Donna Coakley McGowan's Blog
A mortgage pre-approval can be a valuable tool for understanding how much you can afford to spend on purchasing a home. It can also make you seem much more attractive to sellers and help to identify any potential problems that may make it difficult to get a loan. In fact, many lenders claim that if a buyer isn’t pre-approved for a mortgage, they will have a difficult time navigating the real estate market. But what does pre-approval really mean?
What is a Mortgage Pre-Approval?
While it can sound like you’ve got a sure thing locked in when you’re pre-approved for a mortgage, being pre-approved doesn’t promise that you’ll be able to secure a loan for the home that you want to purchase. A mortgage pre-approval simply means that a loan officer has reviewed your finances and decided how much money you're allocated to borrow, what you should be able to pay each month towards your mortgage and what your interest rate will be.
Once, you’ve been pre-approved by a lender, you will get a letter that can be shown to sellers. This letter indicates that you’ve already established a working relationship with a lender. This helps to give sellers peace of mind in knowing that you’re serious about putting in an offer on their home, and they don’t have to risk wasting time with a buyer who isn’t serious.
What Are the Benefits of Getting a Pre-Approval?
A pre-approval doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a mortgage but it does offer a few key advantages during your search for the ideal home. It helps to give you confidence while looking at potential properties, as you look at homes that are within your budget. There’s no need to fall in love with a home that you can’t afford. Additionally, it establishes credibility as a buyer, showing that you have your finances under control and can help to put you on the fast-track to closing once you’ve found the perfect home.
Are Pre-Approval & Pre-Qualified the Same Thing?
Unfortunately, no. These two similar real estate terms are not interchangeable. When you are pre-qualified for a mortgage, this indicates that you have given your lender information regarding your income, debts and assets. Without doing further research, the lender then tells you that you should qualify for a certain mortgage. Pre-approval is a much more in-depth process, requiring your lender to verify the financial information provided by pulling your credit history, as well as verifying your income and assets.
Buying your first home can be stressful enough without worrying about whether or not your mortgage loan pre-approval is going to go through. You may not be prepared for the mountains of paperwork that you'll need to submit before a lender gives you the thumbs' up. That's why it's such a good idea to know the requirements before you narrow down your home search.
Here are the top items your mortgage broker or lender will need in order to pre-approve you for a loan.
1. Proof of Income
W2 employees will need paystubs, IRS 1040 forms, and copies of their W2 form for the last two years.
For self-employed individuals, and small business owners, the burden of proof is higher. In additon to 1099 MISC forms, you may need to submit a letter from your accountant stating that your business is still active and a profit and loss sheet.
2. Asset Information
In addition to the regular taxable income you are bringing in, the lender will want to see proof of other assets, including savings, investment accounts, and written documentation of a family member's intent to gift you money.
These assets will let the lender know if you can afford a down payment, pay for the closing costs on the loan, and have enough cash reserves to afford the transition into homeownership.
3. Employment Verification
Lenders want to know not just that you are employed but also that you are stably employed. Thus, they request a letter from your employer to verify your employment status and the salary you're earning.
Self-employed individuals will need to submit at least two years of their complete 1040 forms in lieu of this verification process.
4. Credit Information
Before they will pre-approve a loan, the lender makes a hard inquiry into your credit. You will need a credit score of at least 620 to qualify for a conventional mortgage loan or a Federal Housing Administration Loan with zero percent down. The government may approve borrowers for an FHA loan with a score between 580 and 620 if they are able to make a sizable down payment.
In order to qualify for the lowest interest rates available — typically the ones you see advertised — you must have a credit score of at least 760. In some cases, it is worthwhile to defer applying for pre-approval until you can raise your credit score. Why? A lower interest rate can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the mortgage.
5. Personal Information
Finally, the lender will want to verify your identity by requesting copies of your driver's license, social security number, and signature.
If you’re ready to buy a home, you probably have done a lot of research. One thing is sure: You know you need to get pre-approved for a mortgage. It’s perhaps the most critical step in the process of buying a home for a variety of reasons. There’s down payments and debt-to-income ratios, and other financial issues to worry about. You need to know what type of mortgage you should get. To help you understand what kind of mortgage you need, you should get pre-approved.
Understand The Pre-Approval Process
There are many misconceptions about pre-approvals. First, buyers need to understand that there is a difference between a pre-qualification and a pre-approval. A pre-qualification merely scrapes the surface of your financial state, while a pre-approval goes through everything a mortgage company will need to grant you a loan. You may be pre-qualified for a much higher amount than you can actually afford, for example.
A pre-approval is a lender’s written commitment to a borrower. The approval states that the lender is willing to lend a certain amount of money for a home. The lender obtains the following from the buyer:
- Employment history
- Credit report
- Tax returns
- Bank statements
The time and effort that it takes to get a pre-approval is worth it because everything will be ready for the lender to grant the mortgage once an offer is made on a home. It also gives the buyer an upper hand in finding the home of their dreams. Many sellers require a pre-approval with an offer.
