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“We are first-time home buyers and thinking about trying to purchase by this summer. Should we start the application process now or wait, we don’t know how long our approval would be good for?”

You can never do enough advanced mortgage planning. In fact, it doesn’t matter if it’s a sellers’ market or a buyers’ market, there’s always a benefit to being prepared for any conditions.

Whether it’s a particular home or an ideal set of circumstances, you never know when that perfect opportunity will present itself. More importantly, if there are weaknesses in your file, you would benefit from having more time to strengthen your file prior to writing an offer on a home.

That said, your lender should consult with you on the type of documentation they need from you upfront and assuming you are approved, how long the approval is good for as you shop for a home.

For example, just like groceries, certain documentation in your file will expire or has a specific shelf life to it. Therefore, once you start the process, it’s really up to you on how long you want to maintain your approval for going forward.

Typically your credit report, employment documentation and income verifications must be no more than 120 days old at the time of signing your final closing paperwork. Plus, both your property appraisal and preliminary title report are valid for up to 120 days from your signing date as well.

Should a pest inspection be part of the contract on the home you are buying, that report must not be more than 90 days old. In summary, a safe expectation to set would be that your lender can and will likely request documentation from you all the way up through the funding and closing of your loan.

“I’m an experienced investment property owner and I’ve been looking at homes online. I see some properties that could require a little bit of work. What’s the bare minimum of what items need to be in a home to get a loan?”

To start, I’ll have to assume a few things, such as you are viewing homes in California and you do not want to pursue any sort of renovation loan at the time of purchase.

Without knowing much more about your intentions or if you are a strong borrower, you could rule out properties that don’t have a working kitchen, at least one full working bathroom including a sink, toilet, shower or tub and properties that have security bars, which do not contain emergency release latches. There are other ineligible property characteristics, but these are the major ones.

On a less extreme side, if the property is located in California, it requires working carbon monoxide detectors in the property. If they are missing or nonfunctional, this single item might prevent your loan from closing.

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Chris Salese can be reached at or (707) 363-4439. He is a licensed California mortgage banker (NMLS 254469/1850 CA BRE 01377933/01215943) and equal housing lender.


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