How Does a Government Shutdown Affect Mortgage Processing

How Does a Government Shutdown Affect Mortgage Processing

Navigating through the home buying process can be challenging enough under normal circumstances, but when a government shutdown looms or takes effect, prospective homeowners and sellers alike often find themselves facing additional unexpected hurdles. A government shutdown occurs when Congress fails to fund the federal government, leading to the closure of many non-essential services. One of the lesser-known casualties of such an event can be mortgage processing, which relies on various government agencies that can be impacted by a shutdown.

Understanding Mortgage Processing

Mortgage processing involves several key steps including the application, origination, appraisal, underwriting, and finally, the closing of the loan. Each step is crucial in moving a homebuyer closer to getting the keys to their new home. This process typically involves multiple parties, including lenders, mortgage brokers, real estate agents, title companies, and various government agencies.

Impact of a Government Shutdown on Mortgage Approvals

During a government shutdown, some government employees are furloughed, which means they are put on temporary leave and are not allowed to work. This directly affects the operations of several government agencies involved in the mortgage process. Let\'s discuss how this impacts different components of mortgage processing.

IRS Income Verification Delays

For a mortgage to be approved, lenders often need to verify a borrower\'s income, which is usually done by obtaining tax return transcripts from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). During a shutdown, the IRS typically operates with a significantly reduced staff, resulting in delays or the temporary suspension of transcript processing. This can stall mortgage approvals, as lenders are unable to complete the necessary income verification checks.

FHA Loan Processing Delays

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), plays a significant role in assisting first-time homebuyers and those with lower incomes to obtain mortgages. During a government shutdown, the FHA can experience delays in loan processing and approvals, especially if a shutdown is prolonged. Although the FHA usually continues to endorse new loans during such times, reduced staffing levels can create backlogs and extend the time it takes for borrowers to receive approval.

Impact on VA Loans

Veterans Affairs (VA) loans are another category that can be affected by a government shutdown. These loans, which are provided to veterans and service members, may experience processing delays if the VA\'s staffing is reduced. While the VA maintains that it will continue to operate during a shutdown, any interruption in services or a slowdown in paperwork processing can cause delays in loan approvals.

USDA Loan Suspensions

Loans guaranteed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) can be significantly impacted by a government shutdown because the USDA does not issue new rural loans or guarantees during that time. Potential homebuyers looking to purchase in rural areas, relying on USDA assistance, might have to put their plans on hold until the government resumes full operations.

Impact on Social Security Number Verification

Lenders often verify a borrower’s Social Security number with the Social Security Administration (SSA) as part of the fraud check process. In the event of a government shutdown, the SSA may either close offices or operate with limited services, which can impact the timeline for SSN verifications.


A government shutdown can have a ripple effect on the economy and affect many areas of life, including the process of securing a mortgage. Delays in income verification due to IRS understaffing, slowdowns in FHA, VA, and USDA loan processing, and potential issues with Social Security verification all contribute to the overall impact. These delays can be frustrating for buyers and sellers, who must often wait for the government to reopen before they can proceed with their transactions.

For those in the middle of purchasing a home during a government shutdown, patience becomes a critical virtue, as well as maintaining open lines of communication with lenders and real estate agents. Managing expectations and having contingency plans in place can help mitigate some of the stresses involved. It\'s also a reminder of the importance of a fully functioning government in supporting the stability of the housing market and the broader financial system. As a prospective homebuyer or seller, staying informed about the status of a government shutdown and understanding its potential impact on mortgage processing is paramount in navigating through the uncertain landscape it creates.

This article was contributed on Jun 25, 2024