Applying for a Mortgage – Top Dos and Don’ts
buying-a-home | Read Time: 3 minutes
By Jeffrey M. Ruben | Published: May 2023
Buying a home for the first time is likely the largest purchase people will make at that point in their lives. And for those looking to upgrade their home, the financial stakes are higher.
With that comes a lot of preparation, responsibility, and even stress. A recent WSFS Mortgage survey found that 37% of prospective homebuyers chose a “a quick and easy pre-approval process” as one of the top three things they want out of their mortgage lender. There are steps prospective homebuyers can take—and avoid—to make the mortgage application and approval process smoother.
Use these tips as a guide for your mortgage application and homebuying experience.
Do: Assess Your True Buying Power
It is easy to start dreaming about a new home and lose sight of how much you can actually afford. We all want to purchase the best home we can, but it is key to stay grounded in your search and expectations.
Start by taking a deep dive into your finances and credit history, and pull together information your lender will need to make a borrowing decision, such as:
- Pay stubs or W-2 forms that show your income.
- Your federal income tax returns for at least the past two years.
- Current bank and investment account statements.
- A driver’s license or passport to prove your identity.
- Information on any outstanding debts, such as student loans, that show your balances and monthly payments.
Don’t: Provide Incomplete or Inaccurate Information
The pre-approval process will provide you with a letter that states how much home you can afford, that you can share with a seller, so they know you are serious with your offer. Your true buying power, however, will ultimately hinge on the accuracy of the financial information you provide.
Do: Research, Research, Research
There are specialized government programs, such as FHA, for first-time homebuyers as well as lenders’ programs designed to assist with upfront costs while providing educational resources.
Some lenders also offer homebuying programs designed to help individuals and families of varying income levels find an affordable home through down payment and closing cost assistance.
Do your due diligence by researching programs offered by your lender and state, local and federal agencies that may be able to help you financially.
Don’t: Go on a Shopping Spree
Make sure you keep your checking and savings account balances as high as possible while searching for and financing a home, and pay off revolving credit like credit cards. Keeping balances on credit cards can have a negative impact on how much your mortgage is approved for.
Another factor to consider is that if a home you want has multiple bids, the seller will likely go with the potential buyer with the most solid financials to help avoid the deal falling through prior to or at closing.
As you continue the homebuying and financing process, work closely with your mortgage advisor and realtor to identify any financial gaps that need to be addressed before making an offer to bolster your buying power and set you on a course for a successful home purchase.
About the Author – Jeffrey M. Ruben
Jeffrey M. Ruben is the President of WSFS Mortgage. He joined WSFS through its acquisition of Array Financial, a full-service mortgage banking organization, and Arrow Land Transfer in August 2013. Jeff formed Array and Arrow in 2005, having previously held senior executive roles at financial and legal institutions.
The study was conducted by research company Opinium. The sample includes 1,000 national respondents and 1,032 in the Greater Philadelphia and Delaware region who reside in five southeastern Pennsylvania counties (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia), four southern New Jersey counties (Atlantic, Burlington, Camden and Gloucester), and all three Delaware counties (Kent, Sussex and New Castle). All respondents were between the ages of 25 and 65. The online survey was conducted from February 1-8, 2023, with a combined regional and national margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.
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