Letter Of Explanation: Why It’s Important And How To Write One With Your Mortgage Application
February 22, 2024 7-minute read
Author: Hanna Kielar
Your lender might ask you for a letter of explanation (sometimes called an LOE) during the underwriting process. A letter of explanation consists of short descriptions you can use to fill in the gaps in your paperwork for your underwriter. Letters of explanation might sound like a pain to write, but they can help you get a loan more easily.
Let’s delve a bit deeper into what letters of explanation are and some reasons you might benefit from writing an LOE. We’ll also provide a letter of explanation sample template you can use to draft your own letter if or when the time comes to write one.
The Basics Of Underwriting
First, it’s important to fully understand the mortgage underwriting process. During this stage of securing a mortgage, the lender decides whether you qualify for a loan by reviewing the financial information you submitted with your application.
Mortgage companies use finance professionals called underwriters to oversee underwriting. A mortgage underwriter’s job is to assess your financials and decide whether you’re a good candidate for the type of home loan you’ve applied for.
The information available to the underwriter doesn’t always paint a full picture of your finances. An underwriter may ask you for a letter of explanation if they have questions about something they see.
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What Is A Letter Of Explanation?
A letter of explanation is a brief document you can use to explain something, like a previous bankruptcy, in your financial or employment history that might give an underwriter pause about your ability to repay a loan.
For example, you may need to write a letter of explanation if you have unusual or sudden activity in your credit report or banking statements. Such activity could include large deposits or withdrawals from your checking or other bank accounts. A drop in your credit score due to credit inquiries, overdrafts, late payments or some combination of these activities could also send up a red flag.
Don’t assume your lender won’t be able to give you a loan if they need one of these letters – the opposite is often true. They might just need clarification or some additional information about your financial situation, maybe in the form of a bank statement or a billing statement. Explanation letters can also help your mortgage lender determine how much house you can reasonably afford, which can streamline your search and help you get into a new home sooner.
Why Do I Need To Provide A Letter Of Explanation?
Secondary authorities that own or back the loan may also require a letter of explanation.
Many of their guidelines dictate that the lender must get a mortgage letter of explanation for certain items on a borrower’s report. Secondary authorities that impose such underwriting standards include:
- The Federal Housing Administration (for FHA loans)
- The Department of Veterans Affairs (for VA loans)
- Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (for conventional loans)
Lenders offering jumbo loans may have even more qualification standards.
Next, we’ll review examples of reasons you may be required to provide a letter of explanation.
You Have Negative Items On Your Credit Report
Lenders need to know you have no trouble managing your finances. Negative items on your credit report can alarm underwriters, who might assume you have difficulty paying your bills. You may need to provide a letter of explanation for any negative items on your credit report, including:
- Missed payments
- Defaulted loans
Letters of explanation addressing these issues should include:
- An explanation of the negative event
- The date it happened
- The name of the creditor
- Your account number
- Your signature and date (if typed or hand-written)
It should also include an explanation of why you don’t foresee this problem happening again.
You’re Living Rent-Free
Rent or mortgage payment history shows a lender whether you’re capable of paying your housing costs on time. If you’ve been living for free somewhere, like your parents’ home, you’ll need to prove that to your lender with a letter of explanation from the homeowner, not you.
In the letter, the homeowner should state that you’re currently living in their home rent-free and indicate how long you’ve been doing so. Make sure they also sign and date the letter.
You Have Income Or Loss From A Farm Property
If you have an income or loss from a farm property listed on Schedule F of your income tax returns, you must produce a letter of explanation stating the farm isn’t on the property you’re buying. The LOE must also include the address of the farm that’s tied to the income or loss. This is necessary since the underwriter can’t get this information from your tax documents.
When determining the value of the home, another structure on the property can’t be the primary reason for that value. It’s worth noting here that some lenders, including Rocket Mortgage®, don’t finance farms.
You Have Long Gaps In Your Employment History
You’ll need a steady and reliable income to keep up with the payments on a home loan, so long gaps in unemployment may make you seem like a risky borrower. For VA and jumbo loans, your lender may require a letter of explanation for gaps in unemployment within the last 2 years. A letter may only be required when gaps in employment are greater than 30 or 60 days, depending on the type of loan.
