The Documents and Information You’ll Need When Applying for a Mortgage

Many first-time home buyers are worried about all of the documents and information they’ll have to gather when applying for a mortgage. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably dreading having to dig through the five places that these documents might be. Fortunately, the process is now somewhat streamlined thanks to lenders being able to collect most of your information digitally.

In today’s article, we’ll talk about the documents you’ll need to collect when you apply for a home loan so that you feel prepared and confident reaching out to lenders.

Documents needed to pre-qualify

Before going into applying for a mortgage, let’s talk about pre-qualification. There are three types, or in some cases steps, of approval with most mortgage lenders: pre-qualification, pre-approval, and approval.

Pre-qualification is one of the earliest and simplest steps to getting pre-approved. It gives you a snapshot of the types and amount of loans you can receive. Pre-qualification typically doesn’t include a detailed credit analysis, nor do you need to provide many specific details or documents.

Typically, you’ll fill out a questionnaire describing your debts, income, and assets, and they will give you an estimate of the loan you might qualify for. Might is the key word here. Your pre-qualification amount is not guaranteed as you haven’t yet provided official proof of your information.

Documents needed for pre-approval

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage entails significantly more work on the part of you and your lender than pre-qualification. First, the lender will run a credit analysis. You won’t need to provide them with any information for this step, as they’ll be able to automatically receive the report from the major credit reporting bureaus. However, it’s a good idea to check your report before applying to make sure there aren’t any errors that could damage your credit.

Now is where the legwork comes in.

You’ll need to gather the following documents to get officially pre-approved or approved for a mortgage:

  • W-2 forms from the previous two years. If you are self-employed, you’ll still need to provide income verification, usually as a Form 1040, or “Individual income tax return.”

  • Two forms of identification. A driver’s license, passport, and social security card are three commonly accepted forms of identification.

  • Pay stubs or detailed income information for the past two or three months. This ensures lenders that you are currently financially stable.

  • Federal and State income tax returns from the past two years. If you file your taxes online, you can often download a PDF version that includes your W-2 or 1040 forms, making the process of submitting tax and income verification much easier.

  • Personal contact information. Name, address, phone number, email address, and any former addresses which you’ve lived in the past two years.

  • Bank statements from the previous two months. Also, if you have any assets, such as a 401K, stocks, or mutual fund,  you’ll be asked to include those as well.

  • A complete list of your debts. Though these will likely be on your credit report, lenders want to ensure they have the full picture when it comes to how much you owe other creditors and lenders.

When to Refinance Your Mortgage

Whether you’re a new homeowner or have owned your home for a few years, there’s always much to learn when it comes to understanding mortgages. Depending on your financial status and your long-term plans, it may make sense to either make larger payments or to refinance your home loan.

Today, we’ll tackle some of those difficult “what if?” questions, helping you decide when to refinance, when to keep your payments stable, and when you might want to increase your monthly mortgage payments.

What are the benefits of refinancing?

We’ve all heard about the benefits of refinancing when under financial stress. For things like student loans and credit card debt, refinancing is often a debtor’s only choice. However, with home loans, the allure of refinancing may not always be a good fit for you.

If your plan is to refinance to get lower mortgage payments each month, you should first question if it will be worth it on the long run, which might amount to you paying more in interest. To avoid paying more in interest, refinance after you’ve accomplished important financial milestones, such as increasing your credit score which makes you a lower risk client to banks.  

When does it make sense to pay more?

The benefits of paying off your mortgage in a shorter period of time are obvious. It means less time making payments, and less money spent on interest.  

However, depending on your mortgage, you might be better off investing your savings in something that will give you a larger return. Investments in a retirement fund, for example, are likely to pay off to a larger degree in the long term. To do the math, simply calculate the savings you would earn on by cutting your mortgage interest and weigh that against projected gains in retirement funds.

None of us can predict the future. Stocks rise and fall, people get laid off from their job due to fluctuations in the economy, and so on. These factors make it difficult to determine whether you should invest. So we encourage you to do your homework when it comes to investments so that you have the best chance of succeeding.  

Changing lenders

Your relationship with your lender will likely be a long one, so you want to make sure it’s one you’re comfortable with and that they are giving you reasonable rates. Now that you’re secure and living in your you have time to shop around for the best rates.

Be sure to ask lenders for good faith estimates and compare applicable fees. Ask friends and neighbors about their experience with lenders and read online reviews to get a better idea of what type of customer experience can expect.

Planning To Buy Your First Home? Here’s Where to Start

Buying your first home is a huge financial accomplishment and life milestone. The process is long, and can seem complicated at times. However, if you do your research and manage your money carefully, buying a house can be an excellent financial asset that will serve you for decades to come. 

