Last reviewed on 19th October 2023 by Martin Alexander (Mortgage Advisor)
Getting your mortgage application approved is a significant step when buying a home. Understanding the process can make your journey smoother, as you’ll know what to expect, which we’ll explain in this guide.
How to get approved for a mortgage
There are several steps to take before you can submit your mortgage. We’d also recommend speaking to an advisor who can check you’re eligible for a mortgage and guide you through the following:
Save for a deposit
Before you can get a mortgage, you’ll need to save for a deposit. Although getting a mortgage with a 5% deposit is possible, the more you can save, the better your chances of approval. Aim for a 10% deposit and higher if you’re able. Higher deposits can also strengthen your application, especially if you fall short in other areas of your assessment.
Lenders will also check where your deposit has come from due to anti-money laundering checks. A clear paper trail of your deposit source will help you during your assessment.
Gather your documents
You’ll need to provide the following documents, so it’s best to have them ready and make sure they’re all up to date:
- Proof of identity – Either a passport or driving licence
- Evidence of income – Such as 3-6 months’ payslips or accounts/SA302 if self-employed
- Proof of address – A utility bill within the last three months is ideal
- Evidence of outgoings and outstanding loans – Recent bank statements can show lenders what your monthly expenditure is
- Deposit source – A bank statement or gifted deposit letter can show your deposit amount and source
Check your credit file
Check your credit file before applying for a mortgage. Each lender will conduct a credit check to understand how you’ve repaid previous loans. Having a copy of your credit file beforehand can give you the time and opportunity to check everything is correct. Doing this can help you to avoid nasty surprises during your assessment.
A good credit score undoubtedly improves your mortgage chances. In comparison, recent credit issues or a low credit score can make mortgage approval difficult.
Finding suitable lenders
You’ll need to select a suitable lender when applying for a mortgage. Under no circumstances should you pick a lender at random and take the first rate that’s offered. This is a crucial part of getting a mortgage, as you’ll not only improve your chances of getting a mortgage, but you can also choose a competitive rate.
A mortgage advisor can help you, particularly with finding eligible lenders. We’ll first check the lenders you qualify with and then find the most competitive rates offered.
Mortgage criteria and eligibility
Although lenders have unique criteria, you’ll be assessed on the following:
- Age – Most lenders require applicants to be at least 18 and may have a maximum age limit, typically 80.
- Affordability – You can usually borrow three to five times your annual income. Some lenders will lend more depending on your employment. As a result, the mortgage amount you’ve applied for must be in line with your earnings. Lenders will also check your debt and expenditure as part of their criteria.
- Credit rating – While getting a mortgage with a poor credit rating is possible, having a clean credit file can improve your mortgage chances. Some lenders are more strict than others for credit checks, so you’ll need to be sure your lender is suitable.
- Employment status – Lenders will assess details surrounding your employment. This can vary for each applicant, as you may be self-employed or work on a zero-hour contract. Nonetheless, lenders will want to check whether your employment is sustainable to repay the mortgage you’ve applied for.
- Deposit size – Your deposit amount will determine the rates you qualify for. A larger deposit will unlock better rates, whereas smaller deposits usually have higher rates. Lenders will consider your deposit size during your assessment.
How much can I borrow?
You can borrow between 3-5 times your annual income. Some lenders accept bonuses and overtime, whereas others only accept your contractual salary.
It’s possible to borrow up to 6.5 times your salary if you’re a key worker employed by the NHS, teaching or emergency services. Your income is assessed on your average earnings if you’re a contractor, self-employed or work on a zero-hour contract.
You can use our calculator to work out how much you can borrow.
How long does a mortgage application take?
On average, getting a mortgage approved can take two to six weeks. How long it takes to get a mortgage depends on several factors:
- Credit rating – A good credit rating can speed up the mortgage process. In comparison, a bad credit rating can slow your application down, as lenders will have more to check, such as your credit issues.
- Income and employment – If your employment is straightforward, it shouldn’t delay your application. However, having a complex income structure will take longer for lenders to assess you. Furthermore, having a lot of debt can cause lenders to come back with further questions during your assessment, which can delay your application.
- Mortgage survey – Your lender will send a surveyor to the home you’re buying to verify its value before they make you a formal mortgage offer. A survey can cause delays, depending on how quickly the surveyor can access the property.
- Signing of documents – You’ll need to sign and provide many documents when applying for a mortgage. Being prepared and returning documents promptly can speed the mortgage process up.
Other factors can affect how long a mortgage takes. Tell your advisor how urgently you need a mortgage, especially if you need to meet a deadline for your home purchase.
Read more: How to get a fast mortgage
Do I need an agreement in principle?
Getting an agreement in principle before you start your property search has many benefits. You can establish a budget before you begin your property search so you’ll know what you can borrow. It can be disheartening to find a property only to apply and then be told you can’t borrow the amount you’d hoped for.
Some estate agents will also want to see an agreement in principle if you’ve made an offer on a property. Having this document to hand will certainly work in your favour.
Learn more: How to get a mortgage in principle
How can I start a mortgage application?
You can start your mortgage application by first speaking to an advisor. After assessing your details, an advisor will discuss your options and check which lenders you qualify with. This will give you an accurate idea of how much you can borrow and the rates you’ll be offered, along with a budget to work with.
Once you understand your options, you can begin your property search. An advisor can then submit your mortgage application when you’ve had an offer accepted on a property. Make an enquiry to speak to an advisor and start your application.
About the author
Martin is a senior mortgage advisor and has held a CeMAP qualification for over 15 years while also completing an MBA in Global Banking & Finance.