What do I need to do to get a mortgage pre-approval?
Most lenders in the US approve home loans based on guidelines provided by the two Government-Sponsored Entities (GSEs): Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These two entities have very specific guidelines on how exactly a lender is supposed to approve a home loan. The guidelines are essentially like a flow-chart which the lender goes through to determine each individual’s scenario and depending on. It entails accomplishing the following steps:
1. Mortgage Application
This is the first step in getting the pre-approval. Most lenders these days have an online application that you can fill and submit. This application typically asks for personal information, residential and employment history, income details, bank and retirement accounts, demographic details and real estate owned.
It is a good idea to gather this info before you start an application. Once you have all the information in one place, filling out the application should be a quick and easy process.
2. Income and Employment Documents
Depending on whether you are an individual who is a salaried employee or self-employed, the requirement for supporting documents can be quite different. The main goal is to ascertain if you have enough income to be able to make the monthly mortgage payments.
For salaried individuals, the supporting documents typically requested are W-2 forms for the last 2 years and most recent two months of pay-stubs.
For self-employed individuals, the lender will typically ask for 2 years of tax returns, a Year-To-Date (YTD) Profit & Loss (P&L statement) and copies of business receipts.
3. Asset Statements
Asset statements are statements of your bank accounts, individual retirement accounts, 401(k), brokerage accounts, etc. The main reason behind asking for proof of assets is for the lender to ascertain if you have enough funds to (i) Make the down payment; (ii) Pay for the closing costs associated with the loan; and (iii) Sufficient reserve requirements as required by the Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac’s automated underwriting review.
In cases where a mortgage applicant’s savings are substantial, liquid assets can be used in lieu of income to determine one’s eligibility.
4. Credit Report and Financial Liabilities Disclosure
Almost all lenders will require a credit check before they approve a loan. The main idea behind this is two fold:
(a) To determine if a borrower has demonstrated the ability to make payments on his or her financial obligations in the past. Borrowers who have been diligent with their payments in the past have a higher likelihood of continuing to meet their obligations in the future as well. And hence they are more likely to be approved.
(b) The other information that a credit report contains is a list of borrower’s current monthly obligations and the associated payments. That can then be used to determine how large a payment can a borrower make for his monthly mortgage.
Full disclosure of liabilities is important for the key Debt-to-Income calculation.
5. Verification of Employment
While pay-stubs are proof of recent employment, the bigger concern to a lender is a borrower’s ability to make the payments going forward. For that reason, many lenders not only ask for employment verification letters, they also do a verbal verification right before closing (or on the day of closing) to ascertain that the borrower is still employed and will be able to make those payments.
6. Real Estate Owned
Lenders also want to know if there is any other real estate that the borrower already owns. Now, why is that needed? Well, the idea is that any real estate that a borrower owns has liabilities associated with it (i.e. monthly payment obligations). Those monthly obligations need to be taken into account when determining how much an individual can comfortably afford to pay for the new loan. These obligations include current mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance and HOA dues.
7. Identity Verification
Identity verification is to ascertain the legitimacy of the borrower and to prevent possible fraud and criminal activity (for example: money laundering). Lenders can also ask for letters of explanation attesting that they did not take any loans recently, that are not shown on the credit report.
I understand the steps. What next?
Once you understand the steps involved, the next thing to do is to identify a lender where you can submit an application for pre-approval. When you search online, it’s still not easy to determine who the good lenders are and who you can trust with likely the biggest purchase of your life.
At Stem Lending, our goal is not just to provide great rates. An even bigger motive for us is to educate you as much as we can so you can make an informed decision.
As is evident from our client testimonials, we feel confident of providing a great experience to you in your home purchase. Start right away at: stemlending.com/apply