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How long does it take to get a home loan? Longer than you might think.

The average potential homeowner doesn’t have the full purchase price of her dream home just sitting patiently in the bank, waiting to be hand-delivered to the seller. Most people need to secure additional financial support in order to purchase a home.

This financing is what is more commonly known as a mortgage. Currently, about 64% of Americans have a mortgage on their homes. Of that 64%, 65% currently still owe a bit of money to the bank before the home is totally theirs.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Home Loan?

Rule number one of getting a mortgage: don’t wait until you want to make an offer on a house to apply for one!

You should start the mortgage application process as soon as you know you are in the market for a new home. This is because the loan approval timeline, even in its most condensed form, can still take 3 weeks to a month to completely work through.

Buying a home is one of the biggest financial commitments you will make in your lifetime. Obtaining the funds for this commitment is not something to be taken lightly.

Here’s the general timeline you can expect when applying for home financing:

Step One: Find the Lender that is Right for You

Timeline: Up to 7 Days

It’s important to do your research to determine which kind of lender and loan is a good fit for your current financial situation and personal financial goals.

You should start your mortgage research online, but be sure to also visit your local bank or credit union. This is because you can sit down with a mortgage loan officer. When you are thinking about beginning a 30-year financial commitment, it’s always a plus to talk with an actual person about your specific situation.

The officer can check your credit and let you know what you can expect to pay in interest on your loan. He can also tell you what terms you can expect in your contract. In terms of interest, it’s important to also consider a loan’s APR, or annual percentage rate. This covers the total cost of the loan over its lifetime, including start-up fees and other costs.

Remember that the Fair Isaac Corporation (you probably know it as FICO) allows people to check their credit scores as much as they want while they “rate shop” within a 14-day period. So don’t be afraid to meet with multiple loan officers!

Step Two: Obtain your Mortgage Prequalification Letter

Timeline: 1 to 3 days.

As you meet with these mortgage loan officers, be sure to obtain a mortgage prequalification letter from each of them. A prequalification letter is a notice that informs you how big of a loan a particular lender is willing to offer you.

It’s important to have this letter as you begin the house hunting process. This is because you can “add” the funds from your prequalification letter to the money you have in savings to get a more realistic idea of the kinds of homes you can afford.

Remember: a prequalification letter is NOT legally binding. Think of it as a free quote.

You provide a lender with the following things:

  • Your income
  • Your credit history
  • Your assets
  • Your current debt
  • The size of your down payment

The lender will assess these facts about your financial situation and then offer you a number. The more honest you are when applying for your mortgage prequalification letter, the more accurate the results will be.

How long does it take to get a home loan? A whole lot longer if you are not truthful. If you follow the process, getting a prequalification letter should only take 1 to 3 days.

Step Three: Obtain Mortgage Preapproval

Timeline: 3 days to several months

3 days to several months? What? That’s a pretty big gap.

This part of the process is where telling the truth during the prequalification process comes in handy.

If you were truthful with your mortgage loan officer, then he should be able to verify your income, debts, credit score, etc. and give you a mortgage pre-approval letter. This letter lets you and the seller know exactly which kind of loan you are preapproved for (and in which amount).

If, however, you weren’t entirely truthful during the prequalification stage, or you have a particularly complicated financial situation, the process can take way longer.

Here is a list of things that might slow down the preapproval process when getting a home loan:

  • You are self-employed
  • You own other properties
  • You are divorced
  • You have filed for bankruptcy
  • You are not a permanent US resident
  • You have charges filed against you

It’s usually worth it to wait until you have a pre-approval letter before you start to make offers on homes, as most sellers prefer this to prequalification letters.

To help the process along, you should bring the following documents when applying for pre-approval:

  • Driver’s license
  • Social Security card
  • Most recent 2 months of bank statements
  • Most recent 30 days of pay stubs
  • Most recent 2 years of W-2s
  • Most recent 2 years of federal tax returns

Step Four: Obtain Final Mortgage Approval

Timeline: Up to 14 Days

You found your dream home. You made an offer based on your preapproval letter. The seller accepted the offer! Now what? Is it time for closing?

Not quite.

First, you need to obtain final mortgage approval. This can take up to two weeks. This is because an appraiser from the lending agency needs to inspect the home. The appraiser will decide if the home is worth the amount of money you are asking for it.

This part of the process depends entirely on the schedule of the appraiser. Once the inspection is complete, the lender’s final decision will arrive within one or two business days.

Looking for a Realtor to walk you through the loan process? Contact Clever today to find a full-service, flat fee agent that is local and will sell your home for $3,000 or 1% on homes over $350,000.Call us today at  1-833-2-CLEVER or fill out our online form to get started. 


Andrew Schmeerbauch

Andrew Schmeerbauch is the Director of Marketing at Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you top agents to save on commission. His focus is educating home buyers and sellers on navigating the complex world of real estate with confidence and ease. Andrew has worked on projects for the United Nations and USC and has a particular passion for investing and finance. Andrew's writing has been featured in Mashvisor, L&T, Ideal REI, and Rentometer.

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