I guess since we have standards again, folks are experiencing real mortgage underwriting - perhaps for the first time. That's good but it sure is generating questions. I've had numerous e-mails over the past few weeks and decided to post answers to a few questions here.
In my pre-title life, I was a mortgage underwriter - FHA direct endorsement, VA automatic approval and FNMA/FHLMC. I had the pleasure of managing a couple of high volume retail/wholesale underwriting departments, so when you ask "What happens in mortgage underwriting?", I'll use my experience to answer that question. I say that because the automated pre-underwriting takes place earlier in the transaction and so when your file "goes to underwriting" it's going to a human being.
The biggest question on everyone's mind is how long will it take?
The actual file review will take about an hour if your case is fairly straight forward and the underwriter has the experience to make decisions on the risks identified in your circumstance.
Most of the time lost "in underwriting" is waiting for your turn at the decision table. When I managed underwriting departments our goal was always to get a file in and out inside of 24 hours. In high volume situations we shot for 48 hours, but the reality is that sometimes the flow of files due to rate fluctuations can be overwhelming and the wait can be days.
Why? Well, human underwriters are highly trained individuals and there aren't many of them, especially these days. Mortgage lenders are recreating and retraining underwriting teams.
So, are there any tips on how to make the process work for you - maybe make your file go through a bit faster? Your job as a borrower is to first have patience. Secondly, provide as much clear concise documentation as you can to demonstrate you have assets, stable income and a credit profile that demonstrates a willingness to repay the debt.
If you fight with your loan officer and complain about having to provide information, your loan officer might be forced to send your file into underwriting without sufficient data to convince the underwriter that you are a good risk or that your circumstances meet the guidelines of the program. So, your file will wait it's turn only to go into suspense or worst yet, be rejected. If that happens, you end up having to provide the data then go back into a waiting line again.
So, be your own best friend, realize that the mortgage underwriting guidelines - while they may seem onerous - are there for a reason - one that you may not understand, however, if you need a mortgage, you've got to play the game. Be honest but be thorough. Help your mortgage lender find in your financial profile a willing and able borrower.
If you can't do that honestly, then wait until you can. Fudging the data is fraud and criminal. If you cannot yet demonstrate stability of income or a willingness to repay debt, then start now and create your new financial future by being a more conservative manager of your money. After a year or two of a new financial profile, you should be able to get through the underwriting process successfully.
Hope that helps and good luck. ;)