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As of June 25, 2018, we’ve made some changes to the way our mortgage approvals work. You can read more about our Power Buyer ProcessTM.

So you’ve decided you’d like to buy a home, and you’ve looked around at different houses, but the question is – where do you begin, and how do you get a loan?

If you’re buying for the first time, the loan process can be confusing and unfamiliar. Many questions might arise: Is my credit score high enough to qualify for a loan? How long does it take? Where do I start?

To help with all those concerns and more, here’s a detailed step-by-step outline of what you can expect when you begin the home-buying process.

Get a Preapproval

The first step we recommend any home buyer take is getting a preapproval. The idea behind a preapproval is simple: Before checking out what’s on the market, you should be confident that you know how much a lender will loan you.

When you get preapproved, your credit is pulled. This gives the lender two things: your actual credit score and a look at the data on your credit report. You need to have a credit score of 580 to qualify for a loan through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and a 620 for a conventional loan through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. A VA loan backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t require a specific score, but lenders can set guidelines themselves. At Quicken Loans, we look for a credit score of at least 620 for VA loans.

In addition to your credit score, lenders will see how much debt you’re carrying and whether you have any bankruptcies or collections on your record. If you do have something like this on your record, it’s still possible that you could get a mortgage, but you might only qualify for certain loan options.

The lender will also ask about your income and assets upfront to calculate how much you can afford based on a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. The more information you can give your lender upfront, the stronger your preapproval will be because both you and the seller can have confidence that your loan is more likely to be approved in the end.

Your income is verified when you give the lender your W-2s and 1040s. Bank statements also show assets. These are key in making sure you have enough reserves to make your mortgage payment for a while if you’re between jobs.

You’ll also be matched up with a preliminary loan program, although this could change later in the process.

Income and asset documentation can be provided later at the underwriting stage, but submitting it upfront will likely give you a better understanding of how much you can afford to pay.


Your preapproval letter will tell you how much money a lender is willing to let you borrow. However, just because you can borrow a certain amount doesn’t mean you have to push your budget to the limit. You can put various purchase prices into a mortgage calculator to come out with a realistic estimate of a monthly mortgage payment. (You can also add the cost of taxes and insurance if you know what they’re likely to be.)

You want to make sure you have enough money every month for savings, emergencies, investments and other expenses. Don’t forget to leave a little bit of room for fun money as well!

House Hunting

Going out and looking at homes is usually the part of the home buying process that’s the most fun. You get to imagine what your life would be like in each house you walk through. Even here, though, you’re going to want to make sure you start with a solid game plan.

Depending on your budget, it may or may not be possible to find a home with every feature you want. With that in mind, make a list of your top priorities for the homes you’re looking at.

Once you have your wish list in place, we recommend hiring a real estate agent. They know the market. They see a ton of homes every year and can work with you to find something that meets your needs and is within your budget. Our friends at Rocket Homes can help match you up with an agent who can work with you to find a house that matches your needs.

Making an Offer

Let’s say you’ve found the perfect house. It’s now time to make an offer. There are several things to think about here. You’ll work with your real estate agent or attorney to write the purchase agreement, includes your offer for the purchase price as well as a list of anything from the house that you might want included in the sale. Although these types of details are negotiable, sellers are likely to want an agreement with very few strings attached – one that’s as clean as possible. This may mean avoiding things like asking for seller concessions and for furniture to be included in the deal.

It’s also at this stage that you’ll make an earnest money deposit. This is a percentage of the purchase price given to the seller when the offer is accepted to show that you’re serious about the property.


Once your offer is accepted, the purchase agreement is sent back to your banker. The banker will review your options to make sure you’re in the right loan program for you. Once that happens, your loan is sent through for underwriting.

During the underwriting process, your income, assets and employment are verified and compared to the information on your credit report. Lenders always pullsyour credit at the beginning of the process, but a preapproval lasts for just 90 days. If you’ve been house hunting for a while, it may be necessary for the lender to pull your credit again. Try not to take on additional debt during the house hunting process. Doing so while trying to buy a house at the same time could put your financing in jeopardy.

It’s also during this time that your lender may ask for additional or updated documentation if they need it for approval purposes.

Appraisal and Inspection

Your lender will set up a home appraisal as you’re going through the underwriting process. The appraisal protects both the lender and mortgage investor (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, etc.) as well as the buyer of the property.

During the appraisal process, the home is evaluated against comparable properties in the area. That means that if the property you’re buying is a two-bedroom ranch with a recently renovated master bath, the appraiser finds properties in the area that are as similar to your property as possible, looks at the sales data and gives you a dollar value for the home you’re looking at.

Having an estimated home value protects you from overpaying for the home. Mortgage investors also don’t allow lenders to loan more than the home is worth because if something happened and the lender had to take the house back when payments weren’t being made, the lender or would have to try to recoup their investment in a sale. Knowing the appraised value keeps them from making risky investments.

If the appraisal comes in lower than the sales price, you have three options. The seller can lower the price to the appraisal value. You also have the option of bringing the difference between the appraisal value and the sale price to the closing table. Or you can walk away from the home.

