Get preapproved for a mortgage

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Preapproval FAQs answered

A mortgage preapproval is a letter from a lender indicating the Body and amount of loan you can qualify for. The preapproval letter is issued after the lender has evaluated your financial history — including pulling your credit report and score.

Getting preapproved for a mortgage helps you shop for homes within your means and shows you’re a serious buyer.

Getting preapproved also helps you find a mortgage lender that can work with you to select a home loan with an interest rate and other terms suited to your needs.

Learn how to get preapproved

A pre-qualification is like an audition, while a preapproval is a dress rehearsal for an actual loan application.

Without digging too deeply into your financial details, a lender can estimate how much mortgage you’ll likely qualify for and some preliminary loan terms. This is commonly referred to as mortgage pre-qualification. It’s based on your estimated credit score and other details you provide the lender, such as the purchase price of a home you would like to buy, your down payment, your monthly debts and how you would want to structure your loan (length, fixed- or adjustable-rate interest, and so on).

With a preapproval, you complete a full application with supporting documentation, The lender pulls your credit report and score and puts an offer in writing to give you a loan at a given interest rate.

Even with a mortgage preapproval, your loan still has to go through underwriting — a final stage of due diligence before issuing the loan — after you have a home under contract.

Learn the difference between pre-qualification and preapproval

The best time to get preapproved is just before you start shopping for homes. By verifying how much you’re qualified to borrow, preapproval helps you decide what you can afford. (However, you may not want to spend as much on a home as the amount you can borrow.) A mortgage preapproval letter also puts you a step ahead of other prospective buyers who aren’t yet preapproved.

The time frame varies by lender, but commonly a mortgage preapproval is good for 90 days. The preapproval letter may have an expiration date on it. If you’re still shopping for homes after that point, you can ask the lender to renew the preapproval. You may need to provide updated information, and the lender may check your credit again.

Shopping around enables you to compare all-in costs and get the best deal.

Yet half of home buyers consider just one lender when applying for a mortgage, according to NerdWallet’s 2019 Home Buyer Report, based in part on an analysis of the National Survey of Mortgage Originations.

By comparing five lenders, NerdWallet found that a buyer could save $430 in interest, on average, in the first year of homeownership alone. Across all home sales, Americans could save $776 million in one year.

A lender’s request to review your credit report counts as a "hard inquiry." Hard inquiries can lower your credit score if they’re a result of trying to open a bunch of new credit lines in a short time. But multiple hard inquiries as a result of rate shopping for a home loan generally don’t hurt your credit score.

FICO, one of the largest credit scoring companies, recommends confining rate shopping to a relatively narrow period, such as 30 days.