When is the Best Time to Apply for a Mortgage?

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Contributor, Benzinga
November 7, 2023

Applying for a mortgage and purchasing a home is a significant step. Did you know that when you apply for a mortgage can affect the interest you pay at closing? There is an optimal time to apply for preapproval and a best time to close, but in most cases, your financial status will determine the best time to apply. 

When is the best time to apply for a mortgage? Learn the pros and cons of peak seasons for mortgage approval and when to apply here. 

When Should I Apply For a Mortgage Loan?

You can apply for a mortgage at any time — there is no wrong time to apply. Consider the following factors to time your mortgage for greater advantages. 

1. Evaluate Your Financial Situation

Personal timing is more important than market timing when applying for a mortgage. Determine whether you are financially stable and capable of taking on a mortgage. Build savings, and look at your debt-to-income ratio and credit score to determine strengths and weaknesses potential creditors will see. 

Consider how much down payment you can afford and whether you can build additional savings or pay off debt before applying. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) offers additional guidance on applying for your first mortgage. 

2. Check the Current State of the Housing Market

Housing trends change regularly. Local realtors can give you insights into trends. You can keep an eye on trends in home prices, interest rates and availability. Remember that housing markets are often neighborhood-specific, so you should find a trusted real estate agent to connect you with local trends. You can also consider larger regional factors such as job growth, the economy and the local real estate industry.

3. Look at Your Personal Situation

A home is a big commitment of time and money. Determine whether you are ready to commit to a home and the responsibilities that come with it. Consider the time you'll need to maintain a property and deal with unexpected expenses. From the financial side, assess job stability, savings and whether you plan to stay in the area long-term. 

4. Consider the Season

The best time to apply for a mortgage varies depending on the season. Spring and summer are typically considered the busiest for the housing market. Applying for a mortgage during the fall or winter may result in less competition and better rates. You may also enjoy faster mortgage preapproval and closing times. Some real estate agents also recommend applying for preapproval at the beginning of the month to speed up the process. 

5. Talk to a Mortgage Professional

Consult with a mortgage professional to help determine the best time to apply. Some professionals suggest that you'll pay less interest on closing at the end of the month, and you may get faster approval from a mortgage lender at the beginning of the month.

A mortgage professional can provide expert advice and guidance based on your specific financial situation and goals as well as current trends among local lenders. Find the best mortgage lenders for self-employed professionals here. 

Pros and Cons of Applying For a Mortgage During Peak Seasons

Spring and summer are considered the busiest for the housing market. The weather is warm, days are longer, flowers are in bloom and landscaping can create a good first impression. Warmer weather is also open house season, with more properties listed during these busy months. Here are the pros and cons of buying in peak times to decide when to apply for a home loan.

Advantages

  • Choices: The key advantage of applying for a mortgage in spring and summer is that there are more houses on the market. Many homeowners won't bother listing their properties until spring, which can make winter house searches bleak. Spring and summer mean more inventory to choose from. 
  • Better interest rates: Spring and summer can also bring more competitive interest rates from lenders who look to secure more mortgages during these months. It can also bring higher interest rates, so be sure to shop around.  
  • Flexibility to move: For families with school-age children, summer can give you more time to move and settle into a new home before the new school year begins. That alone is why summer is one of the most popular seasons to make a move. 

Disadvantages 

  • Competition: Higher demand means more competition. You could find yourself outbid or your dream home sold while you're getting mortgage pre-approval. 
  • Longer wait times: Applying for a mortgage can also take longer as lenders process additional applications during these months. You'll have to wait longer for approval and closing. 
  • Higher prices: High seasons can also mean higher prices. You could get caught in a bidding war, pay more than you'd hoped or get priced out of a property.

How Long Does it Take to Get Approved for a Mortgage?

How long it takes to get approved for a mortgage depends on your financial situation, the lender and the market. Mortgage approval can take anywhere between 30 days to several months. 

You can speed up the process by first obtaining a mortgage prequalification letter. You could get mortgage preapproval in as little as three days, but it could also take up to three months. After mortgage preapproval, final mortgage approval can take as little as 2½ weeks.  As a home buyer, you are advised to check your credit score, credit report, and credit history before applying for a home loan for faster approval.

When to Apply for a Mortgage

Applying for a mortgage when you have prepared financially can offer the greatest opportunities for your desired home and neighborhood. You can get a mortgage in any season, although spring and summer are the busy seasons with more opportunities. It's worth checking interest rates and speaking with mortgage lenders and real estate agents about market trends to secure prequalification before interest rates or prices rise. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

When is the best time to apply for a mortgage?

A

The best time to apply for a mortgage is when you’re financially prepared and have a good credit score, savings, down payment and a low debt-to-income ratio. You may also get lower interest rates in winter, but that depends on larger market trends.

Q

How do I know if I'm eligible for a mortgage?

A

You should look at your income, credit score and savings to determine eligibility for a mortgage. Lenders will approve traditional mortgages only if they don’t cause your debt-to-income ratio to surpass 43%. That means your total debt (credit cards, student loans, cars and medical expenses) added to the mortgage value doesn’t surpass 43% of your income.

Q

How far in advance should I apply for a mortgage?

A

You can get a mortgage preapproval up to a year before purchasing a home. Preapprovals are usually good for up to 90 days, but you can renew the preapproval until you’re ready to finalize a home purchase.

Get Ready for Take Off

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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.