A pre-approval letter from your lender signals a "green light" to sellers that you’re a serious buyer.
Before you start searching listing websites and attending (virtual) open houses, your first stop should be with a lender . Working with a lender will help you understand how much you can afford and how much you’re qualified to borrow – this is known as pre-approval. A pre-approval letter is an official document supplied by a lender that states the maximum amount they are willing to lend you based on key criteria.
Is My Pre-Approval Loan Amount Final?
The amount listed on your pre-approval letter is not necessarily how much you should borrow – it's the maximum. You should only borrow an amount that you feel comfortable repaying, and you can work with your lender to discuss your budget.
Where to Begin
To get pre-approved, you will want to start by filling out a loan application. To complete the application, you will likely be asked to provide several pieces of documentation including your W-2, bank statements, credit report and tax returns. These documents will help evaluate your financial ability to make payments on time. Specifically, your lender will look at:
Capacity: Your current and future ability to take on a monthly mortgage payment.
Capital: Your available money and savings, and other assets that you could sell fairly quickly for cash.
Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time.
Collateral: The type of home that you are interested in purchasing.
After evaluating your “four C’s”, the lender will provide you with the pre-approval letter stating how much they will lend you. Keep in mind this is the maximum amount you are qualified to borrow, but you should only borrow an amount that fits your budget and you feel comfortable with.
It’s important to remember that pre-approval letters expire. You’ll want to discuss the specific time frame with your lender, but you can expect the letter to remain valid for 30-90 days.
You should also know that you are not required to use the same lender for your mortgage application as your pre-approval. When you’re ready to purchase a home, be sure to talk to multiple lenders to discuss the best mortgage option for your needs.
Why Should I Get Pre-Approved?
There are several benefits to getting a mortgage pre-approval:
- It shows you are a serious buyer. A pre-approval letter lets your real estate agent and the seller know that you are ready to purchase and have borrowing power.
- It makes it easier to shop for a home. A pre-approval letter helps both you and your real estate agent better understand your price range.
- It strengthens your offer. A pre-approval letter can help you stand out from other buyers and give you an advantage in getting your offer accepted.
Getting pre-approved can help build a strong foundation so you can shop with confidence. For more tips about buying a home, visit My Home by Freddie Mac®.