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Securing Your Mortgage Preapproval: A Step-by-Step Guide

Lendstart Updated: March 13, 2024 • 5 min read
Phone screen with "approved" message on screen

Key Points:

  • Securing a mortgage preapproval is the initial phase in acquiring a home loan.

  • A preapproval for a mortgage demonstrates to sellers your financial capability to purchase a home and provides you with an estimate of your monthly payments and closing costs.

  • Learning about pre-approval for a mortgage is essential, as it helps you navigate the journey smoothly, anticipate what's ahead.

If laying down cash for your dream home isn't in the cards, stepping into the world of mortgages becomes your gateway to holding those keys. The first crucial step? Securing a mortgage preapproval. But why is getting pre-approved so vital? Read on to smoothly navigate your mortgage preapproval journey, ensuring you're not just ready but ahead of the game.

A preapproval for a mortgage demonstrates to sellers your financial capability to purchase a home.

What Is A Mortgage Preapproval?

A mortgage preapproval is a formal statement from a lender indicating that you qualify for a loan up to a certain amount based on a preliminary review of your financial information. This includes your income, assets, debts, and credit score. Unlike a prequalification based on a brief overview of your finances, a preapproval involves a more thorough examination, including a credit check and verification of your financial documents.

Obtaining a preapproval letter signals to sellers that you are a serious and financially capable buyer, as a lender has already assessed your ability to afford and repay a mortgage loan. This can give you a competitive edge in the housing market, especially when multiple offers exist on a property. Additionally, it helps you understand how much you can afford, allowing you to focus your home search on properties within your budget.

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Home Loan Preapproval Vs. Prequalification

  • Preapproval involves thoroughly reviewing your financial background, including credit checks and verification of income and assets. It offers a more accurate estimate of how much you can borrow.
  • Prequalification is a preliminary step, providing an estimate of what you can borrow based on self-reported financial information without an in-depth verification.

Home Loan Preapproval Vs. Approval

  • Preapproval is an initial, conditional commitment from a lender stating how much you can borrow based on your current financial status. It's not tied to a specific property and is subject to further verification.
  • Approval is the final step, where the lender confirms your financial information and approves the loan for a specific property, following a satisfactory appraisal and underwriting process.

How to Get Preapproved for a Mortgage

To ensure a smooth and successful mortgage preapproval process, it's essential to be thorough and accurate. Here's how to prepare and what steps to follow for the best outcome:

  1. Review Your Credit Report: Before applying, check your credit report for any inaccuracies or issues affecting your loan approval. Rectify any errors and improve your credit score if necessary, as a higher score can lead to better loan terms.

  2. Gather Necessary Documentation: Compile all required documents that lenders typically ask for. This includes your recent tax returns, W-2 forms, pay stubs, bank statements, and other relevant financial information proving your income and assets.

  3. Understand Your Budget: Have a clear idea of how much you can afford to spend on a home, including down payment and monthly payments, without stretching your finances too thin. Use online mortgage calculators to help estimate your budget.

  4. Research Lenders: Not all lenders offer the same terms, so shopping around is important. Look for lenders with competitive rates and good customer service. Consider different types of lenders, such as banks, credit unions, and online lenders.

  5. Apply for Preapproval: Once you've chosen a lender, complete their preapproval application process. This often can be done online. Be honest and accurate in your application to avoid any issues down the line.

  6. Provide Your Documentation: Submit all the gathered documents as requested by the lender. This step is crucial for verifying your financial situation and determining your loan eligibility.

  7. Wait for Preapproval: After submitting your application and documents, the lender will review your information and perform a credit check. This process can take a few days to a few weeks. If approved, you'll receive a preapproval letter stating how much you're eligible to borrow.

  8. Review the Preapproval Letter: Carefully review the details of your preapproval letter, including the loan amount, expiration date, and any conditions or contingencies. This letter is useful for house hunting, as it shows sellers you're a serious and qualified buyer.

  9. Keep Your Finances Stable: After receiving preapproval, avoid making any significant financial changes or large purchases that could affect your credit score or debt-to-income ratio. Lenders will recheck your financial status before finalizing the loan, and any negative changes could jeopardize your approval.

By following these steps and preparing thoroughly, you can increase your chances of obtaining a favorable mortgage preapproval, setting the stage for a successful home-buying experience.

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Benefits Of A Mortgage Preapproval

The benefits of obtaining a mortgage preapproval are significant for prospective homebuyers, offering both practical advantages and strategic leverage in the home-buying process. Here are the key benefits:

  • Clear Budget Understanding: A preapproval outlines how much a lender is willing to finance, giving you a clear picture of what you can afford. This helps to focus your home search on properties within your budget, saving time and effort.
  • Enhanced Seller Confidence: Sellers take you more seriously when you offer a home with a pre-approval letter. It demonstrates your financial readiness and commitment to the purchase, making your offer more attractive compared to those from buyers who are not preapproved.
  • Quicker Closing Process: Having a preapproval can speed up the closing process. Since the lender has already assessed your financial situation, there's less groundwork to cover once you find a home you want to buy.
  • Negotiation Power: A preapproval can give you leverage in negotiations with sellers. Knowing you're already approved for a mortgage can make sellers more willing to negotiate on price, especially if they're eager to sell.
  • Identify Credit Issues Early: The preapproval process involves thoroughly checking your credit history, allowing you to identify and address any credit issues before they become obstacles in your home-buying journey.
  • Interest Rate Lock-In: Some lenders offer the option to lock in an interest rate at preapproval, protecting you from rate increases while you search for your home (be aware that this feature is subject to specific lender policies and market conditions).


By preparing thoroughly, exploring all available loan options, and possibly consulting with financial professionals, you can make informed decisions and move closer to purchasing your dream home. Homeownership is a journey; achieving it with the right preparation and knowledge is within your reach.



Why should I get a mortgage preapproval?

For homebuyers, preapproval is advantageous. Buyers can search for homes within their budget, making the house hunt easier and more efficient. Also, it gets a lot of the mortgage process done early, making an offer more appealing to a seller.

How long does preapproval last?

If you’re preapproved, you’ll receive an approval letter offer that lasts for 60 – 90 days, depending on the lender. After that, you’ll need to apply again with another credit pull and updated paperwork. If there are any major changes to your financial situation, your preapproval limit might also change.

Can I Secure a Mortgage Approval with Poor Credit?

The minimum credit score for purchasing a house varies by mortgage type. Conventional loans typically need a credit score of at least 620, whereas FHA loans have a lower threshold of 580. If your credit score falls below these minimums, approval might be challenging.

How far in advance should I get preapproved for a mortgage?

You should aim to get preapproved for a mortgage 3 to 6 months before buying a home. This timing allows you to address financial issues and improve your buying position.

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