Mortgage Pre-Approval

What is Pre-Approval?

A lender or broker writes a letter on your behalf, stating that they’ve reviewed your finances and are willing to loan you a specific amount of money to buy a house, once you find one.

When should I get pre-approved?

For most buyers, it’s a good idea to get pre-approved for a loan early in the home-shopping process.


  • It will show you which homes you can actually afford, and prevent you from wasting time on ones you can’t.
  • It will help you make an offer more quickly when you do find a home.
  • You need to be pre-approved to make an offer on a bank-owned property (REO).
  • You need one to work with many real estate brokerages. Redfin requires you to be pre-approved after your second home tour in most markets.
  • Studies have shown that waiting to shop for a mortgage until after you’ve shopped for a home may lower your chances of making the best mortgage selection.

Are pre-approval and pre-qualification the same thing?

No. Pre-approval is a much more thorough process, and the end result — a letter of pre-approval — carries more weight. Pre-qualification is based only on a casual conversation with a broker or lender, who never verifies the information you provide. Pre-qualification can be a good place to start when you’re trying to get a ballpark figure of how much you can afford to borrow, and what types of mortgage you might qualify for.

But if you’re serious about buying a home, don’t stop at pre-qualification. Go through the more rigorous process of pre-approval.

Are there any reasons to wait to get pre-approved?

If you’re not ready to start looking seriously for a home to buy, you should wait to get pre-approved. Most lender pre-approvals are good for only a limited window; between 30 and 90 days, depending on your lender.

Also, due to the lengthy process involved with closing on short sales and bank-owned properties, you should discuss the timing of your pre-approval with your real estate agent or lender if you’re interested in these types of property.

Last modified Tuesday, September 28, 2014


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