When you’re in the market for a new property, one of the first things you’ll want to do is apply for a mortgage preapproval. This process can help you determine your budget, refine your house-hunting efforts, and give you an edge in a competitive market.
Let’s walk through the basics of mortgage preapproval, how it differs from prequalification, and why it’s important when buying a home.
What Is a Mortgage Preapproval?
A mortgage preapproval is a preliminary assessment conducted by a mortgage lender to determine the maximum loan amount for which a borrower may be eligible. It involves thoroughly evaluating the borrower’s financial background, creditworthiness, and loan repayment ability. Obtaining a mortgage preapproval is an important step in home-buying as it provides a clear understanding of the price range within which the borrower can search for a property.
Preapproval vs. prequalification
While often used interchangeably, preapproval and prequalification are two distinct terms in the mortgage application process.
- Prequalification: Prequalification is an initial assessment based on information provided by the borrower. It typically involves conversing with a mortgage lender or a quick online application. The lender reviews the basic financial details the borrower provides, such as income, debt payments, and assets, to estimate the loan amount for which they might qualify. Prequalification gives borrowers a general idea of their eligibility but does not carry the same weight as preapproval.
- Preapproval: Preapproval, on the other hand, is a more rigorous and detailed process. It requires the borrower to complete a formal mortgage application and provide the necessary documentation for verification, such as income statements, bank statements, and credit history. The mortgage lender thoroughly reviews and assesses the borrower’s financial situation, creditworthiness, and ability to repay the loan. A mortgage preapproval is a stronger indication of the borrower’s eligibility and provides a more accurate estimate of the loan amount they can secure.
Preapproval vs. approval
Preapproval and final approval represent different stages in the mortgage application process.
A preapproval is a preliminary evaluation conducted by a lender to determine the maximum loan amount for which a borrower may qualify. It gives borrowers an estimate of their purchasing power, allowing them to search for homes within their budget. However, preapproval is not a guarantee of obtaining the loan. Preapproval depends on the borrower’s financial information provided at the preapproval and is subject to further verification and underwriting during the final approval stage.
Final approval occurs when the mortgage lender has thoroughly reviewed all the borrower’s financial information, completed a comprehensive underwriting process, and determined that the borrower meets all the requirements for the loan. This stage typically happens once the borrower has found a specific property and provided all the required documentation to the lender. Final approval gives borrowers the confidence to move forward with the purchase, as it signifies that the loan is officially approved and ready to receive funding.
How to see what you qualify for
To determine what you qualify for in terms of a mortgage loan, you’ll generally follow these steps:
- Assess your financial situation: Evaluate your income, expenses, and debts to see how much of a mortgage payment you can afford. Now is a good time to calculate your debt-to-income ratio, an important factor mortgage lenders consider when assessing your home loan eligibility.
- Check your credit report: Obtain copies of your credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian). Review it carefully for any discrepancies or errors on your credit report that could affect your creditworthiness. If you find any issues, work to rectify them before applying for a mortgage.
- Research lenders and loan options: Explore different lenders and loan programs to find the options that best suit your needs. Consider factors such as interest rates, loan terms, and down payment requirements.
- Gather documentation: Prepare the documents lenders typically require during the mortgage application process.
- Get preapproved: Submit a formal mortgage application to a lender and provide the required documentation for verification. The lender will thoroughly review your financial information and issue a preapproval letter indicating the maximum loan amount you likely qualify for.
How to Get Preapproved For A Mortgage
Getting preapproved for a mortgage is an important step in the home-buying process, so let’s break down some key details about how to get preapproved even further.
Collect your documentation
Gather the necessary documents that lenders typically require during the preapproval process. These may include:
- Proof of income: Provide recent pay stubs, W-2 forms, or income tax returns to demonstrate your employment and income stability.
- Asset statements: Gather bank statements, investment account statements, and other relevant documents to show your savings and assets.
- Identification documents: Have your driver’s license, passport, or other documents ready.
- Employment verification: Prepare documents that validate your employment history and stability, such as offer letters or employment contracts.
Know when to get preapproved
Timing is crucial when it comes to getting preapproved for a mortgage. Consider the following factors to determine the right time:
Getting preapproved before you start searching for a home is generally recommended so you’ll clearly understand your budget and can focus your search on properties within your price range. This shows sellers that you are a serious buyer and can give you a competitive edge in a competitive real estate market.
Get your credit score checked
A good credit score is crucial for mortgage preapproval. Once you obtain a copy of your credit report and check it for any errors you can dispute, study your credit behavior to gain insight into what steps you can take to improve your credit score.
If you have significant credit issues, consider seeking guidance from a credit counselor who can provide personalized advice to improve your creditworthiness.
