Close up photo of broker giving keys of new house to happy couple

Closing timelines are tightening, but aspiring homeowners have to work hard to ensure a quick turnaround. (Getty Images)

When you’re looking to buy the perfect home in a hot real estate market, timing is everything. You certainly don’t want to lose out on a home because you can’t get to the closing table quickly enough for the seller.

Unfortunately, some things are out of your control. Especially when it comes to your mortgage approval, which typically includes a property appraisal, inspection and deeper dive into your personal financial history, deadlines can come and go.

The last thing you or your lender want is for you to lose out on the perfect home purchase because your mortgage underwriting process took too long. Fortunately, there are a growing number of ways for you to help move the loan approval process along and hopefully keep you on time with your preferred closing date.

[Read: What Will the Housing Market Look Like in the Next Recession?]

In a study of mortgage purchase timelines over 14 months released this week, online loan marketplace LendingTree reports the median amount of time it took from the first point of contact during the mortgage shopping phase to closing on a purchase decreased by seven days over the course of the year. In addition, LendingTree reports a 19 percent increase in the number of loans closed within 30 days and a 27 percent increase in mortgages closed within 31 to 60 days.

The tightening of close times are certainly encouraging for homebuyers who need to move at a steady pace in order to beat out competing buyers with a tempting offer. Still, buyers should expect the mortgage process to take some time and require a good amount of their attention. While closing in less than 30 days is possible, it’s not yet the norm.

The average number of days to close for home purchase loans in August was 43 days, according to mortgage software provider Ellie Mae’s monthly Origination Insight Report.

One detail many experts point to as a reason the mortgage approval process lags is the industry has been relatively slow to adopt new technologies, though the tech world is now infiltrating lender practices and the platforms they use.

“The real estate mortgage vertical is one of the last to offer the full end-to-end search and transaction experience. Most other verticals now offer that – whether it's travel or lodging or airline tickets or taxi cabs. … You have the ability to look and then to buy,” says Rajesh Bhat, CEO and co-founder of Roostify, a mortgage technology company that provides an automated platform for lenders. “Obviously it’s not that simple when it comes to buying a home, but giving the consumer the ability to jump from one of these solutions into the mortgage experience is important.”

Technology can’t do it all, however. Here are seven things you can do to cut the amount of time it takes for your mortgage to close.

Have a list of questions ready. As you shop around and examine lender options, you should be prepared with questions to ask about loan programs available to you, information needed to start the preapproval process and, of course, potential timeline.

“I would ask the question of what are your typical turn[around] times, how long are your [interest] rate locks?” says Sam Mischner, head of mortgage at LendingTree.

If the lender's average time to close is upwards of 90 days, your mortgage approval could be seen as a liability with a seller. You still may feel most confident moving forward with a slower lender’s mortgage options, but keep in mind that time is a factor you’ll have to deal with in your purchase offer and negotiations with a home seller.

The rate lock, which sets a specific interest rate for your loan, good for as long as the lock is in place regardless of what mortgage rates do in the interim, is also important. If you don’t expect to close within 30 days but the rate lock is for 30 days, you’ll have to pay to extend the lock. Factor these costs in as you weigh your lender options.

Pull together your financial information. The best way to get the mortgage process moving on the right foot is to have all your financial information on hand when you apply for preapproval.

Jason Bateman, head of Redfin Mortgage, the lender subsidiary of the full-service real estate brokerage currently located in Texas and expanding to other Redfin markets, recommends you “go ahead and get preapproved” before you begin the house hunting process.

Not only will you better determine the price range you can afford, but you’ve provided the all the necessary information so the “only thing that’s left are property-related matters,” Bateman says.

[Read: Can You Actually Refinance Your Mortgage Too Often?]

Make informed budget decisions. By being preapproved for a mortgage, you know the maximum amount you can spend, but chances are you won’t actually be able to afford that peak price when you break down monthly costs.

