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Mortgage Approval

A guide to getting your mortgage approved

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Pete Mugleston

Author: Pete Mugleston - Mortgage Advisor, MD

Updated: June 17, 2022

Getting approved for a mortgage is one of the most important steps in the home buying or remortgage process. For many borrowers, going through the mortgage application process can be stressful.

Thankfully, help is on hand. If you’ve had trouble getting approved for a mortgage or simply want some guidance before you apply – you’re in the right place to find the specialist broker you need to help you through the mortgage application process.

If you prefer to skip the reading, you can save time, hassle and money by talking to one of the experts we work with. All the experts are whole-of-market mortgage brokers with access to lenders across the entire market. They have the knowledge, tools and experience to help you get the right mortgage at the best available price.

Call 0808 189 2301 or make an enquiry and we’ll match you with a broker experienced in helping customers in similar situations. They will be happy to answer your questions and find the right mortgage for you.

The service we offer is free, there’s absolutely no obligation and we won’t leave a mark on your credit rating.

What is the criteria for mortgage approval in the UK?

For many people, getting approved for a mortgage can be straightforward and not the daunting experience some fear. But certain factors can make the application process more difficult.

Generally, approval is based around several key areas:

  • Affordability – How much can you afford to borrow? Is your income acceptable?
  • Deposit – Do you have enough? Is the source acceptable?
  • Credit history – Have you had any credit issues in the past? If so, you may need more deposit

If the mortgage is easily affordable, your income is straightforward, you have enough deposit and clean credit history, then you are likely to be approved by most mortgage providers.

However, if you have something even slightly off centre you may struggle to find the right mortgage lender willing to approve your application.

If, for instance, you have adverse credit, are self-employed, are buying a property deemed to be non-standard construction or are simply in unique circumstances, you may find it harder to find a lender. The specialist mortgage brokers we work with know how to find the right lender, whatever your situation.

Online mortgage approval calculator

For a rough estimate of how much you could borrow, try out our mortgage approval calculator tool:

Maximum Mortgage Calculator
Include basic annual income, guaranteed annual bonuses, and any guaranteed allowances (car/shift/area allowance).
Include only official commitments such as mortgage, loan, credit card payments that will be LIVE when the mortgage is in force. Do not include payments that will be paid off before the new mortgage.
Include basic annual income, guaranteed annual bonuses, and any guaranteed allowances (car/shift/area allowance).
Include only official commitments such as mortgage, loan, credit card payments that will be LIVE when the mortgage is in force. Do not include payments that will be paid off before the new mortgage.

As you can see, finding the right lender can make a significant difference to the amount you can borrow. This is because specialist brokers have access to more lenders than typical high street brokers, and will have access to more deals.

The exact amount you can borrow will depend on various factors, including:

  • Your income type and amount
  • Your current level of financial commitments
  • Your credit history
  • Your credit score

For an accurate mortgage calculation, speak to one of the experts we work with. They will be able to take into account all the factors which alter what a lender might be willing to offer you.

If you’re not yet ready to speak to an advisor, there are general rules of thumb you can use to help get a clearer idea of the kind of figure you might be looking at (pre-application).

How to get a mortgage approved

For some people, there may be more to do to get a mortgage approved. However, as a general rule the five-step process below is the process you should expect when making a mortgage application in the UK:

  1. Assess the maximum borrowing, based on your income
  2. Confirm your deposit amount and where it is coming from, e.g. savings, equity or a gift
  3. Check your credit history through your credit files
  4. Establish rough maximum property and loan values (based on property types/sizes)
  5. Apply with the right lender knowing you match their criteria

Finding the right mortgage lender

Getting a mortgage approved has become more complex with increased regulation and tighter lending criteria since the 2008 credit crisis and 2014’s Mortgage Market Review (MMR).

Mortgage providers have become more focused on their ‘core customers’ and, as such, many who visit the high street can struggle unless their situation is completely normal and straightforward.