Receive your mortgage preapproval letter
Once you complete the preapproval process, you’ll receive a mortgage preapproval letter from the lender. This letter confirms the loan amount you qualify for based on the lender’s assessment of your financial information. A preapproval letter is a valuable tool when making an offer on a home, as it demonstrates your ability to secure financing.
Understand how long preapproval lasts
It’s important to note that mortgage preapproval has a limited lifespan. Preapproval letters typically have an expiration date, usually ranging from 60 to 90 days. After the expiration, the lender may require updated financial information to reassess your eligibility. Keep track of the expiration date and proactively provide any requested updates to maintain an active preapproval status.
Mortgage Preapproval FAQs
Before seeking mortgage preapproval, ensure you understand the answers to these frequently asked questions.
How long does preapproval last?
The duration of a mortgage preapproval can vary depending on the lender. As briefly noted earlier, generally, preapprovals are valid for 60 to 90 days. After this period, the lender may require updated financial information to reevaluate your eligibility. It’s important to keep track of the expiration date and be proactive in providing any necessary updates to maintain an active preapproval status.
What factors are considered for preapproval?
Mortgage lenders consider several factors during the preapproval process. These typically include:
- Credit score: Lenders assess your creditworthiness by reviewing your credit score and history. A higher credit score generally improves your chances of preapproval.
- Income and employment: Lenders evaluate your income stability, employment history, and current employment status to ensure you have the means to repay the loan.
- Debt-to-income ratio: Lenders analyze your debt-to-income ratio, which compares your monthly debt obligations to your gross monthly income. A lower ratio indicates a lower level of financial risk.
- Down payment: The amount of money you can put towards a down payment can influence your preapproval, affecting the loan-to-value ratio and the lender’s risk exposure.
- Assets and savings: Lenders consider your savings and assets to assess your financial stability and ability to handle potential expenses.
Why should you get preapproved by more than one lender?
Getting preapproved by multiple mortgage lenders can be advantageous for several reasons:
- Comparison of offers: By obtaining preapprovals from multiple lenders, you can compare the terms and conditions, including interest rates, loan programs, and fees. This allows you to select the lender offering the most favorable terms.
- Negotiating power: Having multiple preapprovals can strengthen your negotiating position when making an offer on a home. Sellers may view your offer more favorably if multiple lenders have assessed your eligibility.
- Backup options: If one lender denies your mortgage application after preapproval, having other preapprovals in place provides alternative options and reduces the risk of starting the process from scratch.
Does getting multiple preapprovals hurt your credit score?
When you apply for mortgage preapproval, the lender typically conducts a hard inquiry on your credit report. Multiple hard inquiries within a short period can temporarily negatively impact your credit score. However, credit scoring models recognize that borrowers may shop for the best mortgage rates and allow a grace period. Generally, credit scoring models view multiple inquiries made within a 14 to 45-day window as a single inquiry when calculating your credit score. It’s important to be mindful of this timeframe and aim to obtain your preapprovals within the specified period to minimize any potential impact on your credit score.
Can you get denied a mortgage after being preapproved?
Yes, receiving a rejection for a mortgage loan is possible even after you are preapproved. Preapproval centers on an initial assessment of your financial information, subject to further verification and underwriting during the final approval process. There are several reasons why a lender may deny your mortgage application after preapproval:
- Change in financial circumstances: If your financial situation significantly changes, such as a job loss or a substantial increase in debt, it may impact your eligibility for the loan.
- Inaccurate or incomplete information: If the lender discovers discrepancies or inaccuracies during the underwriting process, it can lead to denial.
- Property-related issues: If the property you intend to purchase does not meet the lender’s criteria, such as appraisal issues or title problems, it could result in a denial.
How far in advance should you get preapproved for a mortgage?
The timing for getting preapproved for a mortgage depends on your specific circumstances and preferences. It’s usually a good idea to obtain preapproval before actively searching for a home. This way, you clearly understand your budget and can make more informed decisions. It also gives you a competitive advantage when making an offer, as sellers are more likely to take it seriously if you are preapproved.
It’s important to note that pre-approval letters typically have an expiration date, so keep in mind the validity period of your pre-approval and plan accordingly to ensure it remains active while you search for a home. If your financial circumstances change significantly, you may need to update your pre-approval with the lender.
How long does a preapproval take?
The timeframe for obtaining a mortgage pre-approval can vary depending on several factors, including the lender’s processes, the complexity of your financial situation, and your responsiveness in providing the necessary documentation. Generally, the pre-approval process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
It’s worth noting that you may expedite the pre-approval timeline if you promptly provide all the required documentation and respond to any requests or inquiries from the lender in a timely manner. Additionally, some lenders may offer expedited pre-approval services or digital platforms that streamline the process, potentially reducing the overall timeframe.
Get the Best Funding
Quickly find and compare investor-friendly lenders who specialize in your unique investing strategy. It’s fast, free, and easier than ever!
Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.