A mortgage usually involves a lot of money and a lot of moving parts. An issue with any of them can slow the loan process down, and if there is a problem with just one person or one phase of borrowing, like the appraisal, it can create a bottleneck. And it's not all within your control; outside problems can also delay your mortgage closing.
Mortgages require a great deal of paperwork. You need to submit a formal application and give the lender all of the information it needs to build a file. Once the file is complete, the lender needs to analyze it in a process called underwriting. Underwriting can be fast, or it can be slow, especially if the lender needs to talk to third parties. Once the loan gets underwritten, the lender's closing department needs to create the documents for you to sign, get your signature and finally close the loan. If everything goes perfectly according to plan, you can finish the process in 30 days. If it doesn't, it could take additional weeks or months.
Sometimes, lenders get busy. When they do, they miss deadlines for processing mortgages. There's no way around this problem once you're already moving forward with a lender, so you need to manage the situation proactively. Make sure that you have all of your material in place before you start the loan so that you don't introduce any delays. It's also a good idea not to set a closing date that is so soon that your lender can't meet it.
Storms, earthquakes, political events and other unforeseen circumstances can also make your mortgage take extra time to close. Given that getting a mortgage closed depends on many different things happening, having one part of the process shut down by unforeseen circumstances is enough to delay the entire process. Of course, when the issue is a major storm or interruption to the financial system, the delay can be even more significant.
Many mortgage closings get delayed because of the buyer. Not having all of your paperwork handy is problematic. When something about you changes, though, your mortgage might not only get slowed down; it might not close at all. If you change your job, take out new loans or do anything else that changes your profile as a borrower, your loan may have to go back through underwriting to ensure that you still meet the lender's standards. If it does, you've lost time. If it doesn't, you won't get your loan.
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.