This has created gaps in the market where creditworthy customers are unable to find the mortgages they need. Thankfully, in the years since the market began to recover, old and new specialist mortgage companies have blossomed, resulting in some criteria relaxation.

What this has created, however, is a tricky landscape to navigate, and you’d be forgiven for not knowing where to look – many brokers themselves have a hard time!

With so many lenders only offering mortgages to customers who fit a very specific profile, more people are finding the need to go beyond the high street to find specialist mortgage lenders.

The brokers we work with are expert whole-of-market brokers with experience of helping customers find the right mortgage and lenders who are willing to look at borrowers with more unusual circumstances.

A good broker not only knows the market, they know your market

What we mean by this is that most mortgage brokers say they’re ‘whole of market’ but actually mostly deal with customers who many would consider straightforward borrowers. These brokers arrange lots of mortgages, getting top rate deals for customers without issue. And many of them are very good at it.

However, as soon as a customer walks through the door and they have bad credit, unusual self-employed income, or just a unique scenario that the broker hasn’t come across before, most brokers will struggle to know how to help.

Typically, the broker will do some research into banks and building societies on the rates tables until they find one to fit. This is often an extremely time-consuming process, and if the broker doesn’t fully understand the situation or know which mortgage lenders would consider the applicant, then they may give up before finding a solution.

The process of getting a mortgage approved in a more specialist scenario like this can also be very different, and it’s important each application is presented in the right way, so the underwriters can understand the reasons for lending and give the best possible chance of approval.

A specialist broker, someone who handles these types of application on a daily basis, already knows how to get a mortgage approval before the customer even walks through the door.

How long does it take to get a mortgage approved?

If your application is straightforward, you could get mortgage approval in one or two weeks. However, if your situation is more complicated, you may be in for a longer wait. The majority of mortgages take between 18 and 40 days from receipt of your application to an approval from the lender.

The actual length of time you’ll have to wait to get your mortgage approved depends on both your situation and the lender you’re applying to.

Almost every provider will split an application into two parts:

  1. Agreement in Principle
  2. Full underwritten application leading to mortgage offer

An agreement in principle (AIP) is basically a pre-approval of the mortgage, based on the information submitted and the customer’s credit score – although the lender will want to assess more documents to check the information is accurate. The AIP is often a solid indication that the mortgage will be approved at full application. This can be done in a matter of hours, or even minutes, of finding the right provider.

How long does it take to complete after mortgage approval?

On average, most mortgages take roughly 3 to 4 weeks to go from approval to completion.

The full underwritten application approval is when the lender has either automatically or manually checked the application in line with any documentation submitted, and is happy to authorise the mortgage subject to the valuation on the property being acceptable.

Once the property is accepted, the mortgage will then be confirmed as ‘offered’ formally, which means the mortgage is set up ready to go when the solicitors and all parties are ready to complete the transaction.

If you get your mortgage approval very fast then completion may take slightly longer since your solicitor may not have started on any of the legal tasks which have to happen ahead of completion.

Complicated applications such as people falling with adverse credit, self-employed, low deposit and high LTV can take longer than this for a number of reasons:

  • Increased research time
  • More thorough application processes – more detailed information required in order to make the decision (occasionally, applications may need to be submitted on paper rather than electronically)
  • More thorough underwriting processes. Most of the time, mortgage lenders who accept non-standard applications will underwrite applications manually. This often means they cannot give an accurate pre-approval and a fully packaged application with all documentation requirements will have to be sent for consideration before an agreement can be made.

Mortgage pre-approval

A pre-approved mortgage is basically an agreement to lend to a customer before a property is found and full application submitted.

It can often be a certificate outlining that the lender is happy to approve the mortgage based on the information provided up to that point, and may also indicate the maximum loan available to the borrowers.

What does the mortgage approval process in the UK involve?

The process of getting a pre-approved mortgage in the UK is very different now to what it was years ago and, for a lot of borrowers and market professionals, the meaning of the approval itself has changed.

These days, getting a pre-approved mortgage is an indication that the provider might lend, rather than an actual mortgage guarantee.

