With many mortgage lenders, you can apply for a mortgage online and complete the process in 45 minutes or less if you have all of your information ready beforehand. Your lender will ask for financial and personal details on either the Uniform Residential Loan Application or a similar standardized form. Here are questions to expect on a mortgage application.

What is included in a mortgage application?

Most lenders in the U.S. use the Uniform Residential Loan Application, but you might come across another similar application in the process of finding financing for a home. All applications have the same purpose: “to gauge whether a potential borrower is financially stable enough to pay back a home loan,” says Chuck Meier, senior vice president and mortgage sales director at Sunrise Banks in Minnesota.

The home loan application will ask borrowers for information regarding their financial situation, including income and assets, as well as personal information like their Social Security number. You will also be required to provide documentation corroborating the information you provide.

Documents needed to apply for a mortgage

Before filling out the mortgage application, it’s smart to collect the necessary documents and information ahead of time, particularly if a mortgage lender is assisting you in person or by phone. Here are the documents you’ll want to have at the ready:

  • Employment information: Name, address and phone number of all employers in the past two years
  • Income information: W-2s from the past two years and pay stubs from at least the past month
  • Additional income information: Dividends or interest, pension, Social Security, alimony, child support, etc.
  • Account statements from the past three months: Checking and savings accounts, CDs, money market accounts, 401(k) or other retirement accounts
  • Form 4506-T or 4506T-EZ: A form from your loan officer authorizing the lender to access your tax returns
  • Signed purchase agreement: The contract drawn up between you and the home seller stipulating things like the purchase price, closing date, closing costs and more.
If you’re self-employed, own a business or get paid through commissions, you’ll likely also need to provide additional information, such as:

  • Federal tax returns from the past two years, including business tax returns, such as Form 1120, 1120S or Schedule K-1/1065
  • Business records — such as P&L statements — from the past several years

Note your lender might request more documents during the underwriting process. This is common and expected — sometimes, a lender just needs more information so that they can clearly understand your risk level and determine your ability to repay.

Questions in a mortgage application

The Uniform Residential Loan Application, specifically, includes the following sections:

Section I: Type of mortgage and terms of loan

The first section of the mortgage application asks you to indicate the type of mortgage you’re seeking, such as conventional or FHA. You’ll then need to define other basic details such as the amount being borrowed, the interest rate, the loan term and type of amortization (fixed, adjustable, etc.). A loan officer can help you determine which loan is right for you and help you identify the terms and conditions of the loan.

Section II: Property information and purpose of loan

In this section, the home loan application will ask you to provide the property address and indicate whether the loan is for a purchase, refinance or construction. It’ll also ask whether it’s a primary residence, second home or investment property, who will own the property and how it will be titled.

Section III: Borrower information

This section asks for detailed information about the borrower and co-borrower, including your Social Security number, current address, years of school completed and marital status. You’ll also have to provide residence history.

Section IV: Employment information

Both borrowers will need to provide the contact information for their employer, how long they’ve been on the job and in the profession, their position or title and the type of business. You’ll need to provide previous job details if you’ve been at your current job for less than two years.

Section V: Monthly income and combined housing expense information

This section compares your income and expenses to determine whether you can afford the mortgage. You’ll need to fill in your monthly income, including your base income, bonuses, overtime, commissions, dividends and interest, rental income and any other income.

You’ll also need to fill in your monthly housing costs, both current and proposed, such as rent or your first mortgage, HOA fees or mortgage insurance. Note that self-employed borrowers likely have to provide additional information.

Section VI: Assets and liabilities

In this section, you’ll list assets including savings, checking and retirement accounts and any properties you own. Under liabilities, you’ll include all debts such as car loans, credit cards, other mortgages and any alimony or child support you’re obligated to pay.

Section VII: Details of transaction

As the name suggests, this section includes details of the transaction like the purchase price or refinance amount, the cost of any home improvements or repairs and the land price (if it’s being purchased separately). This section also includes estimated prepaid items and closing costs, mortgage insurance premiums (if applicable) and any discount points the borrower is paying.

Section VIII: Declarations

In this section, the borrower(s) must answer yes or no to questions about their past financial situation, including:

  • Are there any outstanding judgments against you?
  • Have you declared bankruptcy or had a property foreclosed in the last seven years?
  • Are you party to a lawsuit?

If the answer to any of the questions is yes, you’ll be asked to include an explanation at the end of the application.

Section IX: Acknowledgement and agreement

This signature section is legally binding. In it, the applicants verify that the information provided in the mortgage loan application is true and correct, and acknowledge that the lender may verify the information provided.

Section X: Information for government monitoring process

The final section of the mortgage application is optional demographic information to be provided to government agencies. If you choose to participate, you’ll be asked to identify your race, gender and ethnicity so that the government can verify the lender’s compliance with fair housing laws.

When to apply for a mortgage

If you want to know when to apply for a mortgage, here are some key indicators:

  • You have a good credit score: Generally, the higher your credit score, the more mortgage options you’ll have. There are options for low credit scores, such as an FHA loan, but know that you’ll likely have to pay more fees and a higher interest rate with a lower score.
  • You have a down payment saved: If you save 20 percent for a down payment, you can avoid paying private mortgage insurance and save money on your monthly payment. But you don’t need to put 20 percent down to buy a home. The truth is, the average down payment is lower than that. You may be able to get a conventional mortgage, for example, with as little as 3 percent down.
  • You have low monthly debt payments: Lenders use a measurement known as the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio to compare the amount of monthly debt payments you make to your income. In general, you want your DTI to be 36 percent or lower, though you may still qualify for a mortgage with a ratio as high as 50 percent.
  • It’s the right time for you to buy a home: Buying a house isn’t just a financial decision. While you can try to wait for prices or interest rates to come down, sometimes you need to buy a house because that’s where you are in life. If you have your finances in order — even if they’re not perfect — you can apply for a mortgage and start the process toward homeownership.

Mortgage application tips

Preparation is key when applying for a mortgage. In addition to having all of your paperwork in order, there are a few things you can do to help ensure a successful application:

  • Document the source(s) of the down payment. If a family member is helping you make a down payment, for example, have them sign a gift letter confirming where the funds came from and what they will be used for.
  • Keep your job the same. If you can help it, avoid quitting your job or starting a new one while your application is being processed. The lender can deny your loan if your employment situation changes.
  • Refrain from large purchases. Big-ticket charges can be a red flag to lenders, who may become concerned about your capacity to afford the mortgage. The same goes for opening a new line of credit or missing a debt payment, which can impact your credit history. Be especially careful if you’re already close to your maximum affordability.

Important considerations when applying for a mortgage

While applying for a mortgage won’t be a huge detriment to your credit score, your score can have an impact on the interest rate you get on your loan. When comparing rates, compare the whole loan offer and any fees, as well, which can affect your overall costs.

In addition, find out about the length of the rate-lock period, and whether you will need to pay additional points or fees to receive the quoted rate. There are typically 30-, 45- and 60-day rate locks that guarantee your rate for the specified time. It’s important to make sure that the lock period is long enough to allow you to close on the property.

If you have questions about locking your rate, or about the application in general, consult with the loan officer to talk through any concerns.