You’ll need to explain what caused any gaps, which can come about for various seasons that include:
- Having a child
- A return to education
- Caring for a family member
- A business failure
- Mass layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Being self-employed
- Seasonal work
If you still met your financial obligations during this time, note that information, too.
Remember that an explanation letter is ultimately a tool that helps demonstrate you’re a qualified buyer. By addressing any worries about your financial history, you can increase your chances of getting approved for a mortgage and start hunting for your new home sooner.
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How To Write A Letter Of Explanation For A Mortgage
Letters of explanation are a common part of the mortgage application process. Make sure your letter of explanation includes:
That day’s date
Your lender’s name
Your lender’s phone number and physical address
A subject line that starts with “RE:” and has your name, the number of your application, and any other identifying info
One or more paragraphs that provide information the lender asked for (Be as detailed as possible is necessary and include dates, dollar amounts, account numbers, etc.)
Any supporting documents that provide identification and back up your claims (copies of bills of sale, title transfers, marriage licenses, etc.)
Your full legal name as it appears on your mortgage application, signed and printed
Your spouse or partner’s name if they’re on the loan application with you
Your full mailing address and 10-digit phone number
A polite closing
It’s best when writing a letter of explanation to make it short and to the point. You’ll want it to provide the recipient with the information they need, however. Be clear and offer as much relevant detail as possible since the person reading the letter will need to understand your situation. Still, avoid including unnecessary details or answering questions the underwriter never asked. Use a polite tone but try not to be overly friendly or use emotional language.
After you finish writing the letter, edit for typos or grammatical errors. Send the letter in a timely manner to keep your mortgage application on track.
Explanation Letter Template
Below is a sample letter of explanation you can use as a template, if you wish, to write an explanation letter of your own.
July 15, 2023
Sample Lending Company
123 Lending Lane
Brooklyn, NY 11207
RE: Jessica Smith’s Mortgage Loan Application
To Whom It May Concern:
I’m writing to you to explain the delinquent payments dated 05/01/2020 – 07/01/2020 on my American Express credit card, account #1234567.
On April 15, 2020, I was laid off from my job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because I was unemployed, I was unable to make my minimum credit card payments for this account for May and June. I started a new job on June 20, 2020 and was able to make my July payment.
I’m still working at the same company today and, since July 1, 2020, I have not been late on, or missed, any payment on this credit card account. Enclosed is a copy of my statements from July 1, 2020 until now as proof of my good standing and on-time payments with this account.
150 Same Drive
Brooklyn, NY 11207
Letter Of Explanation: FAQs
Below, you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions about letters of explanation and the process of composing a letter of explanation.
What is a late payment letter of explanation?
When applying for a mortgage loan, this type of letter explains the circumstances surrounding any missing or late payments reflected in your credit history and what you’ll do to avoid these issues moving forward.
What if my letter of explanation is rejected?
If your letter of explanation is rejected by the underwriter, consider exploring the following three options:
- Writing a new letter that provides further explanation and additional documentation
- Applying for a home loan with a different mortgage lender
- Reapplying after resolving the issues
Do I always need a letter of explanation?
No. In general, a letter of explanation is only required when the underwriter requests clarification on aspects of your financial history. Then, you’ll need to provide an LOE to qualify for a loan.
The Bottom Line: Explanation Letters Can Boost Your Chances Of Mortgage Approval
A lender wants to make sure you’re in the best possible position to take on the financial responsibility of a mortgage. In addition, lenders like to be confident they’re making a wise investment. Certain events can trigger a red flag for the underwriter, so your lender may ask you for a letter of explanation to help ease concerns.
There are a few reasons you or a third party may need to produce this letter, depending on the lender you’re working with and the type of loan you’re getting. If you’ve experienced any of the examples above, you may want to prepare a letter of explanation now to ensure a smooth process.
Ready to take the first step in your home buying journey? Start a mortgage application with Rocket Mortgage today to see how much home you qualify for.
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