When you’re buying a home, gathering the paperwork for your mortgage before you apply is a good idea. Tracking down documents can take time but doing it before you need them could help you get to the closing table faster.

A mortgage application typically requires a paper trail to verify:

  • Income and employment
  • Assets and debts
  • Credit history
  • Identity
  • Rental history
  • Other information, such as divorce, bankruptcy or gift funds

Here’s what you will need as proof of income:

·        W-2 forms. Your mortgage lender will likely ask for W-2s from the last one to two years for each applicant. If you don’t have them, check with your employer or ask the IRS for copies of the documents you submitted with your tax returns.

·        Pay stubs. Lenders typically ask for pay stubs from the last 30 days and may require your employer to sign them. Pay stubs may be available in paper or electronic form. If you receive other types of payments, such as overtime or commission, you’ll also need to produce documents for them. A W-2 form or pay stub may show how much you’ve earned for this income.

·        Income tax returns. Lenders will check your tax returns from the last two to three years to verify the income you reported and the deductions you claimed. You might need to provide copies of the returns along with IRS Form 4506-C, which permits the lender to obtain your tax transcript.

·        Alimony or child support documents. If you rely on this type of income, then you must show proof that you will continue to receive payments for at least three years after the date of the mortgage application. A copy of the court order may be acceptable.

For self-employed workers, freelancers and independent contractors, most lenders require at least two years of steady self-employment in the same industry. You can show this with contracts or letters from current clients, or if you own a business, you can provide your business license or proof of insurance. The lender may ask for at least two years’ worth of federal tax returns, both personal and business, plus a cash-flow analysis form and a year-to-date profit and loss statement signed by a certified public accountant.

Other records you may need to submit:

  • Signed copy of the purchase and sale agreement. This is the document you and the seller created. It shows the purchase price and other details about the home you’re buying.
  • Rental payment history and references. If you’ve been renting, then you may need to provide proof of payments for the last 12 months, such as canceled checks, plus contact information for landlords for the last two years.
  • Divorce decree. Find a copy of your divorce decree, which shows whether you have to pay child support or alimony.
  • Bankruptcy or foreclosure records. Ask your lender how long you’ll need to wait before reentering the mortgage market if you have one of these on your credit history. With a bankruptcy, the lender may ask for proof that your debts have been discharged and are no longer outstanding. For a foreclosure, you may have to wait seven years before you’re eligible for a new mortgage and provide proof that the deed to the property was transferred.
  • ID for noncitizens. Although you don’t need to be a U.S. citizen to get a mortgage, your lender may ask about your permanent residence and immigration status. You may need to provide the lender a copy of your green card, employment authorization document or an approved visa. As with any borrower, the lender wants to verify that you reasonably expect to earn income.
  • Alternative data to help a thin credit file. If you have little or no credit history, the lender will want to see a proven history of paying creditors as agreed. For credit scoring, the lender could leverage alternative data, such as the borrower’s utility, cellphone, rent, cable TV and other regular bill payments.