Home Buyers: Don’t Move Your Money!

account closed If you plan to apply for a home loan within the next three months, do not move your money around. Here are three tips:

• 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.