When you are pre-approved for a mortgage, it means a lender has determined how much you can borrow, the loan programs that you may qualify for, as well as the interest rate you qualify for. This assessment is based on things like credit score, income, debts, and employment history.
You’ll generally get a written statement from a lender stating this information, which can be used to give sellers confidence that you’ll be approved for a loan after they accept your offer. Most pre-approval letters are good for 60 to 90 days.
How Do You Find a Lender to Get Pre-Approved?
You may ask your Realtor for lenders they can recommend or you may do a search online for “local mortgage lenders” and look at reviews from former clients. Your chosen lender will conduct a preliminary review to determine your loan qualifications based on their guidelines.
Does Pre-Approval Guarantee a Loan?
No. Even if you receive a pre-approval letter from a lender you have contacted you may not get a loan from a lender and you are not guaranteed a specific rate or loan term. Regardless of pre-approval, a lender may require additional income and asset verification, as well as the satisfaction of other conditions, before extending you a loan. Pre-approval letters are subject to modification or cancellation if your financial situation or other conditions change. A pre-approval letter is not an offer to lend, a commitment to make a loan, or a guarantee of specific rates or terms. It is is not an application for credit. Also, having a pre-approval letter does not guarantee that an offer you make on a home will be accepted by a seller.
Why Should You Get Pre-Approved?
There are many reasons why you should get pre-approved. The most important reason is that you will get an accurate idea of how much home you can afford. This can help to target your home search and ensure you only look at houses that are truly in your price range. A pre-approval letter also helps you prove to real estate agents and sellers that you’re a credible buyer and able to act fast when you find the home you want to buy. Some sellers might even require buyers to submit a pre-approval letter with their offers, though having a pre-approval letter does not guarantee that your offer will be accepted by a seller. A pre-approval letter can make you stand out in a competitive real estate market. If you make an offer on a house without a pre-approval, your offer may not be taken as seriously as an offer from another person with a pre-approval.
What Details Are Required in the Pre-Approval Process?
A lender will generally start by asking for some basic information about you and your financial history. If you have a co-borrower, the lender will also need this information about them. Generally, a lender will then request your Social Security number and permission to pull your required credit report (and your co-borrower’s, if you have one). If the information you provide and the information obtained from your credit report satisfies the lender’s guidelines, the lender will make a preliminary determination in writing stating that you would qualify for a particular loan amount subject to the conditions outlined in your pre-approval letter. Please note that each lender has its own standards and processes for determining whether to grant a pre-approval letter.
What If You Can’t Get Pre-Approved?
Not everyone will get pre-approved for a mortgage, but there are a few things you can do to get better prepared for the financial responsibility of homeownership:
- Work to improve your credit score. Your credit score is impacted by payment history, outstanding debt, the length of your credit history, recent new credit inquiries, types of credit used, and more. Generally a score of 720 and higher will get you the most favorable mortgage rates.
- Correct any errors on your credit report, which could help to raise your credit score. The lender will analyze your credit report for any red flags, such as late or missed payments or charged-off debt. Even if you are deemed to have bad credit, there are ways to still get pre-approved for a mortgage.
- Decrease your overall debt and improve your debt-to-income ratio. In general, a debt-to-income ratio of 36 percent or less is preferable; 43 percent is the maximum ratio allowed. Use our debt-to-income calculator to determine your debt-to-income ratio.
- Increase your down payment amount in order to qualify for a larger loan. Learn more about down payments.
Be sure to ask your lender for tips on how you can improve your chances of qualifying for a loan.
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