woman working with documents next to her in a blue blouse

Top Reasons Underwriters Deny Mortgage Loans

7-Minute Read
Published on May 6, 2021

Rejection hurts. And it’s even more upsetting when it gets in the way of buying your dream home.

Once you get your offer accepted, it may feel like there’s nothing that’ll stop you. But pump the brakes, just a bit. There’s one last hurdle you’ll need to go through. It’s called the underwriting process, and it’s used to determine whether your loan application – and your chances of buying the home you want – will be accepted or rejected.

You may be wondering how often an underwriter denies a loan. According to mortgage data firm HSH.com, about 8% of mortgage applications are denied, though denial rates vary by location.

To avoid falling into that percentage of hopeful buyers, it’s important to understand how underwriting works, the top reasons why mortgage loans are denied in underwriting and some tips for preventing loan denial.

How Underwriting Works

The underwriting process happens when the lender verifies your income, assets, debt, credit and property. This information is needed to ensure you’re in a good position to take on the financial responsibilities that come with a mortgage, and that it’s a good investment for the lender. In short, it helps your lender assess the risk of lending to you.

Underwriting occurs once you’ve completed your mortgage application and all required documents are turned in for the underwriter to review. Requested documents may include:

  • Bank statements
  • W-2s and other tax documents
  • Recent pay stubs
  • Copies of forms of identification, like your driver’s license, military ID or Social Security card
  • Letters of explanation or gift letters, when necessary

The underwriter reviews these documents to verify your income and job stability as well as your ability to handle debts, keep up with mortgage payments and afford the closing costs, fees and mortgage loan.

As you undergo the underwriting process, your loan will go through one or more of these steps:

  • Conditional approval happens when all of your documents are turned in and undergoing review, and the underwriter feels that most of your information looks good. However, there are still a few conditions that must be met before your loan is approved.
  • Approval occurs when everything has been verified by the underwriter and you’re cleared to close on your loan.
  • Denial happens when the loan application is denied and you’re refused a mortgage. This may happen for several reasons, which we’ll explore later.

What About Preapproval?

Getting preapproved for a mortgage doesn’t guarantee a future clear-to-close decision from the underwriter. This type of approval is sometimes based on basic information you provide and may or may not require digging as deep into your credit report or finances as underwriting will. The lender will perform a credit check, ask about your financial situation and review certain pieces of information, including your income and assets. They may not verify that information by looking at financial statements or other documents.

However, it’s important to note that not all preapprovals are the same. The situation we described with minimal if any financial checks is a Prequalified Approval. They have their place. It’s useful if you just want to get an idea of what you can afford, assuming you’re relaying accurate information to your lender. To make a stronger offer, we recommend all of our clients get a Verified Approval.1

A Verified Approval involves pulling your credit report to get a look at your outstanding debt. In addition, we verify income and assets using documents like W-2s, 1099s, bank and investment account statements. These items go through preliminary underwriting so that you have a much better idea of what you can afford while making a confident offer on a home.

Can An Underwriter Deny An FHA Loan?

While FHA loans have different requirements that may make it easier to get the loan, an underwriter may still deny it for the same reasons as other loan types.

Apply for a Mortgage with Quicken Loans®

Call our Home Loans Experts at (800) 251-9080 to begin your mortgage application, or apply online to review your loan options.

Start Your Application

8 Reasons Why Mortgage Loans Are Denied In Underwriting

The following are several common reasons why underwriters deny loans and how you can help prevent them from happening.

1. Your Credit Score Is Too Low

A low credit score might indicate that you’re a high-risk investment who may have trouble making on-time payments or handling the financial responsibilities of the loan.

Before applying for a mortgage, review your credit score and credit report. Make sure you dispute any errors. If your credit score is low, you may want to work on increasing it before applying. If you have a qualifying credit score, make sure you don’t do anything during the mortgage process to cause it to drop, like miss a payment or max out a credit card.

