Steps in the Mortgage Process when You are Buying a Home

iStock_000003709509SmallThe process of getting a mortgage consists of several stages and typically takes anywhere from 30 – 45 days (or more) depending on how prepared you are, what mortgage program you have selected and if it’s a purchase, the closing date may dictate how long the process will take. The steps below may not take place in the exact order I have listed and some steps may happen simultaneously.

Prequalification. The prequalifcation stage may consist of obtaining rate quotes from various lenders and providing lenders information (verbally or electronically) about your home buying or refinancing scenario. This is probably the most ideal time to “shop” for your lender (if you have not already made your selection).

You can start the prequalification or preapproval process as soon as you begin to think about buying a home. I often help home buyers who are 12 months away from being ready to buy and who want time to plan and work on savings and/or their credit.

Preapproval. During the preapproval stage, you will need to provide your lender with documentation that proves your income, assets and funds for closing. Your credit report will also be ran (if it was not ran during the prequal stage).  Your pre-application is updated with information based on the documentation provided. Your mortgage originator will also help you fine tune your selection for your preferred mortgage program.  It is likely that your information will then be ran through an automated underwriting system (aus) depending on your loan program.

If you are buying a home, and your loan is preapproved (based on the aus or human underwriters review),  you should receive a preapproval letter from your lender. If your loan is not preapproved, your lender should provide you with guidance as to what needs to improved (typically credit, income or assets) in order to achieve a preapproved status.

Sometimes preapproval letters need to be updated as credit report and supporting documents “expire”.  It’s very important that once you’re preapproved, you unplug your shredder.

You may need an updated preapproval letter that is customized for a home you’re making an offer on. It’s very important to check in with your mortgage originator before making an offer so they can provide an updated preapproval letter and an updated rate quote scenario. Your mortgage professional will need to know the amount of the property taxes and the amount you are planning on offering as well as when you plan on closing on the new home.

NOTE: Some home buyers might opt for a Letter of Loan Commitment over a preapproval letter – this is basically an amped up preapproval letter.

Making an Offer. Your Real Estate Broker will present the purchase and sales agreement based on the terms of the mortgage you are preapproved for (this is another reason why you should have your preapproval updated when making an offer on a home). Often times, the preapproval letter will be included with the purchase and sales agreement. If you have any vacations or travel time prior to closing – be sure to let your real estate agent and mortgage professional know prior to the offer.

It’s not unusual for Listing Agents to want to call your Mortgage Professional to review the preapproval letter. Some times, upon request of my clients, I will contact the Listing Agent to introduce myself. It can often help buyers “win” their home when there are multiple offers.

Mutual Acceptance. (if buying a home). Once you have a signed around purchase and sales agreement, a complete copy of the purchase and sales agreement needs to be provided to your lender.

Processing. Once you have provided your lender with a purchase and sales agreement or you have decided to proceed with a refinance, you’ll begin the processing stage of your transaction.  The loan processor works closely with your mortgage originator to prepare your transaction for underwriting. During this stage, title insurance and escrow are ordered (based on the purchase and sales agreement, if you’re buying a home). The processor will review and update the application and will request any additional information or documentation from  you.

NOTE: If you have any changes to your application during the process, such as changes to your employment, assets or credit, that you contact your Loan Officer immediately.

Initial Disclosures. After you have provided your lender the purchase and sales agreement, or have a complete application, you will receive your initial loan documents. At Mortgage Master, these documents are prepared and provided by our compliance department. The preliminary loan package will include your Intent to Proceed and Loan Estimate (LE) as well as other disclosures. It’s important to promptly review, complete, sign and return the preliminary loan application package.

Locking…or not. Depending on when your closing date is, you may or may not want to lock in your rate. Some borrowers may opt to “float” (not lock) in their mortgage interest rate. A mortgage interest rate may (and will) change until the rate is locked in. Your rate needs to be locked before an underwriter can issue final loan approval.

Once you lock in your rate, you may have additional documents, including a revised Loan Estimate, pertaining to the lock to sign and return to the mortgage company.

Home Owners Insurance. You will need to provide your lender with the contact information of who will be handling your home owners insurance. The lender will request a binder from your home owners insurance provider. This needs to be done as soon as possible as the home owners insurance premium is part of the mortgage payment (unless you are electing to pay the home owners insurance separately).