Many people who hope to own a home in the near future aren’t sure of the best way to start off on their path toward homeownership. This uncertainty leads them to put off their preparations. If you want to stop renting and start building equity, this is time wasted.

In today’s post, I’m going to give you some advice on how to start planning for homeownership, regardless of your current circumstances.

Build credit responsibly

One thing that will help you on nearly all mortgage applications is a good credit score. For those of us who had a difficult time paying off bills or had loans go into default, it can seem like a daunting task to ever raise your credit score into good standing.

However, when your score is low, it is actually easier and faster to raise than if it is already in high standing.

To boost your credit score, make sure your current debt is paid on time each month. If you’re thinking about taking on a new line of credit, consider setting it to auto-pay each month for the full statement balance. This way, you’ll still improve your credit score but can also avoid costly interest payments.

Read up on mortgages and fees

There are many different types of mortgages available to borrowers in the United States. Some, such as USDA and VA loans, are guaranteed by the U.S. government. This means they often have less stringent credit and down payment requirements.

Don’t be afraid to shop around between lenders. You may see different interest rates from similar lenders in your area.

Finally, make sure you’re familiar with the type of closing costs and property taxes you’ll be responsible for. It’s one thing to be able to afford your monthly mortgage payments, but there are other costs to consider when it comes to being a homeowner.

Budget and save

Budgeting and saving are both skills that need to be learned and developed over time. None of us are born with the knowledge of how to best budget their expenses and earnings. However, there are some free tools available in most app stores.

When it comes to saving, remember that the more you save for a down payment, the lower your interest rate can be. The difference may seem small now, but over the lifetime of your mortgage can save you tens of thousands of dollars. Wouldn’t you rather that money end up in your retirement fund than in your lender’s pocket?

Before you apply for a mortgage

If you’ve saved for your down payment and built credit and are ready to take the next step and get preapproved, be aware that opening new lines of credit will temporarily decrease your score.

Home Loans FAQ: FHA Loans

If you’re hoping to buy your first home in the near future, you’re likely wondering about the different types of mortgages that you may qualify for. Since the 1930s, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has been insuring home loans for first-time homeowners across America.

This program helps people achieve homeownership who typically wouldn’t be able to afford the down payment or pass the credit score requirements to secure a traditional mortgage.

In today’s post, we’re going to answer some frequently asked questions about FHA loans to help you decide if this is the best option for your first home.

Does the FHA issue loans?

Although they’re called “FHA loans,” mortgages are not actually issued by the FHA. Rather, they’re issued by mortgage lenders across the country and insured by the FHA.

Will I have to make a down payment?

With an FHA loan, your down payment can be as low as 3.5%, significantly lower than traditional loans at 20% down payment. However, you will be required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) in addition to your monthly mortgage payments until you have paid off 20% of the home. So, the best case scenario would be to save as much as possible for a down payment to reduce the amount of mortgage insurance you have to pay.

What are the benefits of an FHA loan?

The three main reasons to secure an FHA loan are:

  • You can qualify with a low credit score

  • You can make a smaller down payment than traditional mortgages

  • Your closer costs will be less expensive

Where do I apply for an FHA loan?

You can apply for an FHA loan through a mortgage lender. You can also work with a mortgage broker to help choose a lender.

Is an FHA loan the only loan option for low down payments?

There are multiple loan programs offered at the state and federal level to help individuals secure a mortgage with a lower down payment. They can be provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the USDA, or state-sponsored programs. Lenders also often sponsor their own programs to attract potential borrowers. However, always make sure you compare these programs to make sure you’re making the best long-term financial decision.

Do all FHA loans offer the same interest rates and costs?

No. Since the loans are only insured by the FHA, it’s up to the lender to determine your interest rate and fees. So, it’s a good idea to shop around for the best lender.

How high does my credit score have to be to qualify for an FHA loan?

You can secure a mortgage with a down payment as low as 3.5% with a credit score of 580 or higher. However, if you can afford to make a larger down payment, you can secure an FHA loan with a credit score as low as 500.

If your score is in the 500-600 range, it’s typically a better idea to spend a few months building credit before applying for a home loan.

What information will I need to apply?

You’ll need to gather all of the same information that you would for a typical mortgage. This includes W2s from your employer(s), two years of submitted tax forms, your current and former addresses from the past two years, and your gross monthly salary.

I’ve owned a house before, can I still qualify for FHA loans?

Even if you’re not a first-time homebuyer you can still qualify for an FHA loan. However, you cannot qualify if you’ve had a foreclosure within the last three years or have filed for bankruptcy within the last two years.