How to Prepare Documentation for Mortgage Applications

Published on 08/09/09 12:59 PM

When filing a mortgage application, you will be required by your lender(s) to submit certain documentation, in order to prove both your income and your assets. While your lender will most likely inform you of specific requirements, you can save yourself precious time by preparing all of the documents in advance.

In terms of proof of assets, you should begin by compiling information on all of your bank accounts, including account numbers, the branch address(es), and copies of recent statements. Remember to include information for both checking and savings accounts. You should also plan on furnishing statements of other liquid assets, such as IRA retirement accounts, CD’s, annuities, and estimated cash value of life insurance policies. It wouldn’t hurt to provide valuations for Illiquid assets (real estate, valuables).

The next step is to document your income. This is best achieved through the provision of pay stubs, W-2 withholding forms, and even recent tax returns. If you are self-employed, you should prepare audited income statements for your business. Generally, lenders won’t require more than two years worth of data, but in some cases, they may request additional information.

Even if your creditworthiness has been established (and especially if it isn’t), it wouldn’t hurt to show timely payment of rent and utilities for the last 1-2 years. Your lender will also need to see and legal documents/filings (related to divorce, etc.) in order to determine if any potential liabilities exist.

Prior to the bursting of the housing bubble, it was possible to obtain a competitively-priced loan without providing any or all of the documentation listed above. Reacting to lending standards that were perhaps overly stringent, lenders gradually loosened their requirements. This led to lender complacency and the consequent proliferation of so-called liar-loans, which describe mortgages that require little or no documentation.

In some cases, it is still possible to obtain such loans. Some lenders will accept stated income and/or assets (as opposed to verified income and assets), but you can expect the spread to full documentation loans to be higher than before. According to a recent report, “Less-documented borrowers who reported high incomes were far likelier to default than those whose high incomes were verified – suggestion that loans were made on misleading information.” The report found that applicants were likely to overstate income by 20% on average when verification wasn’t required.

For some applicants, namely those who are self-employed or in-between jobs, a low-documentation loan might still be the best choice. No-ratio loans, whereby income and assets are verified but not used to calculate typical do-not-exceed ratios, might be necessary for those who want to purchase houses that are technically unaffordable.

Of course, you should speak to a loan officer before deciding whether a low-documentation loan is appropriate for you, but it helps to know your options before going in.

The report also compared differences between well-documented borrowers and those who didn’t need to verify their incomes and histories and loan documents. It found that the less-documented borrowers who reported high incomes were far likelier to default than those whose high incomes were verified – suggestion that loans were made on misleading information.
Posted by Adam | in financial planning | No Comments »


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