The time it takes to approve a mortgage in the United States grew from an average of 30 days to between 45 and 60 days over the past month, according to the latest survey from Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance. The longer timeline is tied to heavy workloads among lenders as applicants dive into the market looking to refinance mortgages. In addition, firms and real estate agents are dealing with appraisal issues, and distressed properties remain an ongoing challenge, the report concluded. One respondent of the HousingPulse survey said for some agents, 45% to 50% of their transactions were delayed because of higher mortgage application timelines. Property damage on foreclosures also complicates appraisals, further slowing the process. Overall, the distressed property index fell to 44.4% in September, down slightly from 45.9% in August. When it comes to short sales, the Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance report suggests that origination preapprovals often lapse before all parties agree on the transaction. "Further complicating the situation is a new California law prohibiting forced deficiency notes on short sales, which has made second lien holders slow to negotiate these transactions," according to the latest HousingPulse survey. One real estate agent in California who responded to the survey said with the new law "seconds are not willing to settle." "Mortgage application timelines run out for the buyers waiting to receive acceptance, counter or declination. Problems are getting worse," according to the agent. Write to Kerri Panchuk.