7 documents you need when applying for a home loan

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7 documents you need when applying for a home loan

By JOHN KUO

Getting a mortgage in 2017 requires more paperwork than it did in 2007. In the years leading up to the Great Recession, it was relatively easy to get a mortgage. Lenders offered loans to borrowers without thoroughly vetting them.

Unfortunately, many borrowers couldn't afford their mortgages and ended up defaulting, which is often cited as a catalyst for the Great Recession. As a result, Congress began requiring creditors to better assess borrowers' ability to repay their loans. To judge a mortgage applicant's ability to repay, lenders must account for the homebuyer's assets, debt-to-income ratio and credit history.

The exact forms you need for a home loan depend on your situation. For example, someone who is self-employed will likely have to provide different forms than someone who is employed by a company.

Although the exact forms might vary, Todd Huettner, owner of Huettner Capital, a residential and commercial real estate lender, says a lender can get a good sense of your approval odds by checking out your recent pay stubs, bank statements, W-2 forms and tax returns.

Huettner says that with these documents, he's able to make a good assessment of the borrower. "These documents allow me to tell (borrowers) what they can and cannot do with a very high level of certainty," he says.

Depending on your unique situation, here are seven documents you might need when applying for a home loan.

1. Tax returns

Mortgage lenders want to get the full story of your financial situation. You'll probably need to sign a Form 4506-T, which allows the lender to request a copy of your tax returns from the IRS.

Lenders generally want to see one to two years' worth of tax returns. This is to make sure your annual income is consistent with your reported earnings through pay stubs and there aren't huge fluctuations from year to year.

2. Pay stubs, W-2s or other proof of income

Lenders may ask to see your pay stubs from the past month or so. Your tax returns help give them a clear idea of your overall financial health, while pay stubs help them gauge your current earnings. If you're self-employed or have other sources of income (such as child support), you may need to show your lender proof through 1099 forms, direct deposits or other means.

3. Bank statements and other assets

When assessing your risk profile, lenders may want to look at your bank statements and other assets. This can include your investment assets as well as your insurance, such as life insurance.

Lenders typically request these documents to make sure you have several months' worth of reserve mortgage payments in your account in case of an emergency. They also check to see that your down payment has been in your account for at least a few months and did not just show up overnight.

4. Credit history

In order to assess you as a borrower, lenders often pull your credit report -- with your verbal or written permission.

According to Bruce Ailion, a real estate agent in Atlanta, you may need to explain any blemishes on your credit report. Blemishes might include a previous short sale or a foreclosure.

"You should be prepared to write a statement that explains negative items on your credit report," Ailion says. "This helps a lender evaluate what kind of risk you are. Lenders may look at one-time unavoidable circumstances differently from habitual delinquency."

5. Gift letters

Your friends and family might help you buy a house by giving you money. If that's the case, you'll need to provide a written confirmation the money is indeed a gift and not a loan. The documentation should list their relationship to you as well as the amount of the gift.

6. Photo ID

You'll likely need to provide a photo ID, such as a driver's license. This is simply to prove you are who you're claiming to be.

7. Renting history

For buyers who don't already own a home, many lenders will request proof that you can pay on time. They may ask for a year's worth of canceled rent checks (check that your landlord has cashed). Or, they might ask your landlord to provide documentation showing that you paid your rent on time. Your renting history is especially important if you don't have an extensive credit history.

Bottom line

Your lender's goal is to assess you as a borrower and ensure you can make your payments on time. As such, you'll need to provide them with documents that paint an accurate picture of your creditworthiness.

The typical homebuyer will have to provide information about their assets, debts, income and credit history. However, the exact documents lenders need could vary from person to person.

About the Author: John Kuo is a personal finance writer living in Northern California. He writes about mortgages, small businesses and taxes. His work has been featured in numerous outlets such as The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. In his free time, he likes to play bocce ball and paint.

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