Key takeaways

  • When shopping for a mortgage, be prepared to answer questions about your income, debt, down payment amount and more. You'll need to back up your answers with documentation.
  • Lenders ask questions to assess your risk level as a potential borrower.
  • Lenders aren't allowed to ask questions regarding sexual orientation, medical history, disabilities, political or religious beliefs and plans for family expansion.

When you apply for a mortgage, the lender will assess its risk of taking you on as a borrower before deciding to lend you money. Part of that assessment involves asking you questions. To help you prepare, here are some common mortgage questions to expect from your lender.

Mortgage questions lenders ask you

Expect mortgage lenders to ask about various details, from the specific loan you are seeking to your desired closing timeline and whether you plan to have a co-borrower on the loan. Here’s a list of questions the mortgage lender might ask you.

What type of property is this for?

The lender needs to know the type of property you hope to finance and what you intend to use the home for. That’s because there are different interest rates and requirements for different properties. For example, you might need a bigger down payment to qualify for an investment property loan than you would for a primary residence. Note that, to answer this question, you’ll need to provide a home purchase agreement.

Documents to provide:

  • Home purchase agreement

What is your employment status and income?

If you’ve been steadily working with the same employer or in the same industry for two or more years, this can be an easy question to answer. However, if you are self-employed or work as a contract worker, you’ll need to provide more documentation, such as profit and loss statements from your business or 1099 forms if you operate on a contract basis.

Documents to provide:

  • Pay stubs from at least the past 30 days
  • Tax returns (including W-2s and/or 1099s) from the past two years
  • Employer contact information
  • Business records if self-employed
  • Other income sources such as bonuses, child and/or spousal support, disability or VA benefits, pension, Social Security or other sources

What recurring debts do you have?

Typically, lenders seek a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio that does not exceed 36 percent. That means that your regular monthly obligations — including car loans, credit cards, student loans and your mortgage (if you get it) — account for less than 36 percent of your pre-tax income. The lender may also check your credit score during this process.

If you’re applying for a conventional loan and have 10 or fewer payments left on one of your debts, you might not need to provide documentation about it. Your loan officer can help clarify exactly what you need to supply in this case.

Documents to provide:

  • Credit card statements from the past 60 days
  • Student loan statements from the past 60 days
  • Auto loan statements from the past 60 days
  • Personal loan statements from the past 60 days

Do you have savings or other assets?

Savings (not including your down payment) or other assets can help strengthen your mortgage application. While you likely won’t be required to have a certain amount set aside, your lender still needs to know your complete financial picture.

Documents to provide:

  • Bank statements from the past 60 days, including for checking, savings and money market accounts (MMAs)
  • Retirement account and pension plan statements
  • Brokerage account statements
  • Documentation related to other properties you own, if applicable

How much are you putting down?

A higher down payment typically results in a more favorable interest rate.

Keep in mind that if you plan to use gift money from a family member or friend toward the down payment, your lender will likely require you to submit a gift letter explaining where the money came from.

Likewise, if you’re seeking down payment assistance, you’ll likely need to take a homebuyer class. Ask your lender if you’re eligible for down payment help and what the requirements are.

Documents to provide:

  • Bank and brokerage statements
  • Down payment gift letter, if applicable
  • Documentation related to down payment assistance or grants, if applicable

Do you have a co-borrower?

A co-borrower, also known as a co-applicant, is an extra person added to a mortgage. In this case, both applicants submit a loan application, and the mortgage lender evaluates the qualifications of the primary borrower and the co-borrower, considering factors such as income, assets and credit score.

Typically, the lender determines the loan terms based on the credit profile of the borrower with a stronger credit standing. Note that both names will appear on the title, and both people will be jointly responsible for repaying the mortgage.

If you plan to have a co-borrower, check that this won’t be a problem with the lender and learn what’s involved.

Questions a mortgage lender should never ask

While the list of common mortgage questions above might make it seem like mortgage lenders can ask you anything they want, there are some legal limits, according to Darrin Q. English, senior non-traditional mortgage officer for Quontic, an online bank. These mortgage questions, says English, are on his “do not ask” list (and that of any law-abiding lender):

  • Sexual orientation
  • Disabilities
  • Family expansion plans (a lender can ask how many children you currently have and their ages, but it can’t ask if you plan to have more or discriminate based on familial status)
  • Political or religious beliefs
  • Medical history

In addition, although a lender can gather factual information about some things (your gender and marital status), under the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, it can’t discriminate based on race, religion, color, age, marital status, sex or national origin. There may be other protected classes enforced by your state, as well.


  • Mortgage lenders look for low-risk borrowers. The questions they ask and the requirements they make reflect their goal of assessing a borrower’s risk of default. In other words, lenders determine how likely you are to stop making payments if they lend you money. They look for things like:

    • Credit score
    • Credit history
    • Employment status
    • Employment history
    • Income
    • Debts
    • Assets
  • Once you’ve applied for the loan, avoid making big purchases or financing anything else until the closing. Major financial moves can affect your credit score, as well as increase your DTI ratio, making you a riskier prospect. This might require restarting the underwriting process, or it could mean your mortgage application gets denied altogether.
  • Tax returns are proof of the income and investments you’ve reported earning. Lenders will typically require your last two years of tax returns.