Do you keep cash in a safe or other hidden place inside your home? If so, this is a big heads-up! You need to get that money into a bank account immediately and then wait for three months before you can use that money for a down payment.
“Everyone takes cash” — right? NO.
A mortgage lender needs to see two months’ bank statements showing the money in your account belonging to you. If there is a large deposit into your account, that deposit needs to be traced with paperwork. That is why you will need that third month for the money to season in your account: so the deposit doesn’t show on your bank statements.
Down payment money must be sourced. If you cannot document it with paper, you cannot use it. A signed letter does not count. Why? Because anybody can say anything in a letter–writing it down doesn’t necessarily make it true. A photograph of money hiding under your mattress doesn’t count, either. Why? Because you could have taken a cash advance on your credit card and then stashed the money under your bed. Or in your home safe. That would be borrowed money from a credit card company, which is not allowed.
You must officially document your down payment money.
If you sold a vehicle, you can use that money for your down payment as long as you provide the Bill of Sale, the receipt showing the cash being deposited into your account, and a bank statement showing the cash in there. But beware! The dollar amount of the Bill of Sale and the deposit slip must match exactly, so you cannot keep out some money for shopping.
If you want to use your tax return for the down payment, you must provide a copy of your tax returns showing the refund owed and then the deposit receipt for the exact same amount and a bank statement showing the money in.
If you want to use gift money from your mother, you must provide your mother’s bank statement showing she owned the gift money as well as have her sign a form gift letter from your mortgage lender. Why? Because your mother cannot take out a cash advance on her card for your down payment. She must show “ability to give” with a bank statement.
You get the idea. The documentation needs to come from a legal source and cannot be something someone wrote up and had a friend notarize the signature on; nor can it be a sneaky side loan.
With more Americans nowadays saving money in a personal safe (or, horrors!, even a plastic garbage bag) this is important information to know. Get your “house money” into the bank and keep it there (preferably in one account) until it is time to get that cashier’s check at closing.
If you know someone who this applies to, please pass on the information, because it is no fun to be blindsided with a rule you never knew about.
• Don’t consolidate bank accounts.
• Don’t close a bank account.
• Don’t open a new account at a new bank.
If you want an easier, smoother loan closing, just leave your money as it is. Here’s why.
Right now, underwriting guidelines are super strict. Underwriters are expected to triple-verify everything. They want ironclad proof that down payment money and reserves (money in savings) are your own, not borrowed. In the past, borrowers who did not have enough cash to qualify for the home they wanted, used trickery to get qualified. They borrowed money from friends, took out cash advances on credit cards, or magically made cash appear from God-knows-where. There are tales of cash coming from drug sales, lap dances, and dumpster diving. I even heard a story from a loan officer friend about cash for the down payment coming from a giant garbage bag hidden in the kitchen. (He was visiting the home to take a loan application when the client showed him a hundred grand in bills in a big, black bag that was under the sink.)
Underwriters do not like what’s called “mattress money.” Why? Because money you pulled out from under your mattress might have actually been a secret side loan that has now pushed your debt-to-income ratio too high.
All down payment money must have a clear, proven, verified paper trail showing the money is and has been your own. Therefore, you are required to submit two months’ bank statements verifying the funds. If the bank statement shows a large deposit coming from a different bank account, that is a problem. Now you have to provide two months’ bank statements for that account. If you have shut down or opened new accounts, this gets complicated.
The last thing you want is complicated! Complications add more paperwork, more letters of explanation, more underwriting supervisors getting involved, more time to get your final approval, more time to close, and more headaches for you.
I’ve had clients who thought they were simplifying things by consolidating their accounts right before applying for a mortgage, but they ended up doing just the opposite. I’ve also had clients move large sums from investments to checking accounts in order to “get ready” to buy a house. Don’t do that. Leave your funds where they are and then ask your loan officer how to best transfer your down payment to the closing agent.
You might have a bank account in another state that requires three-days’ notice to move the money. This is okay. You will move the money and paper trail it, according to your loan officer’s instructions, at the appropriate time — not right before getting your pre-approval.
The exception to the above is if you will not be buying a house for at least four months. In that case, you have time to move your money, because you don’t have to show bank statements from that far back.
If you have any questions about this, please let me know. My goal is to help you have a pleasant, stress-free loan experience. When you are well-qualified and do everything according to the (underwriting) book, then it is possible to have a good finance experience–even now.