Refinance Documents Checklist: What You'll Need to Support Your Application

Unless your personal filing system is fantastic, getting the refinance documents together that you need to see your application succeed can be challenging. But it's something that simply can't be ducked. Lenders rarely take anything on trust, and require supporting documentation for pretty much every assertion you make on your application – and then some.

Of course, you can just wait to be asked for the required paperwork, but that risks your application being delayed. And the last thing you probably want is for your transaction to be held up: suppose refinance rates go up, or, if you're carrying out a cash-out refinancing, your need for money suddenly becomes urgent. To avoid you yourself becoming a bottleneck in the bureaucratic process, it's a good idea to gather together the documents you will – or may – be required to produce as early as possible. And because you may need to source copies of lost papers from third parties or to ask your employer or others for letters confirming certain facts, you should probably begin to compile that dossier as soon as you decide you want to refinance your mortgage.

Five Main Types of Supporting Refinance Documents

Most – maybe all – lenders will want to verify:

  1. Your identity
  2. Your income from all sources
  3. Your assets
  4. Your outgoings, especially loan and credit payments
  5. Your creditworthiness

Your Refinance Documents Checklist

That may not sound too onerous, but these five categories can each require a number of supporting documents. Which ones you might be asked to produce will depend on your lender's particular requirements and on your personal situation. For example, those who are self-employed have to provide different evidence of their income from those who are employed. Here's a checklist of the supporting papers that are always, sometimes or occasionally requested for each applicant:

1. Identity

  • A copy of your social security card
  • A photo ID issued by the government

2a. Income – for employed applicants

  • Signed request for tax transcript (IRS Form 4506-T), which authorizes the lender to view and verify your tax returns
  • Your last pay stub if you're paid monthly
  • Your last three pay stubs if you're paid every two weeks
  • Your last five pay stubs if you're paid weekly
  • Your Form W-2 (provided to you annually by your employer for tax purposes) for each of the two most recent years
  • Your IRS Form 1040 (U.S. Individual Income Tax Return) for each of the two most recent years
  • Proof of any income from tips
  • Proof of any income from pensions, social security or similar
  • Proof of any income from assets
  • If you have a significant gap in your last two years' employment record, you may write a letter explaining why

If you access your pay stubs online, you must print them, and have a company representative sign them.

2b. Income – for self-employed applicants

  • Complete copies of federal tax returns for each of the three most recent years for both you personally and your business (Schedule K-1 / 1065, 1120, 1120S, etc.).
  • A current year-to-date profit and loss statement for your business
  • A list of all the debts your business currently owes for which you are personally liable
  • Proof of income from pensions, social security or similar
  • Proof of income from assets

3. Your Assets

  • Current or recent statements proving the existence and value of any assets (bank, retirement, investment, stocks, bonds and so on) you claim to own
  • Documents showing the source of any large deposits on your assets or bank statements

4. Your Outgoings

  • Checking account and other bank statements for the most recent two or more months
  • Recent credit card and other loan statements – including student, auto and home equity loans and lines of credit
  • Proof of value of child support and alimony payments (probably court papers), together with evidence (perhaps canceled checks) you're current with those
  • Recent insurance, homeowners' association and property tax bills, together with evidence you're current with those

It's worth noting that many of your loan balances and much of your payment history will be visible to your lender when it checks your credit report and bank statements. So it's a practical mistake (as well as possibly a criminal offense) to lie or conceal facts about your outgoings.

5. Your Creditworthiness

  • If you have adverse items on your credit report, you may write a letter explaining how those arose
  • Copies of all court orders or decrees that exist concerning any debts you owe or have recently owed
  • Court papers (including discharge ones) relating to any bankruptcy that still appears on your credit report, which can be up to 10 years from filing. Learn more at Mortgages: Can You Refinance After Bankruptcy?
  • Your recent payment history for items that may not appear on your credit report, such as public utilities and cable TV

Other Preparation

In addition to supporting documentation, you may also need to supply information on or with your application. Expect to be asked for:

  • Your residential and email addresses and phone numbers going back at least two years
  • Your employers' names, addresses and phone numbers going back at least two years
  • Details about the property you're refinancing, including the year of its construction

Phew! That's sounds like a lot of work. But, once you start to pull the refinance documents you're going to need, you'll probably find it's less hard than you fear. And, of course, the rewards in lower mortgage rates or lower monthly payments, or the cash you take out from the refinancing, should make it all worthwhile.

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