You can get your free VantageScore® 3.0 credit score and report courtesy of Rocket Homes® along with tips on how to improve your credit based on your report.2,3

2. Your Debt-To-Income Ratio (DTI) Is Too High

Your DTI ratio helps lenders determine whether you’ll be able to take on more debt. If your DTI is high, you may not be able to afford your mortgage. Most lenders require a DTI of less than 50%. For the most possible lending options, it’s a good idea to keep DTI at or below 43%

If you have a lot of debt, you should work on paying it down before applying for a mortgage. And once you’re in the process of getting one, don’t add more debt by making any big purchases not related to your buying of the home itself. By eliminating some of your debt, you’ll increase your cash flow and prove to a potential lender that you have enough money coming in to pay a mortgage.

3. The Loan-To-Value Ratio (LTV) Is Too High

LTV compares your mortgage balance to the value of the home. When buying a house, your LTV is brought down by your down payment. Certain loans require specific down payments and LTVs. For example, a conventional loan requires a minimum down payment of 3% or 97% LTV. If you can’t afford the minimum down payment, you won’t be able to get the loan.

To help avoid this issue, take the time to save up for a down payment of at least 3% – 3.5% depending on your loan. Not only will a larger down payment help you get better interest rates and more mortgage product options, but it will also show lenders that you’re capable of saving. For people who are self-employed or who have other negative circumstances, a large down payment can overcome worries from a nervous lender.

You could also look into down payment assistance programs if you need more help.

4. Your Employment Status Recently Changed

Lenders like to see financial stability. When you’re getting a steady paycheck, you’re more apt to make your monthly payment. If you lost your job recently, a lender may question whether you can afford a mortgage right now. And a new job can come with a lot of uncertainty. You might hate it and quit. You could get fired. Or, maybe you accepted a job with a lower salary, which can also affect your loan approval.

If you’re switching from a job in the same field and with equal or greater pay, this typically won’t be an issue. If that’s not the case, you can prevent this from being an issue by staying at your current job until after you close or by waiting to apply for a mortgage until you’ve been at your new job for at least a few months. If you can’t do either and want to get a mortgage with a new job, just make sure you are transparent with your lender and in communication with them on this change. You may also provide additional documentation to help, including your offer letter and Verification of Employment (VOE) from your employer.

5. You Have Unusual Bank Account Activity

As mentioned above, buying a home comes with many costs you need to pay for on top of the mortgage, including closing costs, insurance premiums, taxes and homeowners association fees. In many cases, your lender will want to see that you have enough money in the bank to cover these expenses for up to 6 months. However, large deposits – especially from unknown sources – can raise some red flags. These could indicate that you took out a loan to pay for a down payment, which will add to your DTI.

If you receive a large amount of money as a gift, you can provide a gift letter from the donor explaining that the money was a gift and does not need to be paid back.

6. There Are Problems With The Property

The results of an inspection can also make or break your chances of getting a loan. For example, if you’re getting an FHA loan, the home must meet certain guidelines to qualify for the loan. If the property fails, your FHA loan will be denied. If an appraisal inspection uncovers a major issue, like a bad foundation, the loan may be denied as the home would be seen as a bad investment.

To help prevent this from happening, make sure you walk through the home in person and read the housing disclosures carefully. Make sure you get an inspection on the home early to avoid wasted time.

7. You Have A History Of Missed Mortgage Payments

If you’ve previously been a homeowner, your underwriter will want to see evidence that you paid your mortgage consistently and on time, otherwise they may not feel it’s worth the risk to approve your loan for this new home.

Having a short sale or foreclosure on your record may also prevent you from getting approved for a certain length of time.

8. The Appraisal Is Too Low

A lender cannot lend more than the appraised value of the home. If the appraisal value comes back lower than the sale price, you’ll either need to pay the difference out of pocket or renegotiate to a lower price. If you can’t do either, your loan will be denied.

What To Do Next

Here’s what to do after reaching conditional approval or receiving a mortgage rejection.

When You Receive Conditional Approval

At this stage, you’ll likely be asked to provide more documentation. Make sure you respond to these requests as fast as possible to keep the process going. The underwriter cannot proceed until you turn in the requested documents. Make sure you’re open and honest about any issues that come up.

During this crucial time, you don’t want to do anything that could put your loan in jeopardy, so you should continue to make all of your payments on time; refrain from making large, questionable deposits; avoid taking out any loans and stay away from using credit to make big purchases.

