Getting pre-qualified is the initial step in the mortgage process, and it’s generally fairly simple. You supply a mortgage broker or bank with your overall financial picture, including your debt, income and assets. After evaluating this information, a lender can give you an idea of the mortgage amount for which you qualify. Pre-qualification can be done over the phone or on the internet, and there is usually no cost involved. Loan pre-qualification does not include an analysis of your credit report or an in-depth look at your ability to purchase a home. At this point, a lender can explain various mortgage products and recommend the type that might be best suited to your situation.
Getting pre-approved is the next step, and it tends to be much more involved. You’ll complete a mortgage application then supply the lender with approval to check your credit. From this, the lender can tell you the specific mortgage amount for which you are approved. You’ll also have a better idea of the interest rate you will be charged on the loan and, in some cases, you might be able to lock in a specific rate.
With pre-approval, you will receive a conditional commitment in writing for an exact loan amount, allowing you to look for a home at or below that price level. This puts you at an advantage when dealing with a potential seller, as they will know you can actually buy their house.
The other advantage of completing both of these steps – pre-qualification and pre-approval – before you start to look for a home is that you’ll know in advance how much you can afford. This way, you don’t waste time with looking at properties that are beyond your means. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage also enables you to move quickly when you find the perfect place. When you make an offer, it won’t be contingent on obtaining financing, which can save you valuable time. In a competitive market, this lets the seller know that your offer is serious – and could prevent you from losing the home to another potential buyer who already has financing arranged.