Do I really have to get pre-approved before looking at homes?
I get this question every week. And the answer is "Yes". You've got questions about this, and I understand. You're not buying anything just yet, so why do you have to give up your information and talk to a loan officer?
The first part of this answer is that by getting pre-approved, you KNOW your buying power right upfront. There's no guessing or hoping that you can buy the home that just fell in love with only to find out its $30,000 over your budget. It's really hard to find one that measures up the one you couldn't get the first time. Trust me, been there.
The second part is that once you do find the perfect home and are ready to make an offer, a pre-approval letter is a prerequisite for most offers to even be considered. When a seller accepts your offer, they are taking their home off of the market for you, potentially missing another qualified buyer. And in today's market, that's worth something!
The third part is that you may have someone spending money in your name that you don't know about and causing you to be unable to obtain a mortgage. It's called identity theft, and it's happened to me as well. Fortunately, the person was caught and my credit able to get cleared up relatively quickly (it only took 11 months). It turned out to be an assistant in the HR department at a company I used to work for. It can happen to anyone, and your fault or not, it can really affect your ability to purchase a home.
The final part to this answer, and the one closest to my heart, is my wallet. It is the Realtor® Pay Plan. As a Realtor®, I don't receive a salary or even an "expense account" for my time or fuel until a new homeowner receives the keys to their new home.