Before a mortgage lender can finance your home purchase, you’ll need to show your lender that you’ll be able to afford to make your monthly mortgage payments.
As a borrower, you need to be ready to show documentation to back up all of the information on your mortgage application. (If you’re applying for a mortgage with another person, you’ll both need to document all of your income, assets, and debts.)
Rounding up financial records may not sound like a ton of fun, but remember: having these documents ready to go before you apply for a mortgage can save you from having to scramble to find some required piece of documentation later. Getting these documents in order before you apply for a mortgage will make applying for a mortgage that much simpler.
Proof of Income
If you are like most folks, you work for a living. Mortgage lenders want to know how your making your money, and more importantly, how much money you make.
If you’re employed and draw a regular paycheck, you’ll need your two most recent W-2s.
You’ll also need to show at least a month’s worth of recent paystubs: if you get paid weekly that’s at least four paystubs. If you’re only paid monthly, one or two will work.
You’ll definitely need your most recent tax returns, including all the pages and schedules and forms. To be on the safe side, have your most recent tax return and the return for the year before ready to go.
If you’re self-employed or you own a business, be ready to document all of your business income for the last two years. (That goes for folks with a part-time business or side hustle, too.) You may also need to show a profit and loss statement for the current year.
If your income varies, most lenders will use your income for the last two years to calculate a monthly average income.
You’ll be asked to send the lender bank statements for your checking and savings accounts.
The lender will check these statements against the income verification you’ve provided. Lenders aren’t looking to analyze your spending habits too carefully—so no need to worry about the embarrassing frequency with which you visit your local coffee shop.
Lenders want to see that your bank accounts reflect the sort of income you show with your tax returns and W-2s, and that buying a home won’t totally deplete your cash reserves.
They’re also concerned about the source of your down payment funds. If your accounts reflect a recent deposit of a sizeable chunk of change—say, a gift from a generous family member, or cash from the sale of stocks or some other asset—you’ll need documentation about where any extra money came from, and proof that you don’t need to pay that money back.
(Awkwardly, a lender may want proof that the person who gave you the gift has the resources to do so, which means a lender may ask to see not just your bank statements, but your generous Aunt Vera’s bank statements, too. If you can get that information before you apply for a mortgage, all the better. Otherwise, it may be worth it to let your generous relative know that there’s a chance you’ll need to ask for that information down the road.)
You’ll also need to document and verify any other assets you may have, including investment accounts or retirement accounts, or other real estate you already own.
Your lender will run your credit report to learn about your past and current debts. You’ll want to check your credit report yourself for any errors or negative reports before you apply for a mortgage, of course. Clear up any issues before you start a mortgage application.
Even though your lender will see most of your debts on your credit report, it’s helpful to have your own documentation for credit cards, student loans, auto loans, or other fixed debt. Know and be able to verify all of your account balances.
If you have any other debts that don’t show up on your credit report, your lender will want to know about those. That can include things like child support or alimony payments, or informal payments to a friend or relative.
Lenders will use the information about your debts to calculate your debt-to-income ratio, which will help them determine whether or not you qualify for a mortgage. So it’s important that you not make any sudden large purchases with your credit cards during your mortgage application—wait until after you get your new home to buy that new living room set.
Lenders will want a copy of your driver’s license or other state-issued ID, or your passport.
If you’re not a US citizen, you’ll need to show that you’re a lawful permanent resident (for most people, that’s a copy of your green card. If you’re in the US with some other visa, you’ll need to demonstrate that you’re not in the US temporarily.) And veterans will need a copy of their Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty to take advantage of mortgage programs for veterans.
If you’ve been renting a home, you’ll need to show that you’ve been paying your rent on time. That means you’ll need copies of canceled rent checks for the last year.
And if you’ve been to court recently, you’ll need copies of any final legal judgement or decree. (That includes documentation for bankruptcies in the last seven years, foreclosures, divorce decrees, or lawsuits to which you’ve been a party.)
Got all that? To recap:
Documents for a Mortgage Application
- Two most recent W-2s
- Paystubs for the last month
- Most recent tax return
- For business owners/self-employed:
- Tax returns for yourself and your business for the last two years
- Profit & loss statement for the current year
- Checking account balance and statements
- Savings account balance and statements
- Investment or retirement account balance and statements (if applicable)
- Titles for any assets you currently own (real estate, vehicles)
- Proof that any cash gift doesn’t need to be repaid (if applicable)
- Balances and most recent statements for credit cards, student loans, auto loans, or other debt.
- Documentation for any additional debt or obligations (child support, alimony, etc.)
- Copies of final divorce decree, bankruptcy discharge, or any other legal judgements (if applicable)
- Copy of your state-issued ID, driver’s license, and/or passport
- Copy of your Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (for veterans)
- Copy of your Green Card (for non-citizen permanent residents)
- Cancelled rent checks for the last year (if you’ve been renting)