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Was your mortgage loan application denied? 9 steps to take

Apartment buildings and red prohibition symbol NO. Emergency and unsuitable for living building. Unavailable expensive housing. Lack of living space and the impossibility of building a new houses.
A mortgage loan denial doesn't have to be the end of the road for your homebuying journey. Getty Images

For many aspiring homebuyers, the dream of homeownership has become increasingly difficult to attain in recent years. A combination of soaring home prices and rising mortgage rates has made purchasing a property significantly more expensive, stretching budgets to their limits. For example, the median home price nationwide hit $417,700 in Q4 2023 — up from an average of $327,100 in Q4 2019. And, 30-year fixed mortgage rates currently average 7.30%, more than double what they were just a few years ago. 

That said, it can still make sense to buy a home right now, even with today's unique challenges looming. After all, high rates generally mean buyer competition is down, so it could be a good time to make your move. And, while you may be thinking about waiting for rates to fall, there's no guarantee that will happen in the near future. Plus, you always have the option to refinance your mortgage loan at a lower rate if mortgage rates do eventually decline.

But getting approved for a mortgage in today's unique landscape can prove challenging even for borrowers with strong credit and stable employment. Lenders have understandably grown more cautious in the face of economic headwinds, making the application process more rigorous. So what should you do if your mortgage loan application is denied by a lender?

Find out how affordable the right mortgage loan could be today.

Was your mortgage loan application denied? 9 steps to take

If your mortgage application has been denied, it's important not to lose hope. There are steps you can take to improve your chances of approval:

Request the denial reasons in writing

By law, lenders must provide you with the specific reasons for denial in writing upon request. This documentation is essential, as it will allow you to precisely identify and address the problem areas that led to the rejection. Never assume you know the reasons; get them directly from the lender so you know what to focus on instead.

Explore your top mortgage loan options and apply for preapproval now.

Review your credit report

Mistakes and inaccuracies on credit reports are surprisingly common. If your mortgage loan application is denied, obtain your free annual credit reports from all three major bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) and scrutinize them carefully. If you find any errors, dispute them with the credit bureaus to have them corrected or removed, as this could significantly boost your approval chances.

Work to improve your credit

For many buyers, a subpar credit score is the roadblock to mortgage approval. If a low credit score causes your mortgage application to be denied, take proactive steps like paying all bills on time each month, reducing outstanding balances on credit cards and other loans and avoiding opening new credit accounts in the short term. Improving your credit profile can rapidly enhance your mortgage eligibility.

Increase your down payment

Many lenders favor borrowers who can make larger down payments upfront. Not only does this lower the overall mortgage loan amount, but it demonstrates your commitment and ability as a borrower. Options to boost your upfront contribution include tapping employment bonuses, tax refunds, gifts from relatives or simply saving more aggressively.

Find a co-signer

If your own income and credit aren't adequate for mortgage approval, applying jointly with a creditworthy co-signer could be the solution. A spouse, parent or other party with strong finances can boost the overall application through their positive profile. However, it's imperative that all parties understand and accept the legal obligations before proceeding.

Explore government-backed loans

While conventional mortgages from banks and lenders typically have stringent requirements, loans insured by government agencies tend to have more flexibility. If you meet the eligibility criteria for an FHA, VA or USDA loan based on income limits, military service or rural location, these could represent a pathway to homeownership.

Find ways to increase your income

If you're denied due to a high debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, finding ways to boost your monthly earnings could be the deciding factor. Options to do this include requesting a raise from your current employer, finding a higher-paying job or establishing steady side income from a second job or freelance work.

Change lenders

Not all mortgage lenders evaluate applications through the same underwriting models or with the same risk appetite. While one bank may deny you, another lender could give you a green light after reviewing the exact same financial information. So, if you're denied a mortgage loan with one lender, it makes sense to shop around, ask questions and get multiple assessments to find the right fit.

Wait and apply again

Mortgage approvals are based on a specific snapshot of your finances at one point in time. If rejected, sometimes the best recourse is to press pause, work on improving weak areas over several months and then reapply with an updated financial profile for a fresh evaluation.

The bottom line

A denied mortgage can be disheartening, but don't give up hope. With diligent preparation, an openness to explore alternative pathways and a willingness to make difficult but necessary changes, you may still have options to secure financing and make your homeownership dreams a reality. Ultimately, perseverance and knowledge are key when faced with today's uniquely challenging housing market.

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