In addition to a mortgage preapproval, you should determine how much you can afford in monthly payments and your own personal maximum budget based on your own expenses. Knowing the reality of what’s affordable to you from the start will help keep you from wasting time touring homes that ultimately would be too much for you to take on.

“It will cut down a little on the heartache,” Bateman says.

Make a confident offer on a house. When you do find the house you want to purchase, work with your real estate agent to craft an offer that is appealing to the seller and can show you’re serious as a buyer.

“You want to make yourself as competitive as possible, especially in a hot market,” Mischner says.


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What to Do If You Are Turned Down for a Mortgage

Remember that when you apply for a loan, lenders typically look at three major issues: your credit, income and assets.


Take advantage of digital options. More lenders are turning to online and automated options for receiving financial information, accepting loan applications and even communicating with clients’ banks to confirm details and streamline the mortgage process.

Opting to allow your lender to contact your bank directly to verify your financial information or choosing to e-sign a document can help cut out time previously created by a lack of technological assistance.

“If you can look at shaving your closing time frame by several days, by a week or two by using one of these solutions, there’s certainly some benefit to doing so,” Bhat says.

Ask when you don’t know. With lenders embracing new technology at increasing rates, automation is helping things move quicker, but that also means you’re less likely to speak with a person directly unless you initiate it.

Mischner stresses that borrowers can still get all the individual help they may want, but now they have to ask for it: “It’s important to know that if you need help, you have to raise your hand.”

Because you should never sign on to any financial agreement without fully understanding the process, ask questions as soon as you have them to avoid a delay further down the line. Questions are expected in the mortgage approval process, so you should never feel embarrassed to ask.

[Read: You Can Buy a House With Little or Nothing Down. Should You?]

Be on call. As the loan officer is working on your loan application, you’ll likely receive a request for a specific document or for you to confirm a detail. The best way to speed up your approval is to answer immediately.

Mischner points out that underwriters and loan officers are dealing with many pending loans at a time. If you’re able to answer any questions before they’ve moved onto another loan on the to-do list, things can move quicker. “When they’re working on your file and they reach out for something, make sure you get it back to them as quickly as possible,” he says.


The Best Places to Live in the U.S. for Quality of Life in 2017

Taking your quality of life into account

San Jose, United States - August 6, 2012: Downtown San Jose scene in summer with people playing around fountains with the Fairmont Hotel (center) and the Knight Ridder building (to the left) in the background.

(Getty Images)

Multiple factors play into truly loving where you live. Affordability and career opportunities certainly contribute, but you’ll also want to consider your daily commute, access to quality education and health care, crime rates and general well-being. As part of the Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2017 rankings, U.S. News compiled information on these important aspects of a solid place to live (find out more about the categories). Read on for the 25 metro areas that scored highest across all five categories.

25. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

25. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

Downtown Raleigh Twilight, North Carolina

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 7
Median Home Price: $219,466
Median Annual Salary: $51,150
College Readiness Ranking: 48
Health Ranking: 50
Well-Being Ranking: 12
Crime Ranking: 28
Average Commute Time: 24.8 minutes

Of all its scores contributing to the Quality of Life ranking, the Raleigh and Durham area most notably comes in 12th of the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. in the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, which measures residents’ satisfaction with where they live, plus their physical health and the area's economic stability. Gallup assesses well-being by interviewing 500 people per day throughout the world – and about 175,000 people per year.

24. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

24. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

Image of Minneapolis downtown skyline at sunset.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 17
Median Home Price: $223,995
Median Annual Salary: $53,450
College Readiness Ranking: 22
Health Ranking: 77
Well-Being Ranking: 50
Crime Ranking: 17
Average Commute Time: 25.1 minutes

It may have the second-longest average commute of the 25 Best Places for Quality of Life, but Minneapolis-St. Paul maintains a morning commute that's shorter than the national average of 25.9 minutes.