Credit scoring models have been developed to give a more accurate upfront decision to lend. But in recent years lenders have placed more importance on verification of documents and an assessment of the overall case at full application stage. Lenders will only make a solid decision once they have assessed all the documentary evidence.

There are a number of reasons for this, including:

  • The abolition of self-certified mortgages
  • The introduction of more stringent document checks
  • MMR and more strict affordability requirements
  • Increases in the numbers of unique working contracts (such as agency, casual, zero hours, and umbrella companies)
  • Increases in the number of self-employed applicants

MMR, in particular, has placed greater responsibility on mortgage companies to assess affordability which has increased both the questions asked and hoops to jump.

Mortgage approval in principle

Borrowers will need to pass the initial Agreement in Principle (AIP) stage to move on to a full application. The full application can only be submitted once you have your offer accepted on a property and are ready to get a valuation.

Many potential buyers can be disappointed when they put in an offer on a home they love on the strength of an AIP only to discover that, armed with the facts, a lender would not give them the mortgage they need.

Being declined at this stage can be hugely disappointing and can also lead to a lot of stress. Worse still, it can be expensive as providers will only assess your application once upfront fees and valuations have been commissioned and these tend to be non-refundable.

This is just one good reason for using a specialist broker, like the ones we work with. An experienced mortgage broker will know which mortgage lenders accept borrowers on full application, so when you get an AIP you know you’re likely to reach completion without being let down at the last minute.

The broker should also consider placing the valuation on hold until the mortgage has been given underwriters approval. Although this is not common, it can prove to be an incredibly valuable practice.

If your application is not straightforward, and having the valuation booked in is not an immediate necessity, ask your advisor to do this as it could save you some serious time, cash, and heartache.

Do I need a pre-approval for a mortgage?

The AIP is important because you need to know you pass the credit checks with the lender you’re applying to, and also because you’ll get a firm indication of the maximum you can borrow.

For estate agents and vendors the AIP helps whittle out time wasters. They are always keen to ensure that anyone making an offer on a property has the money to do so, preventing any lengthy drawn-out sales to buyers that may never have been in a position to finance the purchase.

When to get mortgage pre-approval

Typically, once approved AIPs, are valid for up to 3 months.

It is always advisable to get the AIP in place before you try to purchase, so you know you have the money behind you and have an idea of what you can afford to borrow.

If you’re looking to buy in 6 months’ time, it might not be worth obtaining an AIP, but it can still be worth talking to an expert so you know what you’re looking to do is possible. Otherwise you might spend the next 6 months looking for properties you can’t afford.

Borrowers often come to us requesting an instant mortgage pre-approval, which is certainly possible. We offer a red carpet service through the brokers we work with for these situations where speed is paramount. Visit our quick mortgages for more information.

Where to get a mortgage pre-approval

You could go to your bank, you could visit a few, or you could have a professional broker source you the best deal. As we’ve explained above, if your situation isn’t straightforward we would always recommend you use a broker who knows the market specific to your situation.

Can I get a mortgage approval online?

You can get a mortgage pre-approval online with the brokers we work with, just bear in mind they will need to verify your identity and income etc. following FCA guidelines using original documents that will either need to be hand delivered, collected or posted.

How much does it cost?

It is usually free to get a mortgage approved, however some brokers will charge commitment fees to ensure applicants use their services – don’t be put off by this, it’s common practice as there is a lot of work involved to get the AIP and few people are willing to work for free.

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What documents do you need?

In order to get your mortgage approved you’ll likely be asked for several things in order for the bank / your advisor to establish certain things about your situation. Generally, the documents needed for your mortgage application are:

  • ID (Passport/drivers licence)
  • Proof of home address (utility bills/council tax statements)
  • Proof of income (payslips / self-employed accounts or tax returns)
  • Outgoings (bank / credit card / mortgage statements etc.)

Because every mortgage lender differs on what they will and won’t accept in terms of documentation to support your mortgage application, your advisor should ask for this information ahead of starting to look for the right lender for you.

