Top broker: Get your 'docs' in a row

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It’s a request many brokers fear will scare away clients, but a top B.C. player asks for ALL supporting documents right after meeting with a lead – a way of gauging buy-in levels.

“It’s really the best way of vetting your clients,” Dustan Woodhouse, a broker with Dominion Lending Centres Canadian Mortgage Experts on B.C.’s Lower Mainland, told “If they are committed, they will get that list of documents. If they are not, they won’t.”

Make no mistake. It’s not a small list. As a rule, Woodhouse sends out a standard email request just after hanging up the phone. The 13 items it calls for run the gamut from a job letter and notice of assessment to, ahem, a copy of a client’s “separation agreement showing support payments made/received along with three months bank statements and copies of (three months) cleared cheques confirming receipt of funds if applicable.”


Still, that last one, of course, is only applicable to divorced and separated clients.

While other top performers are asking for the same level of documentation as a way of speeding an application through the underwriting process, most have reservations about asking for all that paperwork upfront.

Some mortgage professionals are limiting their initial requests to a written application from the client, another way of easing the borrower into what can be a daunting process.

But those clients genuinely prepared to move a file to submission will, in fact, rise to the challenge of cobbling together the necessary paperwork, said Woodhouse, one of CMP’s Top 50 for 2011.

“I find that my conversation with a client on the phone dispenses with the need for a paper application, which can often be misleading,” he said, pointing to the verifiable income requirements of lenders. “The conversational approach is more time consuming to be sure, and in the era of iPhone, Facebook, Twitter, et al, seems a bit old school for sure. 

"However, no school is like the old school and many a client still appreciates a bit of the old-school live conversation."


Here's the email request Dustan shoots off to clients within minutes of hanging up the phone:

Thank you for your time this morning,

   In order to make things happen smoothly any lender we work with will require from us the following;

   Please send me what you have when you have it, no need to wait until it is all in one big stack.


Mortgage document requirements

All documents can be faxed or scanned and emailed

  1. Job Letter

This letter should be dated within 30 days of request.  It must state your start date, annual base salary, and job title.  One simple sentence.   It must also have a signature from an individual that can be reached easily by telephone, along with said individuals contact information.

  1. Two most recent paystubs, a few weeks old is not a problem.  If maternity, or paternity, leave is in effect we can use the EI paystubs to show ongoing income.
  1. Notice of Assessment (Canada Revenue Agency document) For the 2009 and the 2010 tax year. (also the 2011 if available)

    **This is not your property assessment, rather it is the tax receipt from the Federal government showing income taxes owed or due.

    **If this document (NOA) shows taxes owing by you, then a proof of payment must also be included showing them paid in full.  This proof of payment can be either via a ‘statement of account’ from CRA, a copy of the cleared cheque, or a printout of an online banking statement showing the payment made.

    If you cannot locate your NOA, or it shows taxes due and you cannot locate the receipt for payment, please call 1-800-959-8281and press ‘*’.  Then request an NOA and/or ‘Statement of account’ be mailed to you.  They will not fax or email this document so this is a call worth making early on if you cannot locate your NOA easily.

    Despite CRA suggesting it will take 2-4 weeks to receive, it typically takes less than 5 days.
  1.  A copy of your most recent annual property Assessment (this is perhaps the one you were thinking of when you started to read #3 above).
  1. A copy of your most recent property tax notice, and if possible a receipt showing them paid. (I do not need this for City of Vancouver properties as we can access that information online)
  1. A copy of your (fire) home insurance documents, if a strata property a Form B which is usually available either from the Strata Council or the property management company.  Often there are rush charges associated with this document, so again the earlier you order it the better.
  1. If you are purchasing or re-financing  a strata-titled property – we will require the minutes of the last two AGM’s and most recent Strata meeting minutes.
  1. If you are separated or divorced; a copy of the separation agreement showing support payments made/received along with three months bank statements and copies of (three months) cleared cheques confirming receipt of funds if applicable.
  1. A Copy of a Void Cheque drawn on the account that you wish mortgage payments to be deducted from.

    Please note; you do not have to open a new chequing account with the lending institution with which we are placing your mortgage, rather we simply need a copy of a cheque drawn on a current account from whichever institution your prefer to do your daily banking with in order to have your mortgage payment direct debited.

    It is also important to note that a ‘counter cheque’ will not be acceptable, it must be one which has your name and current address  pre-printed upon it.   In the absence of a cheque we will provide you with a Pre-Authorised Debit form to be completed.
  1. If a refinance or switch; A copy of the  most recent mortgage statement available.
  1. If a refinance; a copy of the Survey certificate.  (The black and white document that shows the lot dimensions with an outline of the footprint of your home on it, likely buried in a file from when you first purchased the property.)