23. Salt Lake City

23. Salt Lake City

Morning orange sky over Salt lake city utah

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 10
Median Home Price: $247,052
Median Annual Salary: $44,752
College Readiness Ranking: 45
Health Ranking: 94
Well-Being Ranking: 57
Crime Ranking: 10
Average Commute Time: 22.3 minutes

While Salt Lake City doesn’t score well for ample access to quality health care – ranking No. 94 of the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. – Utah's capital makes up for it with a short average commute and low property crime and murder rates.

22. Milwaukee

22. Milwaukee

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 47
Median Home Price: $190,479
Median Annual Salary: $48,170
College Readiness Ranking: 10
Health Ranking: 27
Well-Being Ranking: 33
Crime Ranking: 82
Average Commute Time: 23.2 minutes

Milwaukee achieves its highest score in the Quality of Life index for college readiness among high school students, which is calculated for the U.S. News Best High Schools rankings using Advanced Placement participation rate and subsequent scores on those tests.

21. Albany, New York

21. Albany, New York

New York State Capitol is the state capitol building of the U.S. state of New York. Housing the New York Legislature, it is located in the state capital of Albany on State Street in Capitol Park. Albany is known for its culture, history, architecture, and institutions of higher education

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 30
Median Home Price: $197,213
Median Annual Salary: $50,880
College Readiness Ranking: 49
Health Ranking: 18
Well-Being Ranking: 52
Crime Ranking: 18
Average Commute Time: 22.8 minutes

New York's capital city receives excellent marks for the area’s short average morning commute. Albany residents and those in the immediate suburbs commute 20 minutes or less on average, with the maximum commute for the outer suburbs still under 40 minutes.

20. Rochester, New York

20. Rochester, New York

Autumn leaves with colorful trees in Rochester City of New York.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 39
Median Home Price: $131,152
Median Annual Salary: $47,590
College Readiness Ranking: 14
Health Ranking: 23
Well-Being Ranking: 83
Crime Ranking: 49
Average Commute Time: 21.1 minutes

Another Upstate New York metro area, Rochester rounds out the top 20 with an average morning commute of just 21.1 minutes.

19. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

19. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The churches and neighborhoods seen from the South Street Parking Garage in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 34
Median Home Price: $83,500
Median Annual Salary: $46,520
College Readiness Ranking: 75
Health Ranking: 2
Well-Being Ranking: 51
Crime Ranking: 24
Average Commute Time: 22.5 minutes

With a relatively short morning commute, Harrisburg is also second among the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. for access to quality health care.

18. Syracuse, New York

18. Syracuse, New York

view of the city of Syracuse, new york

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 28
Median Home Price: $82,500
Median Annual Salary: $47,330
College Readiness Ranking: 41
Health Ranking: 17
Well-Being Ranking: 41
Crime Ranking: 40
Average Commute Time: 21 minutes

Ranking 17th for its access to quality health care, Syracuse also boasts an average morning commute of just 21 minutes.

17. New Haven, Connecticut

17. New Haven, Connecticut

Autumn in New Haven Connecticut

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 81
Median Home Price: $211,796
Median Annual Salary: $53,680
College Readiness Ranking: 39
Health Ranking: 7
Well-Being Ranking: 34
Crime Ranking: 31
Average Commute Time: 24.4 minutes

While New Haven is No. 81 in the overall Best Places to Live ranking, it receives its highest score for Quality of Life. Most notably, the coastal Connecticut city ranks close to the top for its access to quality health care, where it stands at No. 7 of the 100 largest metro areas.

16. Madison, Wisconsin

16. Madison, Wisconsin

A vivid, photo taken from an airplane of downtown Madison, Wisconsin in spring.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 18
Median Home Price: $219,429
Median Annual Salary: $49,030
College Readiness Ranking: 32
Health Ranking: 9
Well-Being Ranking: 87
Crime Ranking: 8
Average Commute Time: 21.7 minutes

Madison scores particularly well for its low property crime and murder rates as well as its access to quality health care – ranking eighth and ninth, respectively.