Every mortgage lender also differs on their criteria and what they deem as suitable income. For example, it would be difficult for an advisor to get you an accurate pre-approval without first seeing evidence of your income.

Mortgage approval with bad credit

If you have a low credit score or bad credit, it’s still possible to get bad credit mortgage approval.

The process of mortgage pre-approval for borrowers with bad credit is often slightly different than for people with clean credit histories. When underwriting applications like this, mortgage lenders need to fully underwrite applications based on the entire customer profile.

Underwriting happens once a property has been agreed upon and all supporting documents are submitted for review. Most people with clean credit can get fairly accurate instant decisions as the credit scoring systems are well automated. But specialist providers offering adverse credit mortgages tend to have more manual processes.

Although bad credit mortgage pre-approvals give a good indication that lending will be approved, they often hold less weight. For this reason, it’s standard practice for lenders to credit score/search and issue you with a pre-approved agreement in principle, which is usually enough to satisfy your estate agent.

However, lenders will also manually check the application and all documentation thoroughly before granting a full mortgage offer. This is why we always recommended asking your advisor to delay any valuation of the property until the full agreement is reached. If you instruct the valuation upfront and the mortgage lender later declines you, any fees paid are unlikely to be refunded.

If you have a low credit score or a history of bad credit, get in touch and we’ll match you with one of the expert brokers we work with. They will be happy to answer all your questions and have the knowledge, tools and experience to connect you with a lender with the right mortgage deal for you.

What is the minimum credit score for mortgage approval?

You don’t necessarily need a good credit score for mortgage approval, but it helps. If you have obtained copies of your credit reports already then you can generally disregard any numeric figure they give.

These are completely different to the scores lenders will give you, and each mortgage lender has their own ‘pass’ mark anyway. One provider might score a pass and another a fail for the same application – it is entirely dependent on their interpretation of the risk you pose, and their appetite to lend at the time you apply.

If you haven’t yet obtained your credit reports, you can do so for free here. Make sure you get all 3 reports as they are often very different, and issues on one report may not show on another.

Sign up for your free trials here…

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Mortgage approval if you’re self-employed

If you’re looking to get a mortgage when you’re self-employed, the mortgage application process remains the same as for any other borrower, and you can still obtain a pre-approval.

Each lender will consider your application differently, so it’s important to make clear the nature of your income from the outset.

Key factors impacting which providers you can use:

  • Length of time you have been trading
    If you’ve only been trading for a short time, say less than 3 years, there will only be a few lenders willing to consider your application. It’s possible to find a mortgage up to 5x your income, even if you’ve only been self-employed for 12 months.
  • Profit and accounting history
    Most lenders take an average of the last 3 years income, some average the last 2 years, and a few specialist lenders will base their calculations on the most recent year’s figures. If your income has remained constant over the last 3 years you should have access to most lenders; if your income has increased more recently then there may only be a few lenders that will use the higher figures; and if your income has decreased, mortgage providers are likely to only use the lower more recent figure.
  • Figures used
    • Sole traders = your net profit
    • Partnerships = your share of net profit
    • LTD company directors = salary + dividends
      (Some specialist lenders will accept share of net profit for Ltd company directors, allowing you to borrow based on your retained profits).

The maximum borrowing calculated on self-employed mortgage approvals can be trickier to establish but generally borrowing can be up to 5x income with some specialist lenders.

Additional requirements

Most mortgage lenders will ask what your personal income has been from the business over the last 3 years. This income will need to be evidenced by either business accounts or tax returns (SA302 forms) and business and personal bank statements.

In some instances, you may also be asked to provide a reference from your accountant to verify any queries the lender may have and in others they will need proof that your accountant has the required qualifications.

You will also need to provide the standard documentation such as ID and address proof.

Mortgage approval certificates

Most estate agents will demand evidence that you have the finances behind you to purchase the property before they will take your offer seriously.

Typically, this would be a mortgage pre-approval letter or an agreement in principle certificate. Both will have your name and the lender details on, along with confirmation that, subject to a successful property valuation and the information on your pre-approval application being correct, they are happy to lend to you.

