Docs You’ll Need for Your Mortgage Loan Application and the Underwriting Process

We’ll be upfront about this: one of the most draining parts of the homebuying process can be the mountain of paperwork and documentation you’ll need to wade through in order to secure your loan. But with the right attitude and by giving yourself the gift of a few months’ lead time, you can make the process dramatically easier. Let’s take a look at those strategies and then build a list of what you’ll need to prepare.

Attitude and Prep Work When Applying for a Mortgage

Contrary to what some home loan providers like to present in TV commercials, getting a home loan isn’t as easy as clicking a few buttons on your keyboard—nor should it be. Buying a home is most likely the biggest financial decision you’ll ever make and preparing for the mortgage process ahead of time is as good an opportunity as any to get your financials in order. Next, we counsel folks to start this process early, sometimes before you’re even sure you’re ready to buy. That way, when you know you are, you’ll be that much better positioned for a smooth process. As you’ll see from the list of required docs below, some of these things will take longer to secure and some (for instance, an old address on a cell phone bill) may require time to reflect changes you’ve made in future billing cycles. Get these out of the way as soon as possible.

Here Are the Documents You’ll Need To Apply For Your Home Loan 

While states and loan product vendors’ requirements may vary, the following are some of the most typically requested forms we’ve come across and should help you prepare when it comes time to officially apply for your mortgage:

  • Proof of Income

Underwriters (the people who comb through and verify all the documentation you provide to the loan company) will be going through all your reported income to ensure you can make the payments you’ve been qualified for. Generally, they will be looking back about two years, primarily using your taxes as proof. Keep in mind, it looks best if you have two years of steady employment at the same position. Sometimes, you may need to provide recent pay stubs. This should be easy if you receive direct deposit and you can most likely print directly from your paycheck servicer portal or HR department. 

If you’re self-employed, you may need to provide more documentation. Here’s an overview on buying as a freelancer.  

If you’re divorced and pay or receive alimony or child support payments, you’ll need to provide proof of those agreements as well, usually via divorce decree.

  • Assets and Liabilities

All assets and liabilities reflect on your ability to pay your mortgage payment (and all the requisite closing costs) and will be examined accordingly. In general, all assets which can be quickly accessed in an emergency (e.g., your checking and savings accounts or money market accounts) rank highest when assessing your portfolio. You’ll also need to track all your physical assets (things like a car, boat, vacation property, etc.). An accurate representation of these things will help you potentially qualify for a higher mortgage—the grim logic being that you can sell these things in an emergency. Other assets they’ll look at include retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, and CDs. 

Using gift money? Here’s what you need to know about accounting for any down payment or mortgage assistance you’ll be receiving from friends or relatives. 

  • Debt and Credit History

You knew it was coming. Debt and credit history are some of the biggest factors when it comes to being approved for your loan, but all debt is not equal. Credit card debt (which may prove you’re living beyond your means) is considered a greater liability than student loan debt, for instance. Bankruptcies and foreclosures will of course raise flags but the more years that go by, the less they will impact you. If you have derogatory marks on your credit report that you can clear up, start working on that several months in advance since there will be two lags—reflecting on your bill and then reflecting on your credit report. If there are situations that were beyond your control (unforeseen medical debt is a common one) and that you feel don’t reflect on your ability to manage your mortgage payments, you can offer up a letter explaining the circumstances. 

What happens next?

The loan underwriting process can take a frustratingly long amount of time when you’re raring to go but managing your expectations and having as much of this squared away in advance will help. If they come back to you asking for additional details, get back to them as quickly as possible to keep the process moving. The three outcomes you’ll be looking for are approval (yay!), denial (rare at this stage though it does happen), or approval with contingencies (not bad). Approvals with contingencies are typically additional steps you need to take to satisfy the loan underwriter and are typically very manageable. 


If you can get organized, keep your patience, and stay calm under pressure, the underwriting process will soon be a blip in your rearview mirror and you get to move on to your next step—home ownership. 


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