15. Lancaster, Pennsylvania

15. Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Cityscape of Northwestern Lancaster, PA shot from bird's eye view

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 41
Median Home Price: $176,138
Median Annual Salary: $42,150
College Readiness Ranking: 62
Health Ranking: 1
Well-Being Ranking: 67
Crime Ranking: 4
Average Commute Time: 22.9 minutes

Lancaster takes the No. 1 spot for access to quality health care despite being a largely rural area, plus it's No. 4 for its low rates of property crime and murder.

14. El Paso, Texas

14. El Paso, Texas

El Paso, Texas

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 76
Median Home Price: $113,400
Median Annual Salary: $36,980
College Readiness Ranking: 52
Health Ranking: 99
Well-Being Ranking: 6
Crime Ranking: 3
Average Commute Time: 23.2 minutes

Located along the Texas-Mexico border, El Paso ranks No. 3 for its low property crime and murder rates, and it ranks No. 6 on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index.

13. Springfield, Massachusetts

13. Springfield, Massachusetts

Springfield, Massachusetts skyline along the banks of the Connecticut River

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 67
Median Home Price: $196,921
Median Annual Salary: $49,570
College Readiness Ranking: 37
Health Ranking: 6
Well-Being Ranking: 36
Crime Ranking: 47
Average Commute Time: 22.8 minutes

Ranking No. 6 for nearby access to quality health care, Springfield residents also enjoy a short average morning commute of just 22.8 minutes.

12. Hartford, Connecticut

12. Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford, Connecticut, USA downtown cityscape.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 31
Median Home Price: $220,015
Median Annual Salary: $56,870
College Readiness Ranking: 16
Health Ranking: 13
Well-Being Ranking: 58
Crime Ranking: 26
Average Commute Time: 23.5 minutes

With ample access to quality health care (ranking No. 13), Hartford also receives excellent marks for college readiness among high school students, coming in at No. 16 in the category.

11. Austin, Texas

11. Austin, Texas

Aerial Austin Texas Sunset Glowing Cityscape Over Capital City of the 2nd largest state in America. The Texas State Capitol building is seen in the distance with the UT tower and the University of Texas. Austonian , Frost bank tower , office buildings and condos and skyscrapers line the north side of the Colorado river , or Town Lake , or Lady bird lake. The Colors from the sunset reflect off mirrors and glass from the urban city skyline with a once in a lifetime view of the Golden City. ATX.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 1
Median Home Price: $262,182
Median Annual Salary: $49,560
College Readiness Ranking: 9
Health Ranking: 78
Well-Being Ranking: 1
Crime Ranking: 25
Average Commute Time: 26.2 minutes

The No. 1 Best Place to Live in the U.S. in 2017, Austin is also No. 1 on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, no doubt partially due to the metro area's strong job market, low cost of living compared with other major cities and growing population due to net migration.

10. Melbourne, Florida

10. Melbourne, Florida

Sunrise in Florida with Vegetation.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 49
Median Home Price: $163,042
Median Annual Salary: $45,470
College Readiness Ranking: 5
Health Ranking: 41
Well-Being Ranking: 44
Crime Ranking: 35
Average Commute Time: 24.2 minutes

This coastal Florida metro area located southeast of Orlando is a popular spot for retirees, with a median age of 46.6 years. Meanwhile, Melbourne’s high school students are well-prepared for higher education, as the area ranks fifth for college readiness.

9. Boise, Idaho

9. Boise, Idaho

Boise, Idaho

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 12
Median Home Price: $228,567
Median Annual Salary: $42,180
College Readiness Ranking: 63
Health Ranking: 84
Well-Being Ranking: 18
Crime Ranking: 1
Average Commute Time: 21.5 minutes

Boise has the lowest crime rate of the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. Its residents also spend little time in the car, as the area boasts an average morning commute of just 21.5 minutes.

