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10 min read Jul 13, 2023

Understanding Mortgage Underwriting: Definition, Process, Types, and Approval

Underwriting is a crucial step in the mortgage approval process. If you are planning to take a mortgage to buy a house, you need to know what is underwriting and how long it takes. It is an unavoidable process that can take time and cause stress.

You need loan approval to move into your new home on the date you have decided. You can speed up the underwriting process by conforming to the requirements. Read on to know how you can make your underwriting experience smooth.

⚡ Important Facts

  • Top Reason for Loan Denial: Bad credit is the primary reason for loan denial. The applicant either has a poor credit score or a history of defaulting. Due to the high risk, the underwriter denies the loan request.
  • State with Highest Denial Rate: In 2021, Mississippi state had the highest mortgage denial rate of 27.3%. The other state where it was difficult to get a mortgage was Florida with a denial rate of 25%.
  • Loan Denial Rates by Race: As per the mortgage data for 2021, 20% Black, 15% Hispanic, 11% White, and 10% Asian applicants were denied mortgages. This indicates racial disparities in the mortgage market.
  • Co-Signer for a Mortgage: If you don’t have a decent credit score to apply for a loan, you can opt for a co-signer. This person needs to have a good credit score and should be ready to pay the loan if you default.

What is Underwriting?

Underwriting is conducted by a financial expert who evaluates the amount of risk involved in lending money to the applicant. The expert is hired by mortgage lenders to evaluate loan applications for eligibility.

Some lenders may opt for automated underwriting instead of manual underwriting. Property underwriting is a back-end process but you should be prepared to get involved. Your lender might ask you to submit certain documents or give explanations for certain transactions.

What Does an Underwriter Do?

The job of an underwriter is to ensure that you do not take a loan that you can’t afford. Here’s what an underwriter is responsible for.

1. Risk Assessment

Underwriters assess the risk associated with extending credit. They review your financial and personal information to evaluate your creditworthiness and ability to repay the loan.

2. Verification of Information

They verify the accuracy and completeness of your information and supporting documentation. This includes reviewing income statements, tax returns, bank statements, credit reports, and other relevant documents.

3. Analysis of Financial Information

Underwriters analyze your income source, assets, and debts. They calculate your debt-to-income ratio, check your credit score, and assess your overall financial stability.

4. Compliance

Underwriting ensures that the loan application complies with relevant regulations, policies, and guidelines. The underwriter verifies that all necessary documentation and disclosures are provided and that the transaction meets the requirements.

5. Decision-Making

Based on the risk assessment and analysis, underwriters make informed decisions regarding loan approvals, terms, and conditions. They determine the loan amount, interest rates, and repayment terms.

6. Documentation

They prepare and maintain detailed documentation of their analysis and decision-making process. These documents are crucial for audit purposes and to demonstrate compliance with regulations.

7. Communication

Underwriters often communicate with applicants, loan officers, and other relevant parties. They may request additional information or clarification and provide explanations regarding their decisions or requirements.

8. Ongoing Monitoring

In some cases, underwriters are responsible for monitoring existing loans to ensure continued compliance with agreed-upon terms. This includes reviewing financial updates and assessing potential risks or changes in circumstances.

How Does Real Estate Underwriting Work?

Mortgage underwriting is used by the lender to ensure that you are eligible for a loan. Read on to know what to expect when your application goes for underwriting.

Step One: Complete Application

The first step is to submit a complete application to the lender with all the details and supporting documents. The documents that you have to submit may vary because each case is different.

However, you must provide your social security number, pay stubs for the last thirty days, and last two years’ W-2S. You also need to give proof of income and employment, details of other loans and assets, and tax returns.

Step Two: Wait for the Review to be Done

After you submit the application stating the amount of loan you require, the underwriter will review it. The process may take some time depending on the details you have provided.

The underwriter will check your credit history, assets and liabilities, income sources, and collateral value. These details will help them to determine whether you will be able to repay the loan in the future.

Step Three: Get the Property Appraised

The underwriter will ask for an appraisal report to find out the actual worth of the property. A professional appraiser will look at the size, condition, and location of the property to calculate its value.

The appraised value should be equal to or more than your asking price. If it is lesser, you may have to make a larger down payment. Make sure you price the property right in your application.

Step Four: Secure Title and Homeowner’s Insurance

You should secure your investment by opting for a title search. Ensure that there are no title disputes, claims, or unpaid taxes. After the title search is done, you will get title insurance from the insurer. You will have to buy homeowner’s insurance.

The insurance declarations and payment receipts must be submitted to the lender. The lender may give conditional approval, specifying additional requirements or documentation needed to finalize the loan.

Step Five: Find out the Underwriter’s Verdict

After reviewing your application and the documents submitted, the underwriter will take the final decision. The underwriter’s verdict can result in either approval, denial, or a pending decision. If your application is approved, you can proceed to closing.

