Buying a home is likely the largest purchase you will ever make and having a mortgage loan is often necessary to make becoming a homeowner possible. When shopping for a home, it can be hard to know exactly how much house you can afford until you know what your monthly mortgage payments will look like.
Factors like interest rate, down payment amount, and the loan term all affect what your monthly mortgage payment will look like. Getting a mortgage preapproval letter gives you a good idea of how much you can afford to spend on a home. Keep reading to learn more about what mortgage preapproval is and how long it lasts.
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- Mortgage preapprovals usually expire within 90 days
- A mortgage preapproval letter is not a guarantee of your actual loan terms
- Buyers with a home loan preapproval letter can make more competitive offers
- You can get preapproved with multiple mortgage lenders to make sure you'll be able to get the best rates and loan terms for you
- You can contact the lender to renew a mortgage preapproval if needed
What is mortgage pre-approval?
When house shopping, it’s really helpful to have a mortgage preapproval letter ready and waiting. Unless you can afford to buy a house in cash, you will need to borrow money from a mortgage lender to finance the purchase. How much you end up borrowing affects which houses you can afford to buy.
It can be hard to predict the loan amount and interest rate you will qualify for once you officially apply for a mortgage loan. However, you don’t want to apply for a loan that may not work for your needs. This is where a mortgage preapproval can really come in handy.
When you apply for preapproval, you don’t receive an official loan offer but will get an estimate. This is in the form of a mortgage preapproval letter, of what your home loan offer is likely to be when you do apply for the loan. This estimate will give you an idea of what types of homes you can afford to purchase and will help guide you during the house-hunting process.
It’s important to note that a mortgage preapproval letter is not a guarantee of what your official offer will be. If you provide the mortgage lender with accurate information about your employment, income, and debt during the preapproval application process, it can give you a strong idea of what to expect.
How soon should I get preapproval for a mortgage?
You really only need to get pre-approved for a mortgage loan once you are ready to start house shopping seriously. If you are just a casual open house visitor who is trying to better understand your local real estate market and get to know different neighborhoods, you can hold off on getting preapproved. However, if you want to be able to make an offer as soon as you find your dream home, you should complete the preapproval process before you start looking at houses. That way, you can move quickly — which is often necessary — if you want to make an offer.
Not only does having preapproval give you an idea of what your budget is, but it also indicates to sellers that you are making a serious offer. If a seller has two identical offers, they will likely choose the buyer who already has a mortgage preapproval letter, as that indicates they are financially capable of moving forward with the sale.
Related: How to get a mortgage
How long does preapproval for a mortgage last?
One reason why you don’t want to seek out a mortgage preapproval before you are ready to buy a home is that mortgage preapproval letters aren't good forever. How long your specific preapproval will last depends on the lender. But most lenders issue a 90-day preapproval letter. It’s also common to come across 30-day and 60-day limits.
How to get pre-approved for a mortgage
All lenders have their unique mortgage process. Generally, you can expect to take the following steps to get preapproved for a mortgage.
Preapproval for a mortgage: Check your credit scores
Before you apply for mortgage preapproval, it’s a smart move to check your credit report and credit score. If you find any mistakes on your credit report, dispute them with the credit bureau that issued the report. This is to see if you can remove them and give your credit score a nice boost before applying for preapproval. Knowing your credit score helps identify suitable lenders. Narrow down preapproval options, and streamline your selection process for lenders. You can get a free credit report from each bureau once a year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
Preapproval for a mortgage: Get organized
Most lenders will want to know the same information about your financial situation and collect similar documentation. To make the mortgage preapproval process less stressful and faster, spend some time getting organized before applying. You will want to have a copy of your official identification (such as a driver’s license or passport) ready to go. As well as documents relating to your employment, income, debt, and assets.
Preapproval for a mortgage: Choose a few lenders to apply with
You can get a preapproval letter from more than one mortgage lender. Consider working with at least three lenders to see who can issue you the loan amount you desire at the best rate. You will still need to officially apply with these lenders once you are ready to buy a home. But it’s helpful to know what your options are before reaching that point.
Wait for preapproval
Some mortgage lenders will issue a preapproval the same day you apply, while others require more time. Be patient, as this process may take a day or two. Once you have pre-approval, you can start shopping for a home with more confidence. Remember — this is not an actual loan approval. But it will give you an idea of the loan amount and interest rate you will likely receive approval for when you do officially apply.
How can I renew a mortgage preapproval?
Even though your mortgage preapproval can expire, your hard work doesn’t have to go to waste if you don’t buy a home before the expiration date. Once you are ready to renew the preapproval, you can contact the mortgage lender to request they do so. Providing all necessary information promptly should expedite the process of issuing the original preapproval, making it fairly efficient. However, you may receive a different estimated interest rate as those rates are linked to market fluctuations.
Related: What Is A Mortgage Broker?