The Mortgage Process Behind the Scenes: What Happens in the Dark Behind the Curtains

Douglas Hart

By Douglas Hart

I remember reading a story several years ago about a police officer on patrol in a residential neighborhood. Late one evening, the police officer came upon a man frantically crawling on the ground underneath a street lamp. The officer pulled over and offered his assistance. The frantic man claimed to have “lost his keys.” After assisting the man for some time underneath the street lamp, the officer asked, “Are you sure you dropped your keys here?” The man, now on the verge of losing it responded “No, I dropped them about 100 yards over there.” Puzzled, the officer asked, “Why aren’t you looking over there?” The man responded, “Because I’m afraid of the dark.”

The moral of this story is simple. Often, “the keys” or “answers” to many of our life’s challenges hide in areas where we aren’t fond of looking.

The mortgage process, from prequalification to close, can be complicated and frustrating for a real estate agent. There are many moving parts to a successful closing. Many people take part, and most of the time, agents are left in the dark to the true path of a successful close.

My goal with this piece is to fully unveil the actual process, the timeline in which it’s typically completed (emphasis on typical!), and some common hold-ups to be aware of.

Day #1 – Purchase Contract Received
Once a loan officer (LO) has the final piece needed, the purchase contract, he or she has three business days to get the initial disclosures out. An LO needs fees from title, and the file must be complete and accurate to pass along to the client. Once the disclosures are out, the onus lies with the client to sign the disclosures for the file to reach the next milestone. This process takes about three to six days.

Day #7 – Submit to Processing
The processors coordinate with title to pull payoffs, verify documents, order the appraisal, place the docs into the correct “buckets,” and prepare the file for an underwriter. This process takes five business days unless the LO submits a squeaky clean file, and then and only then would processing take less than five days. It is worth noting, most processors typically handle 20-30 files per month.

Day #14 – Submit to Underwriting for Conditional Approval

Typical turnaround times for underwriting are two to three business days. This means that most files will wait in a queue for two to three days before the underwriter opens and decides on a file. Most underwriters are only able to underwrite two new files, and two to three resubmissions for final approval per day.

Day#18 – Clearing Conditions
If the underwriter calls for additional information, the LO is tasked with reaching back out to the client to obtain the additional documentation asked for. Every file and client is different, so the list of additional docs is rarely predictable. And again, the LO is at the mercy of the client’s urgency. This process usually takes two days.

Day #21 – Resubmit for Final Approval
Once the additional documentation is received, the underwriter reviews it, and signs off on the appraisal. Once completed the underwriter will issue a “clear to close” on the file. This process typically takes two to three days.

Day #24 – Closing Disclosure
The closing disclosure (CD) is a new step in the process per TRID laws. The CD is a document that needs to be acknowledged by the buyer three days before signing final loan documents.

Day #28 – Docs to Title
Title and lender usually go back and forth quite a bit to balance the final closing financial figures, but once completed, LOs now have the documents ready for the clients to sign.

Day #29 – Signing Date
Clients sign with a title representative or mobile notary. Some lenders can fund a file the same day as closing, but that usually requires an early morning signing. Typically, the wire cut off time is about 2 p.m. local time. But keep in mind, a same day closing requires many items to be signed off by the closing department to release the wire.

All Said and Done – 22 Business Days
Every file and its circumstances are different, as lenders differ in turnaround times as well. It is important to remember, there are only 22 working days in most months. That is why the typical 30 day COE comes down to the wire most of the time. Title, REALTOR®, and lender relationships are also extremely important in ensuring a swift close. Experience in working together creates harmony and in turn efficient closings.


Douglas Hart, a branch manager for Land Home Financial Services has 24 years of mortgage business experience. A top producer at every company he has worked, he was awarded “Presidents Club Top 10 producers in the nation” for Land Home Financial Services in 2015. He is passionate about assisting both loan officers as well as his real estate partners in achieving a higher level of success in their business. Having knowledge and experience with many strategies that have been proven successful, he only got there by experiencing and finding out what doesn’t work. He believes transparency is the most important aspect in his business for both agents and clients.