekends, and Memorial Day (sales from May 27 and go through May 30 or 31) usually provides excellent discounts on select home items,” notes Glaser. “If you wait until May, you’ll find tools that are up to 50 percent off, large appliances for about 30 percent off, and mattresses that get an extra discount of 10 percent to 40 percent off.

“In fact, for the past few years, we’ve seen much deeper discounts on mattresses in May than in April,” Glaser adds. “Therefore, any discounts you see this month will very likely get even steeper if you wait.”

David W. Myers’ column is distributed by Cowles Syndicate Inc.