Let’s start with the (blatantly) obvious: Getting a mortgage and buying a house involves a lot of money. And the answers you give on your mortgage application have a direct impact on how much money you’ll get approved for—or whether you’ll be able to get the loan in the first place. So it’s not surprising that some people may be tempted to fudge the facts just a bit.
After all, it’s just paperwork, and a little white lie. What can it hurt?
A lot, actually. In fact, it can make the process downright excruciating.
To begin with, the phrase “little white lies” is a bit of a misnomer as far as mortgage applications are concerned. If you’re fudging the facts in a way that affects your costs or ability to get the loan, that small untruth is likely to turn into a whopper. And since lenders verify most of the key information on your application, your chances of getting away with it aren’t very good to begin with.
Applying for a home loan these days requires detailed documentation. Expect to show everything from full tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, to letters of explanation regarding your credit, debt, income and assets. However, that leaves quite a bit of room for challenges to pop up. Here are four common roadblocks you may encounter in the mortgage underwriting process, and how you can fix them.
1. Changes in Your IncomeLet’s say the underwriter at the loan company determines — based upon your pay stubs and tax returns — that your income is lower than what the loan originator said it was. An easy way to offset that is a written verification of employment (VOE), which specifies and breaks down your income. This is especially important if you’re an hourly wage earner with gyrating income – such as varying hours worked, bonuses, or overtime – that has not been consistent for most of the past two years.
Lenders like to see two years of more or less consistent income history, but there are ways to work with that. If you don’t have this, you’ll need a lender who can work with your ancillary income with less than 24 months. This is the type of thing that can make or break your loan, especially with income outside of a traditional fixed salary.
2. Your Debt Eats Up Too Much of Your IncomeA lender considers what your payment-to-income ratio will be with the new mortgage, so you can encounter a problem if your consumer debts, such as student loans, credit cards and auto loans, are just too large for the mortgage amount you’re applying for. If your debt-to-income ratio exceeds 45%, to still qualify, you’ll need to make a change in any of the following ways:
3. Paying Off Your Debt… the ‘Wrong’ WayLet’s say you have credit card payments totaling $300 per month on a $10,000 balance spread out over two to three credit cards. You decide to pay off those credit cards to reduce your payment liabilities, thus lowering your payment-to-income ratio.
This can be very tricky if not done correctly, and can very easily skew the underwriter’s perception of what your liabilities truly will be by closing. When you pay off consumer debts to qualify for a mortgage, the account(s) must be closed as well. This can be problematic, as closing credit cards can have a negative impact on a healthy credit score. It is true you could simply re-open the credit cards after you close on the mortgage anyway, but lenders do not view it that way. They assume you’ll close the cards and not open them later on.
An alternative option involves getting an updated credit report that shows that the debts are paid off in full without any payments due. The key is to make absolutely sure each creditor whom you paid off in full specifically reports to each credit bureau a zero balance and a zero payment due.
Before you pull your credit reports, you can monitor for changes by looking at your free credit report summary on Credit.com, which updates every 30 days.
4. Negative Events On Your Credit ReportLet’s face it — mortgage loan originators are human, and they make mistakes just like everyone else. Let’s say your mortgage officer did not ask or was unaware of you having a previous short sale in the past four years. If it happened within the past four years, this can stop your conventional loan in its tracks, which could mean you’d have to move to an alternative loan program, such as FHA.
Lenders run each borrower through a comprehensive background screening through multiple fraud databases, which would identify any other property you were tied to in the past seven years. If any other unaccounted-for properties pop up, documentation will be required to either show the property is no longer yours, or it was sold, or the carrying cost of that property would be factored into your payment-to-income ratio.
If you are not sure about something financially related to your loan application, just be sure to ask your loan professional. Should any unforeseen roadblocks pop up in your mortgage loan process, call your loan officer right away to explain the situation and get a read on what type of documentation will be needed to satisfy the condition and/or the problem. An experienced loan professional — who has experience working with the type of mortgage you’re trying to obtain – can guide you through to a successful closing.
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