How to Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage (And Why You Should)

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The home buying process is an exciting time for individuals and families who are stepping into the next chapter of their lives. However, it also requires a lot of paperwork and technical knowledge that most homebuyers don’t have. Your Realtor® will be an invaluable resource in guiding you through this process, but there are also steps you can take before you look at houses to make it easier.  One option you have is to get pre-approved for a mortgage. This will help you confidently put in offers and hasten the closing process Keep reading to learn more about pre-approval and how to do it. 

What Is Mortgage Pre-Approval?

Pre-approval means a lender is ready to give you money once you are ready to buy a home.  In this case, you don’t know what home you intend to buy yet, but you do know that you will buy one in the near future. Your lender will look at your current financial situation, your credit score, and your credit history and provide an amount for how much they are willing to give. A pre-approval can last up to 120 days, giving you enough time to engage with your real estate agent to find and buy a house The main benefit of pre-approval is knowing that you will have a financial partner once you decide to buy a house. This way you won't lose your dream home because you couldn’t get financing.  Getting pre-approved for a mortgage can also help you budget before you start looking for a home. You can learn how much house you can afford so that you say in an ideal range.  This value peace of mind alone often makes the pre-approval process worth it. 

How Do You Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage?

Pre-approval starts with a meeting with your financial lender, or whoever you expect will provide you with a loan for your mortgage. Many homebuyers often turn to their banks or credit unions for a mortgage because they can easily access and verify their financial documents. You will want to come prepared for this meeting and have your financial documents in order already, otherwise you will delay the approval process.   As a general rule of thumb, there are five things you need in order to get pre-approved: 
  • Proof of income: You will need W-2 statements from the past two years, recent pay stubs, and other documents that prove your income like past tax returns. 
  • Proof of assets: These include bank statements and other investment statements that prove that you have enough cash on hand to cover the cost of a down payment, closing costs, and other home-buying expenses.  
  • Good credit: Most lenders expect you to have a credit score of 620 or above to buy a home, though some may require a score above 760 for certain loans. 
  • Employment verification: This goes along with your pay stubs. Your lender will likely call your employer and previous employer to verify that you work there (or did work there) to confirm that the documents are accurate. 
  • Miscellaneous documentation: You may need additional documents if you are self-employed or need a specific type of loan.  
Your loan officer may give you a checklist of items that you need before you meet with them for pre-approval.  While the actual approval process doesn’t take long, you may need to spend a few hours (or even days) pulling together information like your pay stubs and tax information. If your financial lender provides guidelines for getting pre-approved (like credit score limits), you can see how likely you are to get pre-approved just by reviewing your own documents before you submit them.  

How Long Does it Take to Get Pre-Approved?

Pre-approvals actually don’t take that long, which is good news if you are in a hurry to buy a house. Most people can get pre-approved within 24-hours of contacting their lender if all of your documents are in order.  This process can take longer for some people, especially self-employed individuals who may need additional documents (like bank statements and 1099s) to prove that their income claims are accurate and their financial situation is stable.  

Find a Realtor® to Help You Navigate the Home Buying Process

If you’re ready to start the home buying process, you can find a Realtor® to start working for you even before you get pre-approved for a mortgage. Check out the services offered by Effective Agents. We use a data-driven algorithm to pair customers with the ideal agents for their needs. You can enter specific criteria or search for agents based on what you need from them.  Are you a first-time homebuyer? There’s an agent for you. Need help with closing costs? We can help find someone to guide you through this process. Try today to find the best local agent options.  Photo Credit: pexels-anna-tarazevich-5527564

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