How to Get Preapproved for a Mortgage to Buy a House

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By Bill Gassett Updated June 21, 2023


How to Get Preapproved for a Mortgage to Buy a House

There are many essential things to know when buying your first house. One of the crucial steps in the home-buying process is obtaining a mortgage preapproval.

A preapproval for a mortgage is an evaluation conducted by a lender to determine the maximum loan amount you can borrow and the interest rate you may qualify for.

By getting preapproved, you understand your budget clearly, making it easier to shop for homes within your price range.

Below, we'll go over the concept of mortgage preapproval, discuss its significance, and how long it takes. Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to get preapproved.

What Is a Mortgage Preapproval?

A mortgage preapproval is an initial assessment by a lender that determines your creditworthiness and borrowing potential. It thoroughly analyzes your financial information, including your income, assets, debts, and credit score needed to buy.

Based on this evaluation, the lender provides a preapproval letter or certificate stating the maximum loan amount you can qualify for and the interest rate applicable to your mortgage.

Preapproval vs. Prequalification: Understanding the Difference

Regarding mortgage financing, two terms often come up: preapproval and prequalification. Although they sound similar, they have distinct differences.

What Is Prequalification?

Prequalification is an initial assessment that roughly estimates the mortgage amount you qualify for. It is typically based on self-reported information provided by the borrower.

During prequalification, you provide the lender with details about your income, debts, and assets. Based on this information, the lender evaluates your financial situation and provides an informal estimate of the loan amount you could borrow.

Prequalification is generally a quicker and less rigorous process than preapproval. It is often done online or over the phone and doesn't require extensive documentation or a credit check.

Since prequalification relies on the information provided by the borrower, it is not a guarantee of loan approval or a completely accurate representation of the maximum loan amount you can borrow.

What is a Preapproval?

On the other hand, preapproval is a more comprehensive evaluation conducted by a mortgage lender you choose. It involves thoroughly analyzing your financial information, including verification of income, assets, debts, and credit history.

Unlike prequalification, preapproval requires the submission of documentation supporting the information provided. The lender will typically pull your credit report and review your credit score during preapproval.

By obtaining a preapproval, you receive a conditional commitment from the lender stating the specific loan amount you are eligible for, along with the terms and interest rate.

The preapproval letter carries more weight than a prequalification, demonstrating that the lender has conducted a detailed assessment of your financial profile. This makes it a more reliable indicator of your borrowing capacity when making home offers.

Key Differences Between Preapproval and Prequalification

Rigor and Accuracy

Preapproval involves a more rigorous evaluation and requires verification of financial information, making it a more accurate representation of your loan eligibility. Prequalification is based on self-reported information and provides a rough estimate.


Preapproval requires submitting supporting documentation, such as pay stubs, tax returns, and bank statements. Prequalification relies on the borrower's provided information without extensive documentation.

Credit Check

Preapproval involves a credit check, allowing the lender to assess your creditworthiness. Prequalification may not include a credit check.

Reliability in Offers

A preapproval letter strengthens your negotiating power by demonstrating to sellers that you have undergone a detailed evaluation and are a serious buyer. Prequalification may not hold the same weight in negotiations.

Understanding the differences between preapproval and approval is crucial to navigating the home-buying journey effectively.

What is a Final Loan Approval?

Approval, also known as final loan approval, occurs when the lender completes a thorough review of all your financial information, property details, and documentation.

During this stage, the lender verifies the accuracy of the information provided during preapproval, conducts a property appraisal, and performs a more comprehensive underwriting process.

The approval stage involves meticulous analysis of your financial profile, including income, assets, debts, credit history, and employment stability.

The lender also evaluates the property to ensure it meets their lending criteria. If everything meets the lender's requirements and guidelines, they grant final approval for the mortgage.

Once you receive final approval, you are closer to closing the loan and officially becoming a homeowner. However, it's essential to maintain financial stability and avoid any significant changes to your financial situation until the closing process is complete.

Key Differences in The Documents


Preapproval is a conditional commitment from the lender based on the information provided and is subject to further verification and underwriting. Conversely, approval indicates the lender's final decision to grant the loan after completing a thorough review.

Documentation and Verification

Preapproval involves submitting financial documents and information to support your loan application. Approval requires a more extensive verification, including property appraisal and in-depth underwriting.


Preapproval typically occurs earlier in the home-buying process, allowing you to determine your budget and search for homes within that range. The approval comes later, closer to the closing stage, after the lender has completed a detailed evaluation of your financial information and property.


Preapproval provides confidence in your loan eligibility but does not guarantee final approval. The approval represents the lender's commitment to fund the mortgage, pending the completion of closing requirements.

The Importance of Mortgage Preapproval

  • Determining your budget: A mortgage preapproval helps you understand the price range of homes you can afford, enabling you to narrow down your search and save time.

  • Strengthening your negotiation power: Sellers are more likely to take your offer seriously if you have a preapproval letter, demonstrating that you are a serious and qualified buyer.

  • Streamlining the home-buying process: With preapproval, you can expedite the mortgage application process once you find the perfect home, giving you a competitive edge over other buyers.

How to Get Preapproved for a Mortgage

Understand the Documents Needed for Preapproval

Before initiating the preapproval process, compile the essential documents lenders typically require. These may include:

  • Proof of identification (e.g., driver's license, passport)

  • Social Security number

  • Proof of income (recent pay stubs, W-2 forms, tax returns)

  • Bank statements (checking, savings, investment accounts)

  • Documentation of assets (retirement accounts, stocks, bonds)

  • Employment history and contact information

  • Proof of address (utility bills, rental agreements)

Steps For Getting Preapproval

  • Research and select a lender: Explore various lenders and mortgage options to find the one that best suits your needs. Factors to consider include interest rates, loan terms, fees, and customer reviews. Some people like to use a mortgage broker to find the best terms easily.

  • Complete a preapproval application: Once you've chosen a lender, complete the preapproval application either online, over the phone, or in person. Provide accurate and up-to-date information to ensure a smooth evaluation process.

  • Consent to a credit check: As part of the preapproval process, the lender will review your credit history. Give your consent for the lender to access your credit report, which will help them determine your creditworthiness.

  • Wait for the lender's response: After submitting your application, the lender will review your information and perform a comprehensive assessment. Depending on the lender's processes, this evaluation may take a few days to weeks.

  • Receive your preapproval letter: If you meet the lender's criteria, you will receive a preapproval letter or certificate. This document will state the loan amount you are eligible for, the term of the loan, and the interest rate. Take note of any conditions mentioned in the letter, such as the need for an appraisal or additional documentation.

  • Utilize your preapproval wisely: Armed with your preapproval letter, you can confidently search for homes within your budget. Share the letter with real estate agents and sellers to demonstrate your serious intent and financial capability.

  • Maintain financial stability: Remember that preapproval is not a guarantee for a mortgage. To ensure a successful mortgage application, maintain financial stability during home-buying. Avoid making major purchases or taking on new debts that could affect your creditworthiness. Increasing your credit score when buying a house can be an immense help.

Following the Roadmap to Preapproval

Obtaining a mortgage preapproval is a vital step in the home-buying journey. By understanding the process and following the steps outlined above, you can increase your chances of getting preapproved for a mortgage.

Choose a reputable lender, gather the required documentation, and provide accurate information. A mortgage preapproval will empower you with a realistic budget, enhance your negotiation power, and streamline the process of purchasing your dream home.

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