8. San Diego

8. San Diego

Skyscrapers of San Diego skyline with reflections and cloudscape.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 22
Median Home Price: $484,625
Median Annual Salary: $54,210
College Readiness Ranking: 8
Health Ranking: 62
Well-Being Ranking: 38
Crime Ranking: 11
Average Commute Time: 25 minutes

One of the most desirable places to live, San Diego also manages to maintain low crime rates and ranks No. 8 for college readiness among high school students.

7. Santa Rosa, California

7. Santa Rosa, California

Wine grapes in Sonoma County, California.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 52
Median Home Price: $499,513
Median Annual Salary: $50,540
College Readiness Ranking: 27
Health Ranking: 16
Well-Being Ranking: N/A
Crime Ranking: 5
Average Commute Time: 25 minutes

Located at the heart of California wine country, Santa Rosa ranks No. 5 for its low property crime and murder rates.

6. Fayetteville, Arkansas

6. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Fayetteville

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 5
Median Home Price: $182,508
Median Annual Salary: $43,570
College Readiness Ranking: 31
Health Ranking: 40
Well-Being Ranking: N/A
Crime Ranking: 13
Average Commute Time: 21.2 minutes

Ranking fifth on the overall Best Places to Live in the U.S. list, Fayetteville has a particularly low average morning commute of 21.2 minutes.

5. Sarasota, Florida

5. Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota, Florida

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 21
Median Home Price: $224,613
Median Annual Salary: $40,600
College Readiness Ranking: 19
Health Ranking: 44
Well-Being Ranking: 10
Crime Ranking: 22
Average Commute Time: 23.5 minutes

Sarasota’s residents skew older – with a median age of 50.7 years – and they appear to be satisfied with living in the area, which ranks 10th on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index.

4. Portland, Maine

4. Portland, Maine

Portland Head lighthouse on the rocky coastline of Maine at sunrise,

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 26
Median Home Price: $219,658
Median Annual Salary: $46,520
College Readiness Ranking: 29
Health Ranking: 12
Well-Being Ranking: N/A
Crime Ranking: 2
Average Commute Time: 24.6 minutes

Second behind Boise for its low crime rate, Portland also ranks 12th for access to quality health care.

3. Grand Rapids, Michigan

3. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Big Cloud over Grand Rapids, Michigan

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 19
Median Home Price: $155,256
Median Annual Salary: $42,950
College Readiness Ranking: 17
Health Ranking: 19
Well-Being Ranking: 49
Crime Ranking: 12
Average Commute Time: 21.8 minutes

With an average commute of just 21.8 minutes, Grand Rapids also ranks 12th for its low property crime and murder rates.

2. McAllen, Texas

2. McAllen, Texas

McAllen-Hidalgo-Reyneso border bridge, seen from the American side looking into Mexico at night. The bridge connects the city of McAllen, Texas with Reynosa, Mexico across the Rio Grande River.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 94
Median Home Price: $120,300
Median Annual Salary: $33,810
College Readiness Ranking: 4
Health Ranking: 74
Well-Being Ranking: N/A
Crime Ranking: 27
Average Commute Time: 22.1 minutes

McAllen comes in second on this list, particularly for its short commute time – 22.1 minutes – and excellent marks for college readiness among high school students.

1. San Jose, California

1. San Jose, California

San Jose, USA - March 3, 2015: Downtown San Jose California, featuring the hotel DeAnza, Office towers, traffic light and Almaden Bl road sign. Photographed on a sunny day with clear blue sky. No traffic on the street.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2017 Ranking: 3
Median Home Price: $829,792
Median Annual Salary: $78,620
College Readiness Ranking: 1
Health Ranking: 42
Well-Being Ranking: 16
Crime Ranking: 21
Average Commute Time: 26.5 minutes

Taking the top spot on the list of Best Places to Live for Quality of Life, San Jose has the highest score for college readiness among high school students and ranks No. 16 in the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index.

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Tags: real estate, housing market, housing, new home sales, existing home sales, pending home sales, home prices, mortgages


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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