Perhaps you’re ready to buy a home, but you’re intimidated by the competitive nature of the real estate market. You obviously want to take your time to find the right home that meets your needs and makes financial sense.
However, this can take time in such a fast-paced market. The good news is that preapprovals are good for an extended period of time — making it easy for you to find the right home without feeling like you’re racing against the clock.
What Is a Preapproval?
A mortgage preapproval is the process of determining if you qualify to purchase a home and, if so, how much you can borrow to purchase that home. To make this determination, a lender will consider your finances, including your income, debts, assets, and credit score.
When you receive your preapproval letter, you’re provided with the amount that you can borrow from the lender in addition to your interest rate.
How Does a Preapproval Differ From a Prequalification?
Preapproval and prequalification may sound the same, but they refer to different things. A prequalification provides you with a ballpark estimate that can be used to help you determine how much you can spend on a house and is usually received in the initial phases of the home buying process.
When you apply for a prequalification, you only have to provide basic information about your income and bank accounts. The lender will then run your credit to get a general idea of what you can afford to spend on a house. A prequalification letter is based on your stated information.
A preapproval, on the other hand, is received once you’re ready to get serious about the home buying process. When you apply for a preapproval, you will have to provide in-depth information about your finances and employment.
All of this information is then verified by the lender before a preapproval letter is issued, complete with an interest rate. A preapproval takes it an extra step as you now have to provide documentation to verify all the information stated in the application.
Why Do You Need a Preapproval?
The preapproval process may not be fun, but it’s necessary. A preapproval is a necessity in this competitive real estate market wherein sellers are looking for the most qualified buyers. When you have a preapproval, you demonstrate that you’re a qualified buyer who can actually secure the mortgage loan needed to purchase the home.
A preapproval letter also helps inform your home search by showing you how much you can afford to spend on a home. At the same time, it’s important to note that just because you’re preapproved for a certain amount doesn’t mean that you need to spend that number. In many cases, it makes sense for you to buy a house that’s well under your preapproval amount so that you can have extra money.
When Should You Get a Preapproval?
You don’t want to get a preapproval too early, so when is the right time to start the process? In most cases, you should get preapproved just before you start shopping for homes. The preapproval will show agents and sellers that you’re a serious buyer that’s ready to make an offer and buy a home.
Keep this in mind: Typically, a pre-approval is good for 90 days. After that, it expires, and it is no longer valid. You would then need to redo the process and get another pre-approval letter issued.
Essentially, your buying timeline affects what time to process you will want to pursue. If you plan to buy a home within the next three months, get pre-approved. If you plan to buy a home within the next six to 12 months, get pre-qualified.
How Long Does It Take To Get a Preapproval?
While the pre-approval process does require documentation, with the right lender, the process can be very straightforward.
Some lenders can take up to 10 days to issue a pre-approval. At Vaster, we can provide a pre-approval letter in as little as 48 hours, once you've completed your application and submitted the required documentation.
Where To Get a Preapproval?
There are a couple of different ways that you can get a preapproval: you can either go directly to a lender or you could work with a mortgage broker.
Here’s what you need to know about each option so that you can choose the one that’s best for you:
Most people automatically go directly to a lender when they’re looking for a preapproval — and it’s not hard to see why. After all, they actually provide the loans.
There are also different types of lenders to consider. There are traditional lenders like big banks that often come with strict qualification requirements and extended processing timelines.
Instead of going directly to a lender, you could also choose to work with a mortgage broker. A mortgage broker acts as a middleman between lenders and borrowers. A mortgage broker works with many different lenders to provide borrowers with more customized loan solutions.
You may want to consider working with a mortgage broker if you’re looking for a specific type of loan that’s hard to find. A mortgage broker can identify lenders that offer these loans and determine which one is best for you.
When you go the mortgage broker route, it means that you only have to go through the preapproval process once instead of having to do it for each individual lender. This can save you a lot of time and potentially a few headaches in the process.
How To Get a Preapproval?
If you’ve decided that it’s time to get a preapproval to start seriously shopping for a home, read what you need to do:
Step 1: Find a Lender/Broker
First of all, you need to find a lender or a mortgage broker to ask for a preapproval. If you’re using a mortgage broker, you only have to complete the process once as a single broker has access to countless lenders.
However, if you’re going to a lender directly, it might make sense for you to approach several different lenders for a preapproval letter. That way, you can make sure that you get the best possible terms and rates.
Step 2: Fill Out Application
Most people don't know what they want or need in a mortgage loan, except for a good rate. Filling out the application will help the lender/broker help potential buyers figure that out for them.
This application will ask you to fill out your personal information, including name, Social Security Number, date of birth, citizenship, marital status, dependents, and contact information.
Then you will fill out your employment information and your gross monthly income for each employment to provide two years of employment history. After that, you fill in financial information about your assets and liabilities to cover all accounts, credit cards, and loans.
If you own any real estate, there’s a section for that information. Finally, you will make declarations, acknowledgments, and agreements about the information provided on the application form.
Step 3: Gather Financial Documentation
To make the preapproval process easier, it’s a good idea to start gathering all the financial documentation you need for the application.
Recent account statements for retirement accounts, investment accounts, etc.
Recent debt statements for student loans, auto loans, etc.
Step 4: Explore Loan Options
Before you move forward with the pre-approval, your lender or broker should walk you through the different mortgage options available to you and their respective requirements.
For example, there are government-backed loans like FHA, VA, and USDA loans that are available to less qualified borrowers. Since these loans are backed by the federal government, lenders feel more comfortable lending to borrowers they normally wouldn’t lend to.
There are also conventional mortgage loans that are used by a majority of borrowers to finance a home purchase. These loans come with longer terms between 15 and 30 years and can either have an adjustable interest rate or a fixed interest rate.
If you’re looking for more of a quick and short-term loan, then you may want to consider a bridge loan. Bridge loans are designed to “bridge the gap” between closing and securing permanent financing. They typically come with one-year terms, during which time monthly payments are only made on the accrued interest.
Step 5: Get Preapproved
Using all the information provided in the application, the lender will then process your details and documents to come up with a determination about your preapproval status.
After a period of time, the lender will then determine how much you can borrow and your interest rate. From there, you can start seriously shopping for homes or compare rates with different lenders.
How Long Is a Preapproval Good for?
For some, the home buying process can be long and drawn out if you’re not able to find or win the right property in a timely manner. But how does a lengthy home buying process affect your preapproval?
If you do have to re-apply for preapproval, the process should be more straightforward since you’ve already done it. You already have all the documentation, and you’re familiar with the form and the overall process. And if you’re worried about the impact another preapproval will have on your credit score, it shouldn’t really affect it and if it does, only cause it to drop a few points.
What To Do After Getting Preapproved?
Once you’re preapproved, you’re all set to put in offers on homes. To submit the most competitive offers, be prepared to offer the full asking price.
For particularly desirable homes, be prepared to offer over the asking price. You should also be prepared to waive all contingencies in such a hot seller’s market.
Get a Preapproval Today
If you’re looking to get a preapproval fast and don’t have time to wait for a traditional lender, consider working with a lender like Vaster, we offer a variety of mortgage options to cater to the needs of all buyers.
Vaster is a mortgage lender that prioritizes flexibility and efficiency with our loans. From first time home buyers to real estate investors, our mortgage loan specialists have the access and expertise to find the right solution for you.