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What Does a Mortgage Underwriter Do?

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When you apply for a mortgage, you are making a major financial commitment. Your mortgage is something that will last many years (usually 15 or 30) and will probably cost quite a bit of money (the median home price in the United States is currently about $375,000). So before signing off on a commitment of this size, any mortgage company you consider working is going to want to do their due diligence.


There are many different people you will probably end up working with during the mortgage application process. Your real estate agent (which we strongly recommend working with) will help guide you along the way. Additionally, your loan officer(s) will be the main point of contact between you and the mortgage company.


But there is another key person in the mortgage process as well—a person that, in most cases, you will never directly interact with. This person is known as the underwriter and will usually be the deciding factor regarding whether or not you can secure a home.


By taking the time to understand the specific role of the underwriter, you can navigate the mortgage application process with greater ease—and possibly avoid a few headaches.

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What is a Mortgage Underwriter?

The mortgage underwriter is employed by the mortgage issuing company (and most mortgage issuers will have dozens of underwriters on staff). Their primary role is to help evaluate your mortgage application and, after a process that usually takes a few weeks, determines whether or not you can qualify for the mortgage you’ve applied for.

What Does the Mortgage Underwriter Do?

The mortgage underwriter will be responsible for looking at every component of your mortgage application and all of the documents you are asked to send over. Though you may have been “pre-qualified” for a mortgage automatically, the final approval process will almost always be done by hand and will typically include at least a few judgment decisions.


During the initial stages of the underwriting process, the underwriter will carefully consider each of the “Big 3 C’s” of underwriting, namely, your credit history, your capacity to pay, and the collateral you can offer. From the very beginning, they will want to confirm that you have an established credit history and have a credit score that meets their standards—your credit may be higher or lower than what you can find online for free, which may require making some adjustments.

The underwriter will also want to confirm that you have the capacity to begin making mortgage payments. This will usually involve showing recent pay stubs (or other proof of income), bank statements, and more. The underwriter will also take a close look at your other financial assets, your current debt (and corresponding debt payments), tax returns, and other variables that might affect your ability to make future mortgage payments.


Throughout the underwriting process, your underwriter might ask a lot of questions. There might be a large cash deposit in your bank statement they are curious about, they might want to verify additional income, and they might even ask about your retirement plans. The sooner you can send over any of the documents they are asking for, the sooner they will be able to complete the underwriting process.

When Does the Mortgage Underwriter

Make a Decision?

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When applying for a home loan, it is important to realize that there will be no final decisions until the closing day—even once your application has been approved, there are still a few events that can cause it to be denied (such as deciding to buy a car or otherwise significantly change your credit situation between approval and closing).


That being said, the amount of time it takes to complete the underwriting process will vary by loan application. In theory, mortgage underwriting can be completed in as little as two to three days. Having all of the paperwork available and having a relatively “easy” application will accelerate the process. Typically, however, the process will take one to two weeks to be completed.

There are three decisions a mortgage underwriter can potentially make: approved, denied, and decision pending. If approved, you will be “cleared to close”, which moves you one step closer to obtaining a home. If denied, you will likely need to wait, consider another lender (though it is likely they will make the same decision), or otherwise start over with the underwriting process. When the decision is pending, this usually means that more information is needed and that you will need to send over more documents.

How can I Speak Directly to my Mortgage Underwriter?

In most cases, you will never speak directly to the mortgage underwriter—instead, you will communicate with one or multiple loan officers who serve as an intermediary. These loan officers will let you know any paperwork that is needed, keep you updated on your loan application, and forward information to the loan officer, as needed.


The underwriting process can indeed be stressful. But with the right team by your side, you can continue checking the necessary boxes and move closer to closing.

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