It can take anywhere from five to 10 days to secure a mortgage pre-approval. A straightforward application may be approved in three to five days, while a more complicated situation could take two weeks or longer.
How long it takes to get a mortgage pre-approval depends on how fast you and your lender can gather and evaluate your financial documents. Approval is based on your gross monthly income, debt payments, assets, credit reports, and employment history.
Getting a mortgage pre-approval letter provides you with a home buying budget and shows sellers you’re serious about buying.
How long does a mortgage pre-approval last?
A mortgage pre-approval is usually good for 90 days, though some lenders can issue them for 30 to 60 days. The expiration date will be in your pre-approval letter, along with other terms and conditions, like how much you’re approved to borrow and your interest rate.
Mortgage pre-approvals expire because your financial situation can change within the approval window. For example:
- You could open a new credit card, which could lead to a lower credit score.
- Your job or level of debt compared to income could change.
- Mortgage rates might have fluctuated, so the rate you were quoted initially could affect your final approved amount.
Maintain communication with your lender. If your mortgage pre-approval expires before you make an offer on a house, you’ll need to apply again. And you might need to provide updated documents or resubmit the necessary paperwork.
Can you be denied a loan after getting a mortgage pre-approval?
Yes, you can be denied a loan after getting a mortgage pre-approval if your financial situation — your credit score, income, debt level, etc. — changes significantly between applying for pre-approval and officially getting approved.
If possible, try not to make large financial decisions or purchases during your pre-approval window.
How to speed up mortgage pre-approval
1. Gather documents early
Collect all your documents in one place so you can submit your application faster. Most lenders will ask you for documentation to verify:
- Identification — such as driver’s license or Social Security card, as well as a list of recent (last two years) addresses and time of occupancy at each
- Income — tax returns, including W-2s from the past 2 years
- Employment — a written letter or contact information from employers
- Assets — bank statements from past 2–3 months as well as investment or retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s, IRAs, or mutual funds
- Liabilities — loan statements from previous 2 months, including for student debt, car payments, and credit cards
- Down payