Documents Needed for Mortgage Pre-Approval

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Contributor, Benzinga
April 3, 2024

Gathering documents needed for mortgage pre-approval is an important first step in the home-buying process. Even if you're not sure whether you're ready to buy a house, getting a mortgage pre-approval will show you how much you can afford. And if you're ready to buy, a pre-approval will give you a competitive advantage and ensure a faster closing process. Here's a comprehensive list of everything you need to compare pre-approval rates. 

Quick Look: Documents Needed for Mortgage Pre Approval

  • Personal identification
  • Income verification
  • Employment verification
  • Assets and debt documents

Overview of the Mortgage Pre-Approval Process

Mortgage pre-approval is an initial step toward getting a mortgage that tells you how much you can borrow and what interest rates you can expect. Pre-approval is not final approval; your final mortgage amount could still vary. 

Mortgage pre-approval comes with several key benefits. A mortgage pre-approved will tell you the amount you can likely borrow, so you're shopping in the right price range. This step will save time in the long run. It also reassures your real estate agent and seller that you're a qualified buyer. It can also help you stand apart from other buyers when bidding on a home. 

Mortgage Pre-Approval Checklist for Documents

What documents do you need for mortgage pre-approval? It's easier to gather everything with a checklist. Here are all the documents needed for mortgage pre-approval. 

1. Identification Documents

Identification is necessary to confirm you're the same person they believe they're lending to and not someone pretending to be you. Valid identification documents must be government-issued and have a photo. This includes a state-issued driver’s license or ID card, passport or U.S. alien registration card.

2. Income Verification Documents

Income verification is necessary to confirm your debt-to-income ratio and determine the maximum mortgage amount. Income verification documents include pay stubs from the past few months and tax returns from the past two years. You could show pay stubs with an actual stub or electronic copies of pay stubs. You may also need to show bank statements and investment accounts if you're self-employed. 

3. Employment Verification Documents

Employment verification is necessary to confirm your stable employment position and ability to make monthly mortgage payments. You'll need to fill out a verification of employment form with contact information for your employer. 

4. Assets and Debts Documents

Assets and debt documentation is used to determine your debt-to-income ratio. Lenders use the debt-to-income ratio to calculate the maximum loan amount and eligibility. You may be asked to provide bank, credit card and loan statements for the past few months. 

Possible debts to report include:

  • Car loans
  • Student loans
  • Credit cards
  • Personal loans
  • Medical bills
  • Rent or mortgage
  • Home insurance
  • Homeowners association (HOA) fees

5. Additional Documents

Additional documentation, if you have them, should include:

  • Gift letter if you're receiving a downpayment as a gift from a family member or friend
  • Rental information 
  • Landlord references
  • Purchase contract for the house
  • Homeowner’s insurance policy

You don't need to provide the purchase contract or insurance if you haven't found a house. But if you're renting, landlord references can help improve your mortgage pre-approval. Gift letters are important to trace sudden large deposits in your bank account. 

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Tips for Collecting and Organizing Documents for Mortgage Pre-Approval

With so many documents to gather, the following tips can help organize documents needed for mortgage pre-approval. 

Start Early and Stay Organized

When it comes to documents needed for preapproval, start early to organize everything. While some items, like ID, are easy to gather, you'll need to leave time to gather paystubs, download bank statements and find information on investment accounts. You can make a spreadsheet that lists all debts and then gather proof for each, like credit card statements, car loan information, student loan debt and other debt obligations.  

Ask Your Lender for a Checklist of Required Documents

Most lenders will provide a checklist of required documents. It may vary slightly from lender to lender. Once you've gathered the required information, you can keep it all in a digital folder and a physical folder, including photocopies of your digital ID, so you can easily prevent all information to lenders. 

Keep Electronic and Hard Copies of All Documentation

Electronic and hard copies of all documentation make it easier to share information with lenders. It also ensures that all the time you spent gathering information is backed up with multiple copies. 

Be Prepared to Provide Additional Documents if Requested

Lenders may ask for additional documents like gift receipts, business profit and loss statements, savings information or additional proof of income, depending on your situation. Self-employed individuals or small business owners must show alternative proof of income, including bank statements, tax returns and business cash flow information.  

What Happens After Submitting Your Documents For Pre-Approval?

After submitting your documents, lenders check your credit and debt-to-income ratio before issuing a preapproval letter. If you aren't pre-approved right away, you might hear back from the lender requesting additional documentation or with reasons for denying the pre-approval. 

If you're pre-approved, you'll receive a prequalification letter in the mail or digitally. A prequalification letter is typically valid for 30 to 60 days, but mortgage pre-approval validity could be up to 90 days. How long it takes to get mortgage pre-approval varies. It usually takes 7-10 days, although you may hear back from the lender sooner. 

Final Tips on Documents for Home Loan Pre-Approval

Remember that gathering documents needed for home loan pre-approval is the first step to securing a mortgage for your new home. The time it takes to prepare everything carefully can help ensure that you get the best possible mortgage rate by providing lenders with sufficient information. 
In gathering documents, you might also find opportunities to improve your case, pay off debt or boost your credit score. With some planning now, a mortgage pre-approval could lead to the home of your dreams.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

What documents do I need for mortgage pre-approval?

A

You will typically be required to provide proof of income (pay stubs or tax returns), proof of assets (bank statements or investment account statements) and personal identification documents (such as a driver’s license).

Q

Do I need to provide documents for my spouse or co-borrower as well?

A

Yes, if you are applying for a mortgage with a spouse or co-borrower, they must also provide the same documents.

Q

What if I can't provide all the required documents?

A

If you are missing any required documents, speak with your lender to see if they can accept alternative forms of documentation or if there are exceptions they can make in your specific situation.

About Alison Plaut

Alison Plaut is a personal finance and investing writer with a sustainable MBA, passionate about helping people learn more about wealth building and responsible debt for financial freedom. She has more than 17 years of writing experience, focused on real estate and mortgages, business, personal finance, and investing. Her work has been published in The Motley Fool, MoneyLion, and she regularly contributes to Benzinga.