If you’ve ever bought a house, you’re probably familiar with hearing “your loan is in underwriting” and then playing the waiting game until it “comes out of underwriting.” It’s one of the steps in the process of getting a loan and often one of the most frustrating. But what exactly is underwriting?
Underwriting is viewed as a mystical place where loans go somewhere between the time of preapproval and final issuance of the loan documents. Underwriters are kept in secret and you’d be surprised to know that many real estate agents have never met an underwriter face to face (or if they did, they didn’t know it). Loan underwriting is truly a world shrouded in mystery and for good reason – if we all knew our underwriters, it would be very easy for agents to poke and prod an underwriter to get things done. Underwriters would be under a daily assault of phone calls from agents trying to find out where they were in the process and in effect, would be rendered unable to do much more than answer the telephone. This is why lenders keep them locked away in dark caves in highly classified locations.*
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines underwriting as follows:
underwriting – transitive verb
4 a : to agree to purchase (as security issue) usually on a fixed date at a fixed price with a view to public distribution b : to guarantee financial support of (underwrite a project)
What’s Taking So Long? Underwriting.
To put it simply, the underwriter looks at all the supporting documents and says “yes, I think this is a safe loan to make, let’s do it.” Of course they can say the opposite too. This is how some people get preapproved, yet wind up getting turned down for a loan. The underwriter is pretty much all powerful when it comes to you getting your loan. Because of their ultimate power, you and your real estate agent need to pay special attention during the underwriting process.
It all boils down to this: if the underwriter asks for something, you as a homebuyer, better do it. They will ask for ridiculous things at times. Doesn’t matter. They’ll ask for copies of things you’ve sent them four times already. Doesn’t matter. They’ll ask you to move a comma in a sentence in a document you have sent to them. Doesn’t matter. They’ll ask for more information on something you’ve already documented to death. Doesn’t matter. Underwriting is about the lender covering all their bases – all that documentation you send in stays in a file and if something ever goes wrong (you default on your loan), the investor will want the lender to justify their underwriting of the loan.
Underwriting can be a nightmare for a homebuyer (and a seller as well – the longer underwriting takes, the more nervous they become), but by being proactive and jumping through the hoops, you can get your loan in and out much faster and save some of the headaches caused by underwriting. Typically, your agent will also know what the underwriter needs to complete their job, so they may bug you about it too – the key? Get it done. Right away. Don’t put it off and don’t frustrate yourself with trying to find the answer to “why are they asking for this?,” they have their reasons and it doesn’t really matter what they are (although we can discuss them to death, the underwriter will still want them).
Of special note: it pays to have a local lender for your loan, because they often have better, more direct contact with their underwriting departments and can often help a file through the process by being able to have direct access to the underwriter should a problem arise. With some of the larger banks, their loan processing centers might be halfway across the country and you lose that personal one-on-one interaction between your loan officer and underwriter that can help get things done.
* We have no actual proof that lenders keep underwriters locked in caves or that underwriting is actually an ancient mystic art involving a combination of wizardry and voodoo.
image courtesy of GotCredit