When Your Loan Is Rejected

If your loan application is rejected, there are a few steps you can take to put yourself in a better position to get a mortgage in the near future. First, you should understand why your loan was denied, then work to fix those issues. If your DTI was too high, work on paying down your debt. If your credit score was too low, continue to make your payments on time, pay down some of your debt and check your credit report for any errors. If your LTV was too high, take this time to save for a down payment.

How To Prevent Loan Rejection: Tips For Getting Approved

On top of the tips already discussed, there are a few other things you can do to try to avoid having your underwriter deny your loan. Here are a few additional measures you can take to increase your chances of getting approved faster:

  • Ask someone to co-sign. If your profile isn’t as substantial as you’d like it to be, a co-signer can help strengthen your case for a loan. Be aware that you’re asking someone to put their credit score on the line, so you should confirm that you’re able to make all the payments on time and in full. There’s nothing more guaranteed to destroy a relationship than ruining someone’s finances. Check with your lender about the guidelines for a particular mortgage product you’re interested in, as there may be requirements or restrictions when a co-signer is involved.
  • Be prepared to apply. Lee Huffman of Bald Thoughts says it helps to have all your necessary documents ready for your mortgage officer. The faster you can respond to requests for more information, the faster your request will be approved. According to Huffman, an applicant will need their two most recent paystubs, the previous 2 years’ W-2s and tax returns, 2 months of bank and investment statements, their insurance bill, their property tax bill and their most recent mortgage statement.
  • Look for less than you can afford. Many people try to buy a house with the maximum amount of money a lender will give them. Try to apply for a loan that’s less than what you might be approved for. This way, you’ll have more leeway in your budget and will have a better ability to repay the loan.

The Bottom Line

By making sure you’re in a good place financially before you apply for a loan, you’ll have a better chance of having your loan approved. To do this, you’ll want to make sure you have enough money saved for a down payment and closing costs, with a strong credit score and a stable job.

Educating yourself is also important. By learning more about the mortgage process and how to purchase a home, you can be better prepared when the time comes. Check out more home buying content in the Quicken Loans® Learning Center to start your education today.

1 Participation in the Verified Approval program is based on an underwriter’s comprehensive analysis of your credit, income, employment status, debt, property, insurance, appraisal and a satisfactory title report/search. If new information materially changes the underwriting decision resulting in a denial of your credit request, if the loan fails to close for a reason outside of Quicken Loans’ control, or if you no longer want to proceed with the loan, your participation in the program will be discontinued. If your eligibility in the program does not change and your mortgage loan does not close, you will receive $1,000. This offer does not apply to new purchase loans submitted to Quicken Loans through a mortgage broker. Additional conditions or exclusions may apply.

2 Rocket Homes® is a registered trademark licensed to Rocket Homes Real Estate LLC. The Rocket Homes® Logo is a service mark licensed to Rocket Homes Real Estate LLC. Rocket Homes Real Estate LLC fully supports the principles of the Fair Housing Act. For Rocket Homes Real Estate LLC license numbers, visit RocketHomes.com/license-numbers. California DRE #01804478

3 Quicken Loans, LLC (doing business as Rocket Mortgage) and Rocket Homes Real Estate LLC are separate operating subsidiaries of Rocket Companies, Inc. (NYSE: RKT). Each company is a separate legal entity operated and managed through its own management and governance structure as required by its state of incorporation, and applicable legal and regulatory requirements.

Apply for a Mortgage with Quicken Loans®

Call our Home Loans Experts at (800) 251-9080 to begin your mortgage application, or apply online to review your loan options.

Start Your Application

See What You Qualify For

Patrick Chism

Born and raised on a farm in the Ozarks, Patrick has a knack for making the best out of the worst situations. Where others see flooded farmland, he sees lakefront real estate. Where others see an infestation of bees, he sees free pollination and a upstart honey shop. Patrick’s articles will help you make the most out of the least, maximizing your returns while keeping a close eye on the wallet. When he’s not writing for Rocket Mortgage, Patrick likes hiking, gardening, reading and making healthy foods taste like unhealthy foods.