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How to Apply for a Mortgage Loan in California, from Start to Finish

A while back, we published an overview of the home loan process in California. That article explained the mortgage process from start to finish (or from budgeting to closing, in this case).

Today, we’ll take a closer look at one of the preliminary steps in this process — the mortgage application. This article will address several frequently asked questions, including:

  • How to apply for a mortgage loan in California
  • What kind of documents you will need
  • What happens after you submit your application

Audience note: This article applies to both home buyers and refinancing homeowners, in terms of the application process itself. But we will also cover some topics that are specific to buyers, such as house hunting.

How to Apply for a Mortgage Loan in California

In a general sense, the mortgage application process is fairly straightforward. To apply for a home loan in California, you would fill out a standardized application form and provide some other documents relating to your finances. This allows you to get pre-approved for a certain loan amount.

After that, you can begin the house-hunting process to find a suitable property that falls within your price range. You’ll make an offer to buy the home, negotiate with the seller, and move toward the final closing.

The Mortgage Application Form

When you apply for a mortgage loan in California, you will most likely have to complete a document known as the Uniform Residential Loan Application (URLA). Most banks and mortgage companies use the same form for this process. It’s standardized across the lending industry.

This document is also referred to as “Freddie Mac Form 65” or “Fannie Mae Form 1003.” Regardless of the name being used, it’s the same 5-page document.

You can find a sample California mortgage loan application by doing a Google search for the common name: “Uniform Residential Loan Application.” There are blank versions online, in PDF format, that you can download and review. This is a good way to see what kind of information you’ll have to provide, when you apply for a mortgage loan in California.

This document initiates the application process, and it asks for a lot of information. Here’s a list of items you’ll need to provide, when you apply for a home loan using the URLA:

  • The type of mortgage loan being used
  • The amount of money you want to borrow
  • Property information, including street address and legal description
  • Information about you, the borrower (full name, SSN, address, marital status)
  • Information about the co-borrower, if applicable
  • Employment information, including employer, income, position, length of employment, etc.
  • A list of assets and liabilities (“liabilities” refers to credit cards, auto loans, and other debts)

This gives you some idea as to what you’ll have to provide when applying for a mortgage loan in California. You can download a sample URLA, if you’d like to learn more about this document.

Other Documents Required by Lenders

The mortgage application mentioned above is one of the key documents you’ll be submitting when you apply for a home loan in California. There is some other documentation as well.

At some point during the application process, you’ll need to provide documents relating to your financial situation, income and employment. These include tax returns, W-2 forms, and bank statements, among other things.

Elsewhere on our site, we’ve created an A-to-Z list of loan documents commonly used by mortgage lenders in California. It goes into more detail on the paperwork side of the application process. Refer to the linked article above, if you have additional questions on this subject.

What Happens After the Application?

So, you’ve complete your application and submitted it to the lender. You’ve provided some other documents, like tax records and bank statements. And you’ve gotten an initial “green light” from the lender that you’re a good candidate for a loan.

Now what? What’s the next step in the process, once you’ve applied for a mortgage loan?

In a typical California home-buying scenario, house hunting is usually the next step. Applying for a mortgage loan allows you find out: (A) if you’re qualified for a loan, and (B) how much you’re able to borrow. Once you know those two things, you’re ready to go out and look at homes.

In most cases, borrowers in California who clear the application process are given a mortgage pre-approval letter. This document will indicate the loan amount, terms, and a few other details relating to your mortgage. In California, pre-approval letters are usually valid anywhere from 30 to 90 days. (It will say right on the letter how long it’s valid for.)

The mortgage application and pre-approval process helps you determine how much you can borrow and — by extension — how much of a house you can afford to buy. Once you know that, you can focus your house-hunting efforts on those properties that fall within your price range.

Disclaimer: This article explains how to apply for a mortgage loan in California and is intended for a general audience. Your situation might differ from the process outlined above. Home loan application steps and procedures can vary slightly from one borrower to the next, for a variety of reasons.

Mike Trejo

Mike Trejo

Mike Trejo is a Bay Area mortgage broker with 20+ years of knowledge and experience.

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