Guide to Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR)

Written By Minh Tong
Oct 31, 2022


What is a debt service coverage ratio?

A debt service coverage ratio (DSCR) is a financial metric used to assess a borrower’s ability to pay back debt obligations. This ratio applies primarily to businesses or individuals taking on debt, such as through a loan or bond issuance. Lenders and investors often use the debt service coverage ratio to evaluate when deciding whether to extend credit or invest in a business. It can also be a useful tool for borrowers to assess their financial health and make decisions about taking on additional debt.

Debt service coverage ratio formula and how to calculate it

The formula for calculating the debt service coverage ratio is:
Debt Service Coverage Ratio = Net Operating Income / Total Debt Service
The ratio is calculated by dividing a borrower’s net operating income (after expenses) by their total debt service (payments for interest and principal on loans or bonds). A higher ratio indicates a stronger ability to repay debts, while a lower ratio may signal potential default risk.

What is a good debt service coverage ratio?

Generally, a good debt service coverage ratio is considered 1.2 or above. This score means the borrower has at least 20% more income than their total debt obligations. A bad debt service coverage ratio is considered less than 1, meaning the borrower’s income is not sufficient to cover their debt obligations, indicating potential default risk.
However, this threshold can vary depending on the industry and type of debt being considered. For example, a lower ratio in the real estate industry may be acceptable if the property is expected to appreciate in value. Ultimately, determining a “good” ratio will also depend on the lender’s individual risk tolerance and their assessment of the borrower’s overall financial health and stability.
It’s also worth noting that a high debt service coverage ratio does not necessarily guarantee repayment, as unexpected events or changes in income could affect borrowers’ ability to meet their obligations. Conversely, a low ratio does not necessarily mean a borrower will default on their debts, as they may have other sources of income or the ability to restructure their payments.

Debt service coverage ratio vs. interest coverage ratio

The primary difference between the debt service coverage ratio and the interest coverage ratio is that the debt service coverage ratio takes into account both interest payments and principal repayments. In contrast, the interest coverage ratio only considers interest payments. This means that a borrower could have a high-interest coverage ratio but a lower debt service coverage ratio if they have significant principal payments.
Both ratios can be helpful in evaluating a borrower’s ability to repay their debts, but it is important to consider them in conjunction with other financial metrics and factors. Ultimately, the ratios should be considered as part of a more significant evaluation of a borrower’s financial health and risks.

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