One interesting aspect of the home loan process is the sheer number of individuals you’ll work with along the way.
You don’t just speak to a salesperson and call it a day. Lots of people are involved in what is a very complex transaction.
Aside from salespeople, there are loan underwriters, processors, appraisers, escrow officers, real estate attorneys, and more.
Let’s discuss the roles these people hold to help you better understand what it takes to get a mortgage.
Remember, you’re asking to borrow a large sum of money, so it’s going to take time and energy (and lots of people) to get to the finish line.
The Sales Rep/Loan Officer/Mortgage Broker
If we’re talking about a purchase, this may come before/during your home search or after you’ve found your property with the assistance of a real estate agent.
You might be referred to an individual/company, or you might do your own discovery to find a suitable partner. Either way, always look beyond the referral you were given.
Your real estate agent might know a great lender, but you your own research as well.
It’s important to gather multiple quotes from different companies to ensure you get the best deal.
Now, this individual will be your main point of contact during the loan process, and perhaps most importantly, will provide you with pricing.
Bankers and loan officers work at the retail level, while mortgage brokers offer wholesale rates from their lender partners.
You can read more about the differences (banks vs. brokers) but either way they’ll likely be the person you speak with most.
Aside from providing pricing, these individuals can help get you pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage, discuss different loan scenarios, and guide you on loan choice.
If you have mortgage questions, they should be able to provide answers and give you guidance.
They may make certain recommendations, such as down payment amount, loan type, or provide an opinion about paying discount points or when to lock your rate.
This individual will be with you from start to finish, but doesn’t work alone. They’ve got an entire team to help you close your loan in a timely fashion.
FYI, you may also come across a “mortgage planner,” which is an individual who may assist a busy senior loan officer.
They can communicate loan status, provide follow-up, collect conditions, and perform other tasks if the LO is unavailable or simply needs a hand.
The Loan Processor
Once you’ve spoken to a sales representative (or LO/broker) and have decided to move forward, you’ll be in put in touch with a loan processor.
The main goal of the processor is to put together a clean loan file that can be submitted to the underwriting department.
This means collecting key documents, ensuring there are no red flags, double-checking everything, and making any necessary corrections.
The processor may also reach out after the loan is approved to collect additional documents to satisfy any outstanding conditions.
They will also provide updates to the loan officer or broker, who will then keep you in the loop about where you’re at in the process.
The processor essentially acts as a liaison between the underwriter and sales rep/LO/broker.
This ensures things move along smoothly and any hiccups can be resolved quickly without delay.
The Loan Underwriter
The loan underwriter probably holds the most important role in the home loan process.
They decide if the mortgage is approved, declined, or potentially suspended pending further explanation.
It’s for this reason that the loan processor only sends the loan package to the underwriter once everything has been thoroughly checked.
You only get one chance to make a first impression, so it’s imperative to get it right. Otherwise you could face delays or simply get flat out denied.
Aside from approving the loan, the underwriter will also provide a list of conditions needed to close the loan.
Most mortgage approvals are conditional, meaning you might need to furnish additional information or documentation to obtain your final approval.
Once these documents are provided, whether it’s another bank statement or letter of explanation, the underwriter will clear the outstanding conditions and move the loan to the funding department.
The Home Appraiser
While your loan is being reviewed by the underwriter, an appraisal will be ordered to determine the value of the underlying property.
Remember, aside from determining your ability to repay the loan, the bank also needs to ensure the collateral for the loan is valued properly.
This individual will visit the property to assess its condition, take photographs, and determine recent sales comparisons.
They will formulate a valuation based on the property details, such as number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, amenities, location, lot size, condition, and so on.
The value they come up with, known as the appraised value, is used as the basis for the loan-to-value ratio.
Generally, the goal is for the appraiser to support the purchase price of the property or the value declared for a refinance.
If the value is lower, the details of the loan may need to be reworked, such as a higher down payment.
This ensures the property is safe for the occupants, that there are adequate living conditions, and no major hazards, such as lead paint or termites.
The Home Inspector
If we’re discussing a home purchase, you’ll want to get an inspection done. And you’ll want to do it ASAP while any contingencies are still in place.
While a home inspection typically isn’t required, they’re generally a good idea.
Aside from finding out what’s potentially wrong with the property, you can ask for credits from the seller if the inspector finds any significant issues.
As the name suggests, a home inspector will come out to the property and assess the condition of the structure itself, the foundation, the interior, the roof, the electrical, HVAC, and more.
Some may also inspect the pool and spa, if one exists, though you could be charged extra.
They’ll make notes as they survey the property and issue a formal report afterwards. This can be used to negotiate with the seller if anything material comes up.
The Notary Public
Once it’s time to sign your loan documents, you’ll need to make an appointment with a notary public.
This individual serves “as an impartial witness” when signing important documents, such as those related to a home purchase or mortgage loan.
Your settlement agent should organize a time to meet with this individual to conduct your signing.
The notary may come to your home or meet you somewhere else to review and sign documents.
The main job of the notary is to verify the identity of the signer and ensure they are willing to sign the documents “without duress or intimidation.”
This requires you to furnish identification, such as a driver’s license, during the signing appointment.
The Escrow Officer
Another very important individual in the transaction is the escrow officer, a third-party who facilitates the loan closing and collects/disburses funds to the appropriate parties.
The escrow officer will send you a settlement statement that lists all the fees and closing costs associated with your loan, along with any lender credits and loan payoffs and funds required.
They will also liaise with a title company and forward necessary documents for loan recording.
Importantly, they’ll provide wiring instructions to all parties, including the buyer, so you know where to send funds (cash to close).
If you have questions about things like prepaid items, mortgage impounds, and loan payoffs, they can be particularly helpful.
The Title Agent
To ensure the property is free of any liens, encumbrances, or defects, a title insurance policy is usually required in order to take out a mortgage.
A title agent is the individual who conducts a title search, orders a preliminary title report, and eventually issues title insurance on the subject property. This makes them a licensed insurance agent
They are also in charge of recording the deed and loan documents with the county once the loan has funded.
You might hear the words title and escrow used interchangeably, but title has to do with property ownership/lien history, while escrow is about the calculation, collection, and disbursement of funds.
However, they may perform other settlement tasks beyond just title depending on the state where they’re located.
The Loan Closer/Funder
If you’ve made it this far, it means the loan is almost funded. But there’s still work to be done.
The loan closer/funder has to review the file to ensure everything is accurate and complete, and if not, address and fix any errors or outstanding issues.
They must ensure all prior to funding (PTF) conditions are satisfied and work with the settlement agent to prepare funding figures and timing of disbursement.
This includes the review of signed closing documents and items like hazard insurance and the preliminary title report.
And if everything looks good, request the wire instructions from escrow after a thorough review.
The Real Estate Attorney
Note that in certain states, a real estate attorney could be required to prepare certain documents and/or to conduct the loan closing.
This individual may order and certify a title report, review loan documents, and advise you if necessary.
Beyond that, they can ensure the interests of all parties are protected, and handle any legal issues or disputes that may come up.
One last thing. You may find that there is some overlap with a title company and escrow company, as the former can also provide escrow and notary services as well.
So depending on where you live, you could have one company or individual handle several tasks.
As you can see, there are quite a few people involved in the funding of a home loan, which explains why they take a month or longer to close.
Once you know more about each person’s role, it should be easier to navigate the home loan process and make better sense of it all.
And perhaps adjust your expectations that there isn’t a same-day mortgage and likely won’t be for the foreseeable future.
(photo: Michael Coghlan)