Appraisal. If you are buying a home, the appraisal is typically ordered after the home inspection (assuming there is one) has been done and the results are satisfactory. When the lender receives the appraisal, it is reviewed by underwriting and then provided to the borrower.

If the appraisal comes in less then the sales price or expected value of the home, your will most likely review possible options with your Real Estate Broker and Loan Officer. The lender will base the loan to value on the lower of the sales price or appraised value. In the event or loan amount or terms of the mortgage change, you may receive revised disclosures, including an updated Loan Estimate.

The appraisal may also have items that need to be addressed. A popular item in Washington state is missing carbon monoxide detectors and/or missing earth quake straps on the water heater. (Come on, sellers and listing brokers – make sure you get those CO detectors installed in the home BEFORE the appraisal is ordered).  

If the appraiser calls for items to be repaired or re-inspected (for missing CO detectors or water heater straps, etc.) on the appraisal, a re-inspection (aka 442) may be required.

Underwriting Approval. Once processing has a complete loan application with supporting income and asset documents, they will submit the loan to underwriting. Underwriters will review the application, supporting documentation and lender guidelines. They will then either issue a “conditional approval or possibly deny or suspend the file. Assuming the loan is approved 🙂 their may be “conditions” to the approval that need to be resolved before they can issue a “clear to close”.  Examples may include documenting the source of a large deposit,  writing a letter explaining employment history, providing updated paystubs, or missing pages of a bank statement.

After the initial underwriting approval (conditional approval) is issued, the file is sent back to processing to work on  getting the items requested by the underwriter.

There are two main types of underwriting conditions:

  • prior to doc (ptd) = items that must be resolved before docs can be ordered.
  • prior to funding (ptf) = items that must be resolved prior to funding (closing).

Review and re-submission of conditions. The processor and/or mortgage originator will work on obtaining the underwriting conditions. This often means that you, the borrower, will be hearing from the mortgage company with (hopefully a short) list of additional items that are needed. This is not unusual… and you’ll probably feel like you’ve been asked for the same thing over and over again. The mortgage process is redundant – there is no way to sugar coat it.  The good news is that by this time, you are almost finished!

Once the processor has obtained everything from the underwriters conditional approval list, the file is sent back to underwriting for review. If the documents appease the underwriter, final approval is issued.  Sometimes, the documents provided may trigger additional questions or requirements from an underwriter, in which case, they issue a revised approval with new conditions to be satisfied. This will continue until final approval is reached.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: If there have been any changes to the contract, such as seller credits, sales price, closing date, etc. it is extremely important that you let your mortgage professional know. Do not assume that the Real Estate Broker has informed them. Any changes to the contract, or if you are planning on being out of town prior to closing, needs to be relayed to your mortgage professional as it may very impact when you can close and when we can issue the Closing Disclosure.

Final approval. Oh happy times!!! This means that at the very least, all prior to doc conditions have been met. There may or may not be prior to funding conditions remaining. At this point, loan documents can be prepared.

Closing Disclosure. Once we have final loan approval, a Closing Disclosure will be prepared and provided to all borrowers on the transaction. The Closing Disclosure is a newer document that is replacing the HUD-1 Settlement Statement. Once the Closing Disclosure is received by the borrower, there is a three business day waiting period BEFORE the home buyer can sign their loan documents. It is CRITICAL that the borrowers sign and return the Closing Disclosure to the lender as soon as possible so that the lender has evidence as to when the borrower signed the Closing Disclosure and when the wait period can start. The three day waiting period CANNOT be waived and has the potential of delaying the closing if not executed and provided to the lender in time.

Docs. After the lender receives the signed Closing Disclosure from all borrowers, they can begin preparing loan documents. Once the loan documents are prepared, they are delivered to the escrow company.

Signing. Escrow typically likes to wait until they have received loan documents from the lender before scheduling an appointment to sign. As someone who worked in the title and escrow industry for many years, I don’t blame them! This is to avoid having to reschedule appointments and closers typically have pretty tight schedules.  Plan on your signing to take at least an hour – possibly longer depending on how many questions you may have.

