Why is it important to get pre-approved?
When you’re ready to make a purchase offer, both your real estate agent and the seller will want to see a pre-approval letter. This proves that you‘re likely to be able to make the purchase and, therefore, you can be taken seriously. In a competitive housing market, sellers prefer a pre-approved buyer to those who, for all anyone knows, might be unable to close the deal.
How do I get pre-approved?
Before you roll up your sleeves and look into the details of getting pre-approved, you should first understand all three basic stages of the mortgage application process: pre-qualification, pre-approval, and mortgage commitment.
Getting pre-qualified is an informal process in which you are interviewed by a mortgage professional about your income and expenses. This gives you a general idea of the price range you can afford. It really doesn’t bring you any closer to securing a mortgage.
When you are pre-approved for a mortgage, it means that a lender has looked closely at your credit report, your employment history and your income and has then determined which loan programs you qualify for, the maximum amount that you can borrow, and the interest rates you will be offered. Be aware, however, that your loan representative is not the one who will ultimately approve your loan. That is the underwriter’s role, and these days underwriting is automated. In order for your loan representative to submit your application for pre-approval, you must provide your last two years’ tax returns and W-2s, your most recent pay stubs, bank account statements, and a signed authorization to order your credit report. The automated underwriting system will deliver a pre-approval letter within minutes, and will list any conditions that need to be met for full approval.
A lender will issue a loan commitment after it has approved both you and the property you intend to purchase. Having examined all of the necessary documentation to verify your ability and willingness to repay the loan, your loan representative will submit your complete application to the underwriter. The underwriter will return one of four decisions: approval, approved with conditions, suspended (which means they need more documentation from you before they can make a decision), or denied.
The process of getting pre-approved
Most of the factors that will determine your pre-approval – your credit report, the down payment, your expense ratios – have been already been addressed in detail in the first module of this course, Estimate Your Price Range. Revisit those topics if you still need to take actions to improve your chances of getting pre-approved for the loan that you desire.
The process of getting pre-approved is actually quite simple. All you have to do is provide your lender the documentation that they require. Be prepared to supply your loan representative with pay stubs, bank account statements, tax returns and W-2 forms from the previous 2 years, and documents to show other sources of income (which could include a second job, overtime, commissions and bonuses, interest and dividend income, Social Security payments, VA and retirement benefits, alimony, and child support). Beyond that, the ball is in the underwriter’s court.