When To Get A Pre Approval
As soon as you know you’re serious about buying a home and are ready to start the house hunt, you should get pre-approved. Pre-approvals do expire after a certain amount of time, but lenders can renew them with proper notice.
The Importance Of The Pre-Approval
Many buyers feel that they can skip the pre-approval process altogether. It has many benefits. Besides giving you a better look at your finances and how much house you can afford, pre-approvals can:
- Give you the insight to correct your credit score and help you correct credit problems
- Help to avoid disappointment when you find a home you love
- Allow first-time buyers to see all of the costs involved in buying a home
A pre-approval is a handy thing to have, and it’s not just because the experts say it’s essential. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage can help you to be more on top of your finances going into one of the most significant purchases you'll ever make in your life.
Applying for a mortgage may seem like a long, stressful process at first. Fortunately, we're here to help you take the guesswork out of submitting a mortgage application.
Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you streamline the mortgage application process.
1. Ask Questions
A bank or credit union likely will ask you to provide a wide range of information as part of the mortgage application cycle. And as you complete a mortgage application, you may have questions along the way too.
Remember, a lender is happy to help you in any way possible. If you ever have concerns or questions as you complete a mortgage application, you should reach out to a lender for expert support. That way, you can reduce the risk of potential problems down the line that otherwise could slow down the mortgage application process.
Even a single mistake on a mortgage application may prevent you from getting a mortgage. Perhaps even worse, a delayed mortgage application may force you to miss out on an opportunity to acquire your dream house. But if you reach out to a lender as you complete your mortgage application, you can gain the insights you need to quickly and effortlessly finalize the necessary documentation to obtain a mortgage.
2. Be Thorough
A mortgage application may require you to look back at your financial and employment histories and provide information that a lender will use to determine whether to approve or deny your submission. Meanwhile, you should be ready to provide a lender with any requested information to ensure a seamless application process.
As a homebuyer, it is your responsibility to include accurate information on your mortgage application. In fact, failure to do so may cause a lender to reject your mortgage application. If you allocate the necessary time and resources to dot every I and cross every T on your mortgage application, you can boost the likelihood of a fast approval.
3. Shop Around
For homebuyers, it is crucial to check out all of the mortgage options that are available. If you meet with a variety of banks and credit unions, you can review myriad mortgage options and select a mortgage that complements your finances.
Banks and credit unions generally provide a broad array of fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages. If you learn about all of the mortgage options at your disposal, you can find one that enables you to purchase your dream house without breaking your budget.
Of course, once you are approved for a mortgage and are ready to launch your house search, you may want to hire a real estate agent as well. A real estate agent will offer plenty of guidance at each stage of the homebuying journey. In addition, a real estate agent can make it easy for you to find a top-notch residence at a budget-friendly price in any housing market, at any time.
Start the mortgage application process today, and you can move one step closer to acquiring your dream residence.
If you’re hoping to buy a house in the near future, you’ll want to focus on saving for a down payment.
Down payments are a way to let a lender know that you are a low-risk investment, and a way to save money on interest over the term of your loan.
If you have your other finances in order--a good credit score and stable income--there’s a good chance that making a 20% or more down payment will land you a low interest rate that can save you thousands while you pay off your loan.
How large should my down payment be?
The larger the down payment you can afford, the more money you’ll likely save in the long run. While there are ways to get a loan with no or very small down payments, these aren’t always ideal.
First, if you put less than 20% down on your home loan, you’ll be required to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI. These are monthly payments that you make in addition to the interest that is accrued on your loan.
So, if you don’t put any money down on your home, you’ll accrue more interest over your term length and you’ll pay PMI on top of that.
What affects your minimum down payment amount?
Lenders take a number of factors into consideration when determining your risk. If you’re eligible for a first-time home owners loan, a veteran’s loan, or a USDA loan, your loan can be guaranteed by the government. This means you can likely pay a lower down payment while still receiving a reasonable interest rate.
When applying for a mortgage, be sure to reach out to multiple lenders and shop around for the rates that work for you. Many lenders use slightly different criteria to determine your eligibility to pay a lower down payment.
Other things that affect your minimum down payment include:
Location of the home you want to buy
Value of the mortgage
Saving for a down payment
You’ll get the most value out of your mortgage if you put more money down. However, if you’re currently living in a high-rent area, it could mean that it’s in your best interest to get out of your apartment and start building equity in the form of homeownership.
If you want to buy a home within the next year or two, there are a few ways you can help increase your savings.
First, determine how much you need to save. Depending on your housing needs and the current market, everyone will have different requirements. Do some home shopping in your area online and look for homes that are within your spending limits. Remember that you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your monthly income on housing (mortgage, property taxes, etc.)
Next, find out what a 20% down payment on that home would be, adjusting for inflation.
Once you have the amount you need to save, remember to leave yourself enough of an emergency fund in your savings account to last you a month or two.