If you’ve never purchased a home before, you’ll find out pretty quickly there’s plenty you don’t know. Pre-qualification. Pre-approval. Origination fees. Closing disclosure. So many terms. So many fees. Yikes.
The good news? Your loan officer is one of your best resources throughout the mortgage process. They can help you navigate all the ins and outs, and totally make (or break) your home buying experience. Understanding a loan officer’s role in the process before you get started is a great way to keep everything running smoothly.
Loan officers serve as a general consultant throughout the loan process and are your go-to contact from start to finish. A loan officer (LO) can help you through the application, underwriting, approval, and closing processes of the loan and can answer any questions you have along the way. They can recommend the best loan for your financial situation, keep you up-to-date on current rates, and get you pre-qualified and pre-approved for your loan.
Once you’re under contract, they can lock in your interest rate and help you gather any outstanding documents. And when it’s time to close, they’ll review the final closing disclosure with you to make sure everything is accurate. Like we said — loan officers do it all.
Steps in the process
So what does the lending process actually look like?
Here’s a quick outline:
- Choose a loan officer — do this before you start house shopping or choose a real estate agent so you know which houses fit your budget
- Phone interview with your LO to review your mortgage goals (purchase, refinance, etc.)
- Fill out the loan application and submit any documents needed for a pre-qualification
- Review your application, documents, and credit score with your LO to prepare for pre-qualification
- Receive pre-qualification letter from LO if approved, or if not, learn how to get pre-qualified soon
- Review the loans you’re qualified to borrow
- Send application for an official underwriting review to get pre-approved
- Receive contract and gather any further items needed to start processing the loan
- Review final closing disclosure
- Close the loan
You can make the process even easier if you come in with a little preparation. What should you know before you get started?
To help get you pre-qualified and pre-approved, you’ll want to keep your credit situation in top shape.
- Don’t apply for any other credit cards or loans (even though it’s hard to stop daydreaming about that brand new living room setup, we know)
- Pay all your bills on time
- Keep your credit card balance under 30% of your total available limit
- Avoid making major changes to your employment situation (banks want to feel good about your steady income when approving you for a big loan)
If your credit score is less-than-stellar, your loan officer can help you figure out the best way to boost your score quickly.
And before you get started, you’ll always want to save more money than you expect to spend. Beyond your down payment, be prepared to pay any closing costs (they’re easy to forget about when you’re focused on the early stages of the loan process). And having an additional emergency fund set aside also never hurts. Your loan officer can help you figure out an estimate for how much you should expect to save for the whole process.
Good vs. great
Purchasing a home you’ll enjoy for years to come is a huge accomplishment — so much life happens there! Knowing what makes a great LO (and a great lender) stand out will help ensure your home buying experience is a happy one. Then you’ll have plenty of energy left to make those important homeowner decisions — like whether you should paint the living room Wolf, Mist, or Cement.
Your loan officer is your best ally throughout the loan process. They’re there to guide you through every step, from your pre-qualification to closing the loan. That’s why choosing the right lender is essential to making your home buying process something to look forward to, and not a giant pain in the you-know-what.
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Note: All opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and are in no way affiliated with any other organization or institution. There are many risks involved when investing in financial assets. Any strategies discussed here are done for the sole purpose of putting personal finance, investments, financial markets and the psychology of the market into a common sense point of view. Credit scores are the property of the credit reporting agencies and information provided in this article does not guarantee an increase in a person’s individual credit score.