What Kind of Paperwork Do I Need to Buy a Home?

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Question: What Kind of Paperwork Do I Need to Buy a Home?

A reader asks: After renting a two bedroom apartment for many years, my husband and I are now ready to buy our first home. My husband is still in school but he works part time at an accounting firm. I am a full-time teacher. Do we need to find our tax returns? What kind of paperwork do we need to buy a home?

Answer: Congratulations on thinking ahead.

The lucky real estate agent who helps you to buy a home will be pleased to hear that you are gathering the paperwork and documents you need in advance. It's not as much work as you may suspect. You'll also enjoy an easier time with your mortgage. Smart reasoning on your part.

When you begin shopping for a mortgage, make sure you compare identical loans to each other and ask for an estimate from each lender, which under TRID rules they are required to provide. This way, you can compare costs for each mortgage loan type. Your buyer's closing costs will probably include a loan point or two. Ask questions if you don't understand the closing estimate because many buyers do not.

Before Talking to a Mortgage Lender

Pull a copy of your credit report and examine it. You are entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies. If you find a mistake, contact the creditor to get it fixed.

Note delinquencies. If you have too many late payments, your FICO score will be adversely affected.

Realize that if you have a low FICO score, you can still most likely obtain an FHA loan, which does not rely on FICO scores. FHA loans also require down payments as low as 2.85% of the sales price.

To begin processing your loan, a lender will verify your employment through a verification of employment form.

Give your employer a heads-up to expect to receive that form. Ask your human resources department to send it back right away. In addition, the lender will want the following paperwork from you:

Documentation Needed to Buy a Home

  • Current Pay Stubs

    Your last two pay stubs will suffice. Make photocopies and don't hand out your originals.

  • W2s

    This is your wage and tax statement, issued by your employer for a calendar year. It is what you attach to your tax returns. Lenders generally want the last two year's of W2s from both of you.

  • Federal Tax Returns
    If you haven't yet filed your tax return for last year, then find the two previous year's of tax returns. Make copies. Include all schedules. Tip: Make sure the tax returns are signed by you and dated.
  • Bank Statements
    Some lenders want two months, while others will demand the last three months of bank statements. Make a copy from each lending institution. Include every page of each bank statement, including the blank pages, silly as that sounds.
  • Asset Statements
    If you own stocks, bonds, mutual funds or retirement accounts, make a copy of each statement. Lenders sometimes prefer hard copies over those printed online but will accept online statements if that's how you receive your statements. Make photocopies and do not send originals.

  • Copy of Current Driver's License
    If you are meeting with the lender in person, you can bring your driver's license with you for identification and reproduction. Otherwise, copy your license on a scanner or copy machine and include it. Your license should have a photograph of you.​

Ask About Upfront Costs

Many lenders will request a credit report fee, but some do not. Generally, appraisal and credit report fees are paid in advance when you are ready to accept the loan. Do not pay any fees to a lender until you have elected to use that lender.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.