Do you know the difference between a pre-qualification and a preapproval for a mortgage? Surprisingly, many buyers – and even many agents – do not. It is important to understand the difference before you prepare to search for a property.
Pre-Qualification: When a buyer gets pre-qualified for a mortgage, it means that s/he has submitted information to the lender regarding employment/earnings and assets. The borrower discloses what amount s/he has for a downpayment, and provides the lender with a credit score. Not much digging is done to verify the information, and pre-qual letters are fairly easy to obtain.
Some lenders require proof of funds to be shown (which can be done by submitting a bank/securities statement), and pre-qualification letters state that a loan will be granted based on the borrower’s ability to satisfy the conditions – they are not a guaranty for a loan. These letters are the most common types presented with offers, as many banks can evaluate a borrower, but cannot truly evaluate whether s/he can purchase a particular property until they have a fully executed contract and related documents.
Preapproval: Getting preapproved means that a lender took the time to look at a potential buyer’s documentation of income and assets. Credit scores are pulled, and the buyer is examined more thoroughly. Borrowers must provide 1099′s, W2′s, account statements, employment stubs and other information if necessary. Once the preapproval is drafted it is still not a guaranty that the borrower will get a loan. There are other conditions that must be met, which will become more clear once a property is identified for purchase.
No matter which type of letter is obtained, it is important to obtain one before writing an offer so that the buyer looks strong in the presentation. Many listing agents will not respond to offers unless there is a preapproval or pre-qualification letter submitted simultaneously.
Interestingly, most listing agents do not scrutinize whether a borrower submits a preapproval or pre-qualification letter (and I have found that many do not even know the difference), but many do ask that proof of funds (funds necessary to cover any downpayment) be submitted with an offer and the letter. None of these things provide iron-clad proof that the buyer will qualify for the loan, but they do reassure the seller and listing agent that the potential buyer at least looks positive on paper.
It is important in today’s market – where we are seeing many properties obtaining multiple offers – to look as strong as possible. Taking the extra time at the start to obtain a preapproval is a smart decision that could mean the difference between getting your offer accepted over that of another buyer.
If you are considering purchasing a home, it is important to consult with a mortgage professional right away, so that you can figure out for how much of a loan you will qualify. This will allow you and your real estate agent to focus on properties in the right price range, providing a better chance that you will be able to successfully qualify for a loan when you find the right home.
Images courtesy of Dreamstime