Manual underwriting mortgage

We often say there are 3 types of mortgage lenders:

  • High street lenders – they usually credit score applicants.
  • Adverse lenders – typically these lenders have set criteria which you either fit or do not.
  • Manually underwritten – these lenders usually work in a similar way to the adverse lenders. But they have the ability to sway from that criteria to a degree.

It is these manually underwritten mortgages we will look into on this post.

What is a manually underwritten mortgage?

When I became a Mortgage broker I remember my grandparents were telling me when they went for a mortgage they had to get dressed up and had an interview with the bank manager. They had to explain their situation to the bank manager. He decided if they were able to have a mortgage there and then. If you thought applying for a mortgage now was stressful, can you imagine that?!

A mortgage that goes through manual underwriting is generally for people who are not straight forward enough to get a mortgage on the high street for various reasons (bad credit, employment issues etc). But they might be for people who do not need to go to an adverse lender.

What is involved?

The good news is that it is not as nerve wracking as what my grandparents went through. There are elements that are similar however.

We ask you to complete a factfind (this is the same for all customers). We can then have a chat with you to get some additional information.

Unlike a normal mortgage which is like a 2 part process (A Decision in principle and then an application), these types of mortgages are more like a 3 part process. The referral, then the decision in principle and then the application.

Once we have everything needed we can then sit down and put together the referral for why you should be able to get a mortgage. Typically this involves pulling out a piece of paper and putting a letter together for the underwriter. We explain the problems, but we also ensure we put across the positive points and why we believe you should be able to get a mortgage along with any evidence we think is worthwhile including.

It is not a war and peace on the referral, we try to keep it to around half a page to a full page. Once they have the information, it might be enough for them to make a decision or they may call us to discuss your case.

This whole process can take around 2 to 5 days to get an answer.


Due to the nature of these applications we do not have a 100% success rate with them. We are at around 70% I think. There are times where we get told “no” and go back to fight it. We do this as we genuinely believe in the case and want to get the decision overturned. There are also times we fully expect to get a yes and the underwriter is not having it.

Where we do not get the decision we were hoping for, there may still be alternatives. Either with other manual underwriting mortgage lenders or specialist lenders (although these usually involve a higher interest rate).


These manually underwritten applications take longer. We describe them as a 3 part process. They involve a human to make a decision rather than a computer to score you.

They do involve more work at the initial stages. However in some cases we have been able to knock over 3% off the alternative options, which makes it worth the effort. You can read about those on these success stories here.