While not required, it’s highly advantageous for you to get a home inspection as well. Even if there’s nothing currently wrong with the home, walking through it with an inspector will give you an idea of what to watch for in the future should problems arise. If there’s anything truly serious, you also have the chance to back out at that point. Yes, you’ll have to start over in your search for the right home. On the other hand, you won’t be living in a house that might fall apart in six months. However, sometimes sellers will lower the price so you have the money to fix whatever’s wrong, or they’ll fix the issues themselves before you move in.

Certain basic safety items are looked at during an appraisal, but a home inspection goes deeper. If you’re moving into an older house with lead-based paint, for example, that would be caught by an appraisal and may have to be fixed before you can move in.


When the underwriting process is complete, it’s time to come to the closing table. You’ll bring your down payment and any other closing costs, sign the mortgage and take possession of the deed.

There are ways to keep your closing costs down. One way you may be able to do this is by increasing the price of your offer in order to convince the seller to pay for other things. In this way, you roll the closing costs into the loan.

How Long Does the Mortgage Process Take?

Now that you know how the process works, how long does it actually take to get the keys? That’s different for everyone, but let’s try to give you a rough idea.

Through Rocket Mortgage® by Quicken Loans®, you can be preapproved by sharing your income and asset documentation from your bank. Even if you get started over the phone, most people can expect to be preapproved within a day or so.

The longest part of the process is often shopping for a home, so if you have a list of wants and needs you can take to your agent, that should help you get started quickly.

Once you have your purchase agreement and underwriting starts, we try to close your loan within 30 days here at Quicken Loans.

Besides looking for the home, the next biggest delay in the process can sometimes be getting an appraisal scheduled. There are areas of the country where there’s a shortage of appraisers. If you’re buying in one of these areas, it’s important that both the buyer and seller have realistic expectations.

You can really help speed up the process if you get all the documentation that you’re asked for turned in on time. This may be the one thing about the mortgage process that’s most directly in your control.

Now that you understand the process, are you ready to get started? You can go ahead and get your preapproval online or call one of our friendly Home Loan Experts at (800) 785-4788. If you have any questions for us, go ahead and leave them in the comments section.

This Post Has 16 Comments

    1. Hi Maroki:

      There are instances in which you can use business funds in order to qualify. However, as far as the marriage arrangement, you would be able to buy property and have only yourself on the title. Even then though, if you live in a community property state, your spouse would have equal property rights. In some other states, your spouse would have to sign in certain rights away in order for you to buy a home on your own and that they have no rights to. Based on your email address, it looks like you may not be located in the U.S. At this time, we can only do loans for U.S. citizens or people legally residing in the U.S. If this fits your situation, I recommend speaking with one of our Home Loan Experts at (888) 980-6716. Have a great day!

  1. I’m looking into a home purchase but I don’t want to be bothered or constantly bothered with emails or calls or texts. When I’m ready to move forward I’ll move forward.

    1. Hi Gary:

      I absolutely understand your position. I’m going to get this to our Client Relations team to make sure that your communication preferences are followed if you’ve already applied. If you haven’t applied yet, you can do so online through Rocket Mortgage or by giving one of our Home Loan Experts a call at (888) 980-6716. Have a great night!

  2. Hello
    My name is Andrei Isayeu

    Yesterday I have received a letter from quicken loans saying that I am eligible for $280 thousands of dollars.
    What does it mean?
    Can begin looking for a house and then can I use this money to buy a house?
    Please let me know!
    Thank you!
    Have a Blessed Day!

    1. Hi Andrei:

      Similarly to credit card companies, we sometimes do prescreening in order to give clients an idea of the amount they might be eligible for. You still have to apply for it and be approved. If you’re interested in checking out your options, you can do so online through Rocket Mortgage or go ahead and give us a call at (888) 980-6716. Hope this helps!

      1. Hi Lloyd:

        We would be happy to help you look into your options. If you would like, you can submit an application online through Rocket Mortgage®. One of our Home Loan Experts would also be happy to help if you give us a call at (888) 980-6716. Have a great day!

    1. We do offer a 1% down program with a 2% lender grant for those with a 680 credit score or higher looking at one-unit primary property. HUD also maintains a great list of down payment assistance resources available across the US. If you would like to speak with one of our Home Loan Experts, you can give us a call at (888) 980-6716. I hope this helps somewhat!

      Kevin Graham

      1. Hi Lloyd:

        We would be happy to help you look into your options. If you would like, you can submit an application online through Rocket Mortgage®. One of our Home Loan Experts would also be happy to help if you give us a call at (888) 980-6716. Have a great day!

  3. Hi, I’m impressed by the helpful steps you put forward to enlighten interested home buyers. I would like you to explain how you can loan money from the banker, then search to buy the house you had like. Any input given can be very helpful. Thank you!
    Francis A

    1. Hi Francis:

      I could see how this could be confusing. You don’t actually get the money upfront. We do preapprovals. What that means is that we take a look at your income and credit report to determine how much you can afford to spend on a house. Then you go find your house and sign a purchase agreement. At that point, your loan goes through final underwriting and home appraisal. The seller gets the money at closing. If you needed the money upfront, you could get a personal loan, but those generally come with much smaller loan amounts that are below the range in which you would get a house. I hope this clarifies things.

      Kevin Graham

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