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The Secret to Nailing Your Home Loan Interview

Follow these 4 tips to ensure you sail through the process like a pro.

You’re saving up a significant down payment, curious how much home you’ll qualify for, ready for what the inspection might say. These are things you’ll be thinking about and preparing for when buying a new home.

What you may not be anticipating? The home loan interview.

That’s right — as part of your home loan process, your potential loan officer or mortgage broker will interview you. And trust me, it’s going to get personal.

You may be asked to share information about your housing goals, your financials, budget, and credit and payment history to help the lender determine whether you qualify for what it is you’re after.

The following tips should help you nail that interview on the first try.

1. Dress for success

According to Eric R. Croll, a senior loan adviser for RPM Mortgage in Lake Oswego, OR, “A nicely dressed client is no more or less qualified [to land her loan]. Everything is about what is documented.”

But treating your loan interview the way you do a job interview isn’t such a bad idea. Anything that makes you feel more confident helps you make a better overall impression.

If you dress and behave in a manner that exudes a serious commitment to the responsibility of paying back your home loan on time, you may just find a broker or loan officer ready to help you overcome any unforeseen hurdles.

2. Come prepared

Take your loan interview seriously — this is not something you want to wing. It requires adequate preparation for your loan adviser to best serve you.

“Be as prepared as possible, remembering to bring your past two years’ tax returns and W2s, most recent pay stubs, and two months of bank statements,” advises Croll.

What makes a file look good in general? “Good credit, stable/consistent employment, good savings/down payment,” says Croll. “By far, credit is the biggest factor that makes a client ‘look good.’”

3. Ask away: there are no dumb questions

Prepare a list of questions before the interview. This is a “there are no stupid questions” situation. Your loan officer should be able to answer all your questions, whether it’s about the overall process, what the lender needs from you, or the timing of the approval.

4. Respond in an honest and timely fashion

Once a transaction is underway, getting the items you’ve been asked for back to your loan officer quickly and in an organized fashion makes you look good and helps the loan officer get your loan done. (Also, make sure your loan officer or broker has all your contact information and knows the best way to reach you at all times.)

Remember that the loan process is not intuitive. “You will likely be asked for items that seem unrelated, irrelevant, or even downright silly,” says Croll. “All loan files have to meet specific guidelines. Be prepared that guidelines do not always follow common sense.”

With regulation of the industry transforming the process, rules now rule. No one person can just decide to take a chance on you because she likes the “cut of your jib,” or because her gut tells her you’re “good for it.”

All aspects of your file must be documented to exacting guidelines, but the good news is, the more you can help facilitate this, the faster and easier your loan process will be.

Lastly, it’s OK to expect great service. The loan application process today is a bit more tedious, thanks to restrictive lending. With all the hoops you’ll be jumping through, you owe it to yourself to ask questions and to gain a deep understanding of what those mortgage terms mean before you leave the interview.