In late March 2016, I saw my house for the very first time. It was love at first sight, but my husband Tyler and I weren't really ready to buy a home.
As 27-year-old newlyweds who were perfectly happy in our 650-square-foot Manhattan apartment, we were in no rush to relocate to the suburbs.
We were simply looking for fun, and since we knew we'd someday want to move, we thought it might be useful to browse casually to figure out what we did or didn't want, like, or need in a home, so we'd know once the time came to buy one.
But of course, since we weren't looking seriously, and we weren't desperate or in any sort of hurry, we found the one.
After having a few very serious discussions, talking to our families, looking at our finances, and reading what felt like a million articles about the home-buying process, we decided we'd regret it forever if we didn't make an offer.
So, on April 1, we did just that. And they accepted! (Well, there was some negotiating — but in the end, we settled on a price very close to what we had initially offered.)
On April 7, we went into contract and began applying for our mortgage. That's when we officially started the home-buying process.
Thirty-three days later, on May 10, our mortgage was approved and we were cleared to close. The following week we signed all the papers, handed over the down-payment, and officially owned our new home.
While this isn't unheard of, since we were first-time buyers, it could have reasonably taken much longer.
Looking back, there's one smart thing I did at the very beginning of the process that helped it move along quickly … and it's a trick anyone can use: I anticipated what the mortgage lender might later ask for and submitted it all up front.
When we applied for our mortgage, we were asked to submit:
- Two months worth of pay stubs
- Two years worth of W-2s
- Three months worth of bank statements for all checking and savings accounts in our names
- Letters confirming our employment
- Retirement account balances
- Gift letters for any deposits over $5,000 (if the money wasn't a loan)
- Proof of homeowners insurance (we had to get a policy before we could apply for our mortgage)
- Documentation on any other assets
The one thing I kept hearing from friends and family who'd gone through the home-buying process was: "The bank is going to ask you for more proof of this, and more proof of that!" (Jacquelyn Smith/Business Insider)
So, as I began gathering all the required documents, I took some time to research and think about what else the underwriters could possibly want from us in order to make a decision on whether they'd grant us a loan, and I added those things to my list. I also doubled up on everything from the initial "required documents" list (i.e. instead of two months worth of pay stubs, I submitted four months worth).
This trick paid off and ended up saving us some time in the long run.
A few times throughout the process, our mortgage banker emailed me saying, "The underwriters were asking for another X, but luckily you already sent that so I've passed it along to them."
For instance, had I only provided pay stubs for February and March like they asked for, when they later requested January, too, I would have had to track down that additional pay stub through my employer, scan it, mail it over, and wait for the bank to confirm receipt. That small request could have added a week to the process.
But by just doubling up on everything when I was initially gathering or putting in requests for these documents, I saved myself a lot of time later. And trust me: Even if you're not in a huge rush to close, you'll probably be excited and anxious, and just want it all to be over with as quickly as humanly possible.
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