Once your offer on your dream home is accepted, it doesn’t mean you can just grab the keys and move in. If you need a mortgage, securing this home loan takes time. The good news is that it’s faster now than ever.
According to a recent three-year study by LendingTree, the length of time it takes to get a mortgage—aka closing—is an average of 40 days in 2019. That’s down from 51 days in 2018, and 74 days in 2017.
And here’s some good news for homeowners who’ve already moved in: The time it takes to refinance a mortgage is also dwindling. Refinancing takes an average of 38 days in 2019, down from 43 in 2018, and 55 days in 2017.
Home buyers should be thrilled to hear that the mortgage process is speeding up—who doesn’t want to move into their new home as quickly as possible? Earlier closing times can also save home buyers money, especially if they are paying high rent or having to find temporary housing while waiting to move into the new home.
Why it takes less time to get a mortgage today
The digitization of the mortgage process is the main reason for the shorter closing times, according to the LendingTree report. The mortgage industry has become increasingly digital since the 2008 financial crisis, when companies operating in the paper-centric system of the past lost or misrecorded some details from their clients, causing problems and legal issues during the foreclosures that often followed.
Since then, some lenders have created new mobile-friendly products to speed up the mortgage-approval process. For example, Quicken Loans launched the app Rocket Mortgage in 2015 to help borrowers close earlier than the industry standard, reportedly sometimes as quickly as eight days.
Another factor contributing to shorter closing times is that mortgage volumes have been decreasing, says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree. However, he says that given the recent drop in interest rates, “that’s kind of reversed itself a little bit, but we’re still seeing shorter times than in 2018.”
The LendingTree study also found that loans for smaller amounts took longer to close. Loans of under $150,000 averaged 47 days, versus 39 days for those above the conforming loan limit, which is $484,350 in 2019.
“You’d think something being more valuable or bigger risk for the lender, they might take a little bit more time with it, but it’s the exact opposite,” Kapfidze says. One possible reason is that lenders may require a more extensive appraisal for lower-priced homes, which might have some type of damage or other problem.
How to get a mortgage fast
So what can consumers do to reduce as much as possible the length of time it takes to get a mortgage? To speed up the closing process, Kapfidze urges home buyers to choose a lender with a more digital, less paper-driven process. Before signing on with any lender, ask if the company can digitally link to a borrower’s bank, the IRS, or other institution to get information to process the mortgage, since this is the key to a speedy approval.
Online lenders make it easier for borrowers to compare mortgages, and they often offer better rates and faster approvals, but they come with less customer service, so they may not work well for complex home loans. Mortgage industry experts suggest that borrowers look over the application process, check out online reviews of the company, and make sure it is registered with the Better Business Bureau before they sign up.
Here’s more on how to get a mortgage fast:
Work on your credit score
Before starting the home-buying process, make sure your credit score is in check. According to the LendingTree study, consumers with higher credit scores saw shorter closing times.
People with a credit score of above 760 have an average 38-day closing time in 2019, while closings take an average of 45 days for those with scores of below 720.
Have your financial documentation in order
“A lot of the delay in closing times is just the back-and-forth between the lender and the borrower,” Kapfidze says. He suggests having all documentation well-organized and easy to access, so that it doesn’t take long to send it to the lender.
Also, make sure that all the information that you provide is accurate, he says. If a mortgage lender goes to verify something and finds a discrepancy in what a borrower provided, that can slow things down.
The exact documentation that borrowers need to provide depends on the type of loan they’re seeking, but generally, the required documents relate to a borrower’s income, assets, and employment, such as a W-2 form, pay stubs for the previous 30 days, and bank statements. Borrowers also need valid identification, a loan application, a contract for the home purchase, and homeowner insurance contact information.
Get pre-approved for a mortgage
Many loan experts urge home buyers to get pre-approved for a mortgage before they start shopping for a home, especially if their financial situation is complex. A pre-approval helps buyers better understand what type of home they can afford and can shorten closing times.
“You’re going to have to go through this process at some point anyway, so you might as well get it out of the way upfront as quickly as you can,” says Hayden Hodges, a Dallas-based mortgage loan officer at U.S. Bank. “I would want to know what my ceiling is, what my conditions are, as quickly as I can, as opposed to perhaps getting into unnecessary fire drills towards the end of a transaction.”
Lenders can work quickly to get borrowers pre-approved. Borrowers can speed up the process even more by providing all the documentation needed for pre-approval, Hodges says.
Make sure you have cash on hand
Having cash available to supply earnest money and to pay closing costs can help you close faster, Kapfidze says. Some closing costs need to be paid in cash, so make sure you can easily access the funds.
“You don’t want to get to closing, and it’s like, ‘Hey, you need to have a $12,000 check,’ and then realizing your money’s not liquid,” he says.