It's time. All your documents are in ordered, your property has been appraised and now you're ready to close right? Well, not quite yet.
Your loan application and all supporting documents must be reviewed and approved by an underwriter. What??? You may be thinking "but my loan officer told me I was pre-approved, the processor told me they had all the documents they needed". That is all true but ultimately your loan must be approved by an underwriter. The underwriter is the one who makes the final decision on your approval. It is their job to make sure that all of their company's guidelines for lending are met. They are not out to get you (although it may seem that way), they do not make stuff up to drive you crazy (although it may seem that way) and they usually don't get any pleasure in adding conditions to your loan approval (although it may seem that way).
The underwriter will review all of the information and make a recommendation based on the information that has been provided. Sometimes the recommendation is a denial. Typically though, the recommendation is an approval based on certain conditions being met. This is called a "conditional loan approval". The terms of this are sent to your loan officer and the mortgage processor. If items are needed from you, they will request those and they should notify you of they are waiting for items from other parties.
Once all the conditions have been met, the underwriter will issue what we in the mortgage business call a "Clear to close". This means that your loan has been final approved and can move forward to the lenders closing department.