The very first step in buying a home is making the decision that you’re ready to buy. The next step after that is determining how much you can afford and what your financing options are.
Getting pre-approved by a lender will help you accomplish both of those. It will also help set you apart from other potential buyers, showing a seller that you’re serious about buying and have the ability to get approved for a loan on the home.
Now that you know you need to get pre-approved, you’re probably still left with some questions. What does pre-approval entail? How long does the process take? We will explain all the basics of getting pre-approved for a mortgage below.
What Does Mortgage Pre-Approval Mean?
You could guess that mortgage pre-approval means just that – you are pre-approved for a home loan. But there’s more to it.
For starters, other terms, like pre-qualification, are sometimes confused with pre-approval. Pre-qualification doesn’t usually involve the lender reviewing your bank statements, pay stubs, and credit report, making it less accurate than a pre-approval.
When getting pre-approved, your lender will review your credit profile and income, ensuring that you meet all the criteria for the loan program you plan to use.
Then, they will provide you with a pre-approval letter outlining the details and conditions of that assessment. You’ll share that with your real estate agent, and it’s what could help you beat out competing buyers.
Why Should I Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage?
The most important reason to get pre-approved as early as possible is because it determines your budget for buying a home. If you start looking for homes before checking with a lender, you run the risk of finding the perfect place but having it be outside of your price range.
After budgeting, the next most important reason to get pre-approved is that it makes you a more attractive buyer. If you find yourself in a seller’s market, you want to do everything you can to set yourself apart from the competition. A great way to do that is by assuring the seller that you’re serious about moving forward, can get approved for the loan, and that the deal could close quickly since you’ve done your pre-work.
That leads to another reason to get pre-approved – you will have to turn in all this documentation (e.g., credit profile, income statements, and more) to get fully approved and close on your loan. By compiling and sharing the necessary documents with your loan officer early on, you can potentially shave off time later in the buying process.
What is the Pre-Approval Process?
The pre-approval process is pretty straightforward. You’ll complete a loan application and turn in the documents requested by your loan officer, which can vary depending on the loan program you’re planning to finance with.
In general, you’ll be asked to provide:
- Pay stubs from at least the past month
- W-2s from the last two years
- Proof of any other sources of income
- Bank statements from the last two months
- Identification documentation
Then, your lender will run your credit. This will be a hard inquiry on your credit report, allowing them to review your other debts and your credit score.
With all that data, your loan officer will estimate how much of a loan you can qualify for.
How Long Does the Pre-Approval Process Take?
The length of the pre-approval process depends on how quickly you can produce the necessary documentation for your loan officer, how responsive they are, and whether your credit and finances are in good shape.
If all three of those major components align, you could get pre-approved as quickly as one business day. If you need to provide additional documents or the lender has to further audit your income, it could take a few days up to a week.
Pre-approvals are generally issued for a 30, 60, or 90-day period, and your loan officer will share the conditions of your pre-approval letter with you.