Some providers also state the maximum they will lend you, or the figure for which you have applied.

Speak to an expert broker about mortgage approval today

If you have any further questions about mortgage approval or are ready to start an application, call 0808 189 2301 or make an enquiry to speak with one of the expert brokers we work with.

We’ll match you with an expert with experience with helping customers in similar circumstances. All the experts we work with are whole-of-market brokers with access to lenders across the entire UK and have the knowledge and tools to help you find the mortgage you need.

The service we offer is free, there’s no obligation and we won’t leave a mark on your credit rating. Get in touch and let us help you save time, hassle and money by connecting you to the right mortgage lender first time.

Frequently asked questions

Can I get guaranteed mortgage approval in the UK?

Nothing is ever guaranteed in advance as the lender must carry out thorough checks to make sure you meet their eligibility and affordability requirements. However, you could boost your chances of mortgage approval by making an enquiry with us. We’ll introduce you to a whole-of-market broker who can pair you up with the provider most likely to offer approval.

Can I get guaranteed mortgage approval with bad credit?

There are no lenders who will offer a firm guarantee to a customer who has bad credit before they’ve carried out eligibility and affordability checks, but you can potentially increase your likelihood of mortgage approval by making an enquiry with us.

Does credit card debt affect mortgage approval?

This will likely depend on how much credit card debt you have, how much you spend repaying it each month and which lenders you approach. Some lenders may decline if you’re saddled with heavy debt, but others might just cap the amount you can borrow if you spend a significant amount on credit card repayments each month.

What is the criteria for mortgage approval in Northern Ireland?

Since Northern Ireland is part of the UK, it’s no different to in England and Wales, for the most part. You can read more in our in-depth guide to mortgages in Northern Ireland.

What happens if I’m changing jobs after mortgage approval?

Most experts will advise against switching jobs during a mortgage application, but if you’ve already been approved for a home loan, some lenders will still honour the agreement as long as your affordability won’t be affected by taking on the new role.

Other lenders might pull out of the agreement, although this may depend on whether your career change means you’ll be earning more money. If your new job means a pay cut, it’s possible that the lender will rethink their offer.

Some providers also prefer lending to customers who have been in their job for a certain amount of time. If you’re looking at getting a mortgage with a new job and have yet to start your mortgage application you should be able to find a specialist lender willing to help..

How many bank statements are needed for mortgage approval?

Most mortgage lenders will need up to three months’ worth of your latest bank statements.

Ask a quick question

We know everyone's circumstances are different, that's why we work with mortgage brokers who are experts in all different mortgage subjects.

Ask us a question and we'll get the best expert to help.

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About the author

Pete, an expert in all things mortgages, cut his teeth right in the middle of the credit crunch. With plenty of people needing help and few mortgage providers lending, Pete found great success in going the extra mile to find mortgages for people whom many others considered lost causes. The experience he gained, coupled with his love of helping people reach their goals, led him to establish Online Mortgage Advisor, with one clear vision – to help as many customers as possible get the right advice, regardless of need or background.

Pete’s presence in the industry as the ‘go-to’ for specialist finance continues to grow, and he is regularly cited in and writes for both local and national press, as well as trade publications, with a regular column in Mortgage Introducer and being the exclusive mortgage expert for LOVEMoney. Pete also writes for OMA of course!

Read more about Pete

Pete Mugleston

Mortgage Advisor, MD

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FCA disclaimer

*Based on our research, the content contained in this article is accurate as of the most recent time of writing. Lender criteria and policies change regularly so speak to one of the advisors we work with to confirm the most accurate up to date information. The information on the site is not tailored advice to each individual reader, and as such does not constitute financial advice. All advisors working with us are fully qualified to provide mortgage advice and work only for firms who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. They will offer any advice specific to you and your needs.

Some types of buy to let mortgages are not regulated by the FCA. Think carefully before securing other debts against your home. As a mortgage is secured against your home, it may be repossessed if you do not keep up with repayments on your mortgage. Equity released from your home will also be secured against it.

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