When does mortgage underwriting take place, within the broader context of the mortgage lending process? This is a common question among first-time home buyers and mortgage applicants.
The short answer is that it takes place somewhere in the middle of the process. It happens after the loan application has been completed, and before the final approval and funding. In fact, mortgage underwriting is a necessary step that paves the way for the final loan approval.
Mortgage Underwriting Defined
Elsewhere on this website, we’ve offered an in-depth explanation of the mortgage underwriting process. That article also provides a basic definition of underwriting. This is a process lenders use to determine a borrower’s ability and willingness to repay a loan. They do this by looking at the borrower’s credit history, income, debts, and other financial components.
It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on several factors.
Getting back to the question at hand: When does the mortgage underwriting process actually take place? It usually happens in the “middle” of the overall lending process. This will be easier to understand if we look at underwriting within a broader context.
When Does It Take Place?
First, a disclaimer: The mortgage lending process can vary from one borrower to the next, for a variety of reasons. There are many steps in the process, and a lot of variables along the way. So your experience might differ slightly from the series of steps listed below.
With that being said, mortgage underwriting generally takes place somewhere in the middle of the loan process.
For home buyers, the sequence usually goes like this:
- The borrower completes a standard loan application to start the process.
- The borrower gets pre-approved for a specific loan amount.
- The home buyer finds a house and makes an offer to purchase it.
- The buyer then goes back to the mortgage company with a signed purchase agreement, to continue the loan process.
- The mortgage lender will arrange for a home appraisal to be completed.
- A title search will be completed to check for liens or other title issues.
- The loan then moves into the underwriting stage, for an in-depth review.
- The underwriter approves of the loan and says the borrower is “clear to close.”
- The loan gets funded, usually within a few days of the closing date.
So that’s when mortgage underwriting takes place within the broader scope of the lending process. It generally takes place after the application has been completed, and after the home has been appraised. It occurs before final loan approval and funding. It’s a necessary step that paves the way for the final approval.
Just One Part of the Mortgage Approval Process
Underwriting is just one step along the path to mortgage approval and closing. It’s an important step, for sure — but it’s not the only one.
As you can see in the informational graphic below, there are other steps that come before and after the underwriting stage.
When the loan file moves to underwriter, it means that all (or at least most) of the paperwork is in place. Now it’s the underwriter’s job to ensure that the borrower and the property being purchased meet all lender and secondary requirements. He or she will also determine the level of risk associated with the loan, and whether or not it’s acceptable.
What Should the Home Buyer Do at This Stage?
We’ve talked about when underwriting occurs. It takes place after the initial loan application, and after the home appraisal (in most cases).
The next logical question is: What should the home buyer be doing at this stage in the mortgage process?
The most important thing is to stay in touch with your loan officer, and handle any paperwork requests in a timely fashion. This will help keep things on track for the closing.
Much of the underwriting process happens “behind the scenes,” from the borrower’s perspective. It happens without direct involvement or participation from the home buyer / borrower.
But there are occasions when the underwriter will request items from the borrower. This might be additional documents needed to underwrite the loan, or a letter of explanation relating to a certain financial transaction.
As a borrower, the best thing you can do is handle these requests as quickly as possible. This will help prevent any unwanted delays that might interfere with closing. Aside from that, much of the underwriting process is out of your hands. You just have to wait for the review process to be completed.
Related: What underwriters might ask for
In recent years, technology and streamlining have expedited this process. Today, mortgage companies are able to approve home loans in less time, compared to five or ten years ago.
There seems to be a big push in the industry right now for delivering faster results to borrowers. This is being accomplished through the use of online applications, electronic signatures, and automated underwriting systems.
Disclaimer: This article answers the question: When does mortgage underwriting take place? Please note that the lending process can vary from one borrower to the next, for a number of reasons. So your process may differ from the one outlined above.