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What Does Loan Underwriting Mean

Mortgage Underwriting 101
Written by
January 19, 2023
min read

Loan underwriting is when an underwriter evaluates an application to determine whether the consumer meets the lender's standards for borrowing. During the underwriting process, the lender will review the borrower's credit history, employment, and income to calculate whether they can repay the loan. 

Types of Loans Underwritten

The primary underwritten loans include mortgages, small business, construction, auto, student, and personal. Mortgage loans are the most common loans to be underwritten.


A mortgage is a loan used to finance the purchase of a property. The loan is secured by the property, which means if the borrower defaults, the lender can seize the property. The consumer makes monthly payments based on principal and interest. 

Small business loans

A small business loan can cover expenses, purchase equipment, or fund operations. Small business loans are provided by banks, credit unions, or online lenders and are secured by collateral or require a personal guarantee.

Construction loans

A construction loan is short-term to finance building or remodeling a home. The loan is often provided by a bank or other financial institution and is used to pay for the materials and labor of construction projects.

Auto loans

An auto loan is used to purchase a vehicle. It is a financial product that allows the borrower to pay for a new or used car. 

Student loans

A student loan is designed for students to help pay for their education.  These loans are often government-backed, but private lenders might offer them. Student loans can cover various expenses, including tuition, fees, books, and room and board.

Personal loans

Personal loans consolidate debt, finance a major purchase, or pay for expenses. Unlike secured loans backed by collateral, personal loans are not tied to an asset. Instead, lenders rely on the borrower's creditworthiness and ability to repay the loan to determine the terms and conditions.

Steps in the Loan Underwriting Process

Loan underwriting can be broken down into five steps: pre-qualification, application, verification, underwriting, and approval.


This initial stage of the process is where the creditor evaluates if the borrower is eligible for a loan based on their creditworthiness and financial history. The borrower provides documents about their income, assets, debts, and credit score.


Once the borrower is pre-qualified, they will be required to complete a loan application, which includes more detailed information about their finances, such as employment, debts, assets, and credit history.


In this step, the lender confirms the information provided. This involves checking the borrower's employment, income, and credit history to confirm the information is accurate. This is the step where the lender will ask for financial documents.


Once the borrower's information has been verified, the underwriter conducts an analysis to determine whether the borrower meets the lender's criteria. This includes evaluating the borrower's credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and other financial factors.


Based on the underwriting analysis, the lender will either approve or deny the loan. If approved, the borrower will be provided with an offer, which includes the terms and conditions. If denied, the underwriter will provide a reason.

Common Loan Underwriting Criteria

Loan underwriters examine various criteria to define a potential borrower's risk factor. The common baselines include a credit report, employment and income, assets, DTI, down payment, and LTV ratio.

Credit report

Underwriters will review the borrower's credit reports and scores to assess their creditworthiness and track record of borrowing and repaying loans. A credit score of 620 is the minimum to qualify for a mortgage.

Employment and income

Underwriters will evaluate the borrower's salary, prior work experience, and job security to gauge their ability to reimburse the loan. Underwriters prefer a stable job history and a sensible salary.


The underwriter considers the borrower's assets, such as real estate or other valuables, as collateral.

Debt-to-income ratio

This ratio compares the borrower's debt to their monthly income and discerns their ability to manage their obligations. Underwriters prefer a debt-to-income ratio of 50% or less.

Down payment

For a mortgage loan, the borrower's down payment is considered a measure of their financial stability and commitment. A down payment of 20% or more is secure, although lower down payments are acceptable under certain circumstances.

LTV ratio

The loan-to-value ratio (LTV) compares the loan size to the value of the property being used as collateral, determining the risk involved in lending to the borrower.

What are the loan underwriting fees 

Loan underwriting fees are charges creditors levy on consumers to cover the cost of evaluating and approving loan applications. These fees are a percentage of the loan and vary depending on the lender, the type of loan, and the borrower's creditworthiness.

Some lending agencies have no underwriting fees, others bundle them into the closing costs, and still a few charge a separate fee.

How is it determined whether a loan is approved

Creditors use assorted factors to decide whether to approve a loan. The key factors include the borrower's credit score, credit history, income, debts, and assets. Underwriters' requirements in any category vary depending on loan type and size.

In general, lenders prefer that borrowers have a good credit score, a solid credit history, a stable income, manageable debt, and sufficient assets. Borrowers that meet these criteria will likely be approved.

Who benefits from loan underwriting

For the consumer, loan underwriting helps ensure they get the loan they need with fair and reasonable terms. It also helps the borrower understand their financial situation and see areas where they need to improve their credit or financial management.

For the creditor, loan underwriting reduces liability by ensuring the borrower can repay the loan. It aids the lender in making informed decisions and setting loan terms that are appropriate for the consumer's financial situation. By evaluating loan applications, lenders can minimize their default risk and ensure their portfolio's long-term viability.

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