If it is denied, the reasons may be a high debt-to-income ratio or poor credit score. In case the decision is pending you have to submit additional documents. You will get approval only after the underwriter’s queries are satisfied.

Step Six: Close Your Deal and Make the Down Payment

Once your application is approved, you can proceed to closing. You will receive a Closing Disclosure three days prior to closing. It will contain your loan amount, interest rate, and monthly payment amount.

Your closing costs (including the underwriting fee), and down payment amount will also be mentioned. You need to review the disclosure and check how much you have to pay at closing. On closing day, sign the documents, make the payment, and become the owner of your new home.

What do Underwriters Look For?

Underwriters generally look for financial solvency when you apply for a loan. They specifically check the following:

  • Income
  • Employment Status
  • Credit Score and History
  • Debt-to-Income Ratio
  • Assets and Liabilities

By verifying these details, the underwriter determines whether you have the ability and means to pay back the mortgage. The final loan amount is calculated after comparing historical data.

The underwriter looks at previous borrowers with similar risk profiles and their tendency to default. The estimated risk involved in lending money determines the monthly payment amount and interest rate.

How Long Does Underwriting Take?

The underwriting process generally takes a few days if all the documents are in order. If there are issues like missing documents or signatures, appraisal, or collateral, they can prolong the process by several weeks.

You need to respond quickly to any requests for information. If you need extra time to furnish documents, you need to inform your mortgage lender about the same. Make sure you stay in touch with your lender throughout the approval process.

    ✍️ Pro Tip: Get Mortgage Pre-Approval

    Getting a mortgage pre-approval means that you are eligible for a loan and have a good chance of getting approval when you apply for mortgage. It can speed up the underwriting and thereby the approval process later.

Tips for Improving Your Underwriting Experience

It is very important to get mortgage approval on time. You can close the deal and move into your new home on the decided date. Here are some tips to make your underwriting experience smooth.

1. Be Honest About Your Financial Situation

Submit all the required documents with the application. Don’t hide anything related to your income, assets, or credit history. If there are any missed payments or discrepancies in your credit report, give a letter of explanation with the documents. This makes the underwriter’s job easier and quicker.

2. Respond Quickly to Requests for Information

Whenever the underwriter or lender asks for additional documents or explanations, respond promptly. Regularly check your email and answer phone calls during the underwriting process. The underwriter may ask for clarity about a bank statement entry or a copy of a tax document. Make sure you respond quickly.

3. Don’t Take New Loans During Underwriting

Wait for the underwriting process to get over before applying for a new credit line or account. This can complicate your credit report. It can make you ineligible for the mortgage if the underwriter thinks you can’t repay the loan. Instead, reduce your existing debt and improve your debt-to-income ratio.

4. Organize Your Documents Before Applying

There is a whole list of documents that you need to submit with the loan application.

  • Income details in the form of pay stubs for the last one or two months
  • Employment details in the form of the last two years’ tax returns or business records
  • Past two years’ W-2s
  • Information about all the accounts including bank and investment accounts
  • Details of other income sources like dividends, commissions, pensions, interest, and annuities

Make sure you have all the documents in place before you apply for a loan. Hire a mortgage processor if you need help. Proper documentation can speed up the underwriting process.

5. Make a Larger Down Payment

It will be easier to qualify for the loan if you make a larger down payment upfront. The loan-to-value ratio will go down because you will essentially be borrowing less. The lender’s risk will get reduced consequently so your application is more likely to get approved.

Bottom Line

Underwriting is an essential and inevitable part of the mortgage approval process. To ensure quick approval, you need the underwriting to proceed smoothly. Submit all the required documents in order and be honest about your finances.

Communicate with your mortgage lender to understand what you are expected to contribute. The underwriter’s role is to save you from defaulting and the lender from losing money. Cooperate and get the finance to purchase your new home.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can the loan officer influence the underwriter?

The loan officer works with the underwriter to ensure that the underwriting process proceeds smoothly. However, loan officers are not allowed to influence the underwriters because it defeats the purpose of the process.

2. What happens when a mortgage goes to underwriting?

When your mortgage application goes to underwriting, the underwriter checks your credit history, income and employment details, and your assets. They determine your ability to repay the loan and approve and reject your application accordingly.

3. How long does underwriting take after appraisal?

The appraisal process takes one or two weeks. If the property’s appraised value is the same or more than the value claimed by the applicant, the loan process proceeds to underwriting.

4. How long from underwriting to closing?

The initial review of the application by the underwriter takes two to three days. The applicant gets conditional approval for one to two weeks during which the applicant needs to meet certain conditions that the underwriter may come up with during the detailed review. The applicant gets three days to acknowledge the Closing Disclosure.

5. What happens after underwriting?

After the underwriting process is over, you will get a Closing Disclosure. This document will contain the final details of your loan (the amount and interest rate), monthly payment amount, closing costs, and the down payment you need to pay at closing.

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