Fast track mortgages

In a booming housing market, getting a prompt offer of a loan can be vital. By Philippa Gee
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W e are told the property market is booming, and you have to fight off stiff competition to get your offer accepted. But if the deal depends on a quick completion, can a mortgage be a burden even before you take it out? How quickly can a loan be arranged and what can you do to speed it up?

Before putting in an offer, do the groundwork. Establish how much you can borrow and with what monthly mortgage repayments you feel comfortable. Many lenders now give "in principle" decisions even before you choose a property. These aren't full offers, but they can save time, money and embarrassment - particularly if you're worried whether you are "good lending material".

Adverse credit records can stop an application dead, so it's worth checking to see if there are any black-marks against your name, particularly if you're aware of a problem already. You can clean up some credit records, but that takes time. If you ignore it, your application could be delayed by months or even rejected.

Is it quicker to deal with a mortgage adviser, or go direct and do the work yourself? Using a third party may slow the case down at first, but a good adviser should prepare your application better and monitor its progress, so the result, particularly if you are too busy to deal with it yourself, should be a faster conclusion.

When filling in the mortgage application, the obvious trick is to leave no gaps. Ann Pilkington of the Woolwich finds most applicants leave out small, essential details: "For security purposes, we ask for the applicant's mother's maiden name but often this is not provided. Get it right first time and the process will be smoother."

You'll also need to send in various papers, so, if you're well-organised, you'll be laughing. If you tend to "file" papers in various hidey-holes, get organised fast. Here's a list:

Bank statements (3-6 mths).

Mortgage statement.

P60, if employed.

Last three months' payslips if employed; three years' certified accounts if self-employed.

Proof of ID: passport or driving licence.

Proof of address: utility bill.

Home insurance details.

Life cover details.

How mortgage will be repaid.

Cheques for valuation and arrangement fees.

The application itself.

Warn your employer or accountant they could get a letter requesting confirmation of your earnings. Make sure the estate agent or person selling the house will be available to show the lender's own valuer around the property.

Adrian Webb, of Virgin Direct, says: "The best thing you can do is think ahead as to what the mortgage lender'll need." But he urges caution: "Nobody should be saddled with a mortgage they cannot afford."

Generally, lenders take two to three weeks, but this is the speedier end of the scale as others take six weeks or more. If you need an offer in under three weeks, talk to the lender first. If you are very tight on time, ask those you have dealt with before - bank or previous lender - to see if they can help, and talk to your solicitor as legal issues take time too.

"Flexible" mortgages are now seen as hot stuff, but they can take longer to set up.

Once you've submitted the application, you or your adviser should keep chasing it.