Signing typically takes place 1-2 days before closing.

Final document review. Once you have finished signing, the escrow company will send the documents to the lender for review and the documents to recorded (the deed of trust and deed, if it’s a purchase) to the recorder’s office in the county the property is located in.

Re-verification. Just prior to funding, the lender will check with employers to makes sure nothing has changed with the borrower’s job status and a soft pull is done on the credit report to confirm that no changes to the credit profile (no new credit or large purchases on existing credit accounts).

If there has been changes to employment or credit, the transaction may be delayed as the new changes may have to be approved by underwriting. It’s important to remember that your financial profile should reflect your final loan application.

Funding and recording. Once your employment and credit have been re-verified, the lender will contact the escrow company to “balance” funds. This means they are making sure that everything is correct with the Closing Disclosure down to the penny. Once they balance, the lender will wire funds to escrow (this takes longer than you would expect in this day and age) and provide escrow with instructions for recording.

Recording takes place at the county where your home is located. The vesting deed and deed of trust (mortgage) are recorded and become public record, essentially announcing to the world that you own a home and have a mortgage. Because recording creates a public record, you can expect to be very popular (even more than before the process) and to receive constant piles of junk mail.

Closing. Yes!!! The moment we have all been waiting for!! Once your transaction has funded and recorded, you are officially “closed”.

Now that wasn’t so bad… was it??? 🙂

PS: If you are considering buying or refinancing a home located anywhere in Washington state, I am happy to help you!


  1. Can the escrow ask for bank statements after signing of closing docs?

    • Hi Manny,
      Sometimes escrow may ask for items after signing your loan documents. They are probably conditions that the lender required. However, you can contact your lender to make sure they are needed and, if you prefer, you can probably send the documents directly to your lender.

  2. I’m doing a refinance and they have this silly “wait 3 days until after closing to fund”… can apply for new credit in that time?

    • Hi Greg, I would not recommend applying for new credit before your loan has closed… silly wait period or not. Lenders re-verify credit and employment just prior to closing… sometimes the same day as closing/funding.

  3. Hello,

    What happened if you are laid off before closing? My last day on the job was 1/20. Final work through is 2/14 and then closing.

    • Hello Mundadi,
      Lenders will re-verify your employment just prior to closing. They will discover that you have been laid off. I recommend contacting your Loan Officer immediately to let them know. Hopefully you can land a new job prior to closing. Good luck!

    • Hey Mundadi, how did your closing work out? Did they reverify your employment?

  4. What kind of time frame is there from Closing Disclosure to being Closed?

    • Technically there is not a date that a loan has to close once the closing disclosure is issued, to my knowledge. However, a borrower cannot sign their final loan documents until 3 days have passed after signing their final closing disclosure.

      If you’re having an issue with your loan closing, I recommend contacting a manager at the mortgage company to find out what’s going on.

  5. How long after recording do you get the keys?

    • Hello Ce, typically the real estate agents address when keys are delivered to the buyer. It’s often done once funding/closing takes place and you’re officially the owner.

  6. Loan has been approved with limited conditions and the rate lock has been secured. Once submitted some documents to the lender then she’ll submit to the underwriter i don’t know whats the outcome since the loan has been approved. What should be expect from the underwriter?

    • Hi Clifford, the underwriter will review the conditions (supporting documents) and will forward an updated approval to the loan officer and processor. It’s possible there may be additional conditions..or it could be ‘clear to close’.


  1. […] NOTE 10/23/2015: This post has been updated to include the new disclosures and wait periods required per the Dodd Frank Act effective on loan […]

  2. […] The process of getting a mortgage consists of several stages and typically takes anywhere from 30 – 45 days (or more) depending on how prepared you are, what mortgage program you have selected and if it’s a purchase, the closing date may dictate how long the process will take. With this post, I’m focusing on the steps involved with obtaining a refinance (aka refi) which are slightly different than the process when you are buying a home. […]

  3. […] process to avoid having their credit pulled too many times. However, I typically recommend starting the preapproval process as soon as you start thinking about buying a home. This allows you to have time to improve credit […]


  5. […] most important document to review is your loan application. The final loan application signed at closing can easily hold typos or changes made by shady or […]

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