    The work around for this is title insurance, which is priced according to the value of the home, if the home is worth more than 500K then a survey will be less expensive although more time consuming.   I can assist you with either.
  1. If a purchase; please have your realtor provide a copy of the purchase sale agreement (with all applicable signatures), the PCDS (property condition disclosure statement), MLS and a copy of the floorplan if applicable.
  1. Down Payment – we will need to provide 90 days history of the down payment funds, either via 3 months bank statements, investment accounts, a contract for purchase and sale if the source of funds is the sale of another property, or a Gift Letter – which I can supply a template for upon request.

    ***in the case of the down payment being a gift we will also typically require 90 days history of the funds from the gift-giver.  Investment statements, bank statements, etc.

    This can be a delicate issue on occasion.  i.e. in-laws not wanting you to see their bank statements.  I have solutions for such circumstances, just fill me in and we will act accordingly.
  1. Name and phone number of the solicitor you would prefer to use, a recommendation can be made if you do not have one in particular that you wish to use.  I have an excellent referral in the department that will keep things simple for all involved.

Kind Regards,




  • Rob Stanfield on 2012-03-23 5:12:19 AM

    I agree with the process and have done it this way for years. The email list above may be a little to detailed and scare some borrowers, but if this process is presented properly, it works extremely well at measuring the level of commitment your client has to you. Don't see why anyone would not request documents once they have talked to clients. I request documents as soon as the first phone call has taken place and ask them to be brought to our first meeting. A lot of times I don't even have the commitment from the lender yet or even submitted a deal. The big bonus in doing business this way? It makes you look professional, competent and very knowledgible.

  • Kevin J. Power, President Power Mortgages Inc. on 2012-03-23 5:18:43 AM

    I agree with this practice and have been doing something similar for years. This is only common sense to me. How do you do a proper pre-approval if you don't have anything to base fact on, you are dealing with fiction.

    I have seen many, many cases of mortgage people doing a terrible job on pre-approvals.

  • Ron Butler on 2012-03-23 5:23:05 AM

    I think this kind of approach works very well with well qualified referred leads that come from strong sources. Unfortunately in a practise where we do media advertising this level of up front document requirement prior the applicant even seeing a commitment from lender is not in the cards.

  • What's the issue? on 2012-03-23 5:23:27 AM

    Most (if not) all experienced brokers do this (or should do this). Dustan is right about gauging client interest. A "committed" client will do this. It is just smart business practice. I hope new brokers are being trained on this at their respective brokers. The part about some brokers being hesitant about asking for docs upfront to me equates to being afraid to ask for the business.

  • Tiffany - Grande Prairie, AB on 2012-03-23 5:45:00 AM

    I think this is a great approach! This allows deals to move quickly and if clients mistakenly provide you with inflated income numbers (including bonuses/income)you know ahead of time instead of being caught off guard. This alleviates problems with conditions delays and allows lenders to be more efficient. I agree as well. If presented properly people do not hesitate.

  • Neil on 2012-03-23 5:45:11 AM

    No doubt - the more you get up front the more you own the client. Especially if you get to hold the ORIGINAL of the documents. Hard for them to shop now!

  • Julia Krause on 2012-03-23 6:18:53 AM

    Wait a tick... am I missing something? A 'top broker' is asking his clients to start gathering supporting documentation at the beginning of the mortgage application process?? Is it 2012 or have we gone back in time 20 years?? Any broker who DOESN'T tell clients what documentation will be required, and to start gathering it, right from the start, is only setting him/herself up for failure and a huge waste of time.

    And other brokers out there think that asking for documentation at the start will scare clients away?? Wow... I was worried for the industry when I was out there training brokers between '05 and '08... now I'm REALLY scared of what brokers are doing. Is anyone being trained properly in how to be a mortgage broker?? Documentation is STEP 2 of the process, right after STEP 1, which is taking an application.

    It's a sad sad state of affairs in the mortgage industry when a broker asking new clients right away for documentation is a NEWS item :(

  • Gale Tracey, Lead Planner, Mortgage Architects on 2012-03-23 7:08:17 AM

    REALLY! You will quickly find out if a potential client is just shopping you if they will not provide you with adequate documentation so that you can properly analyze their financial situation and provide them with their best options and a good mortgage plan. You cannot even think of obtaining any sort of approval for them without confirmation of income and down payment, etc. Never ASSUME. You have to have your priorities straight as to where to spend your time and it is not on clients that will not provide you with documentation up front so you can best serve their needs and offer them a Mortgage Qualification that they can confidently use to start the purchase process etc. How many times have you heard "My bank told me I qualify for $$$" and later we find out it wasnt even close!!

  • Angela Kroemer, AMP on 2012-03-24 6:37:55 AM

    I too, have adopted this practise of asking for the documentation up front. Too many times,I have wasted my time with a client to find out that they don't know where their paperwork is. Or how much they thought they were making was not auctual.
    How did these top brokers get to be top brokers? By not wasting time with clients that have no documentation, are sitting on the fence or are shopping around. They spend their time with the clients that are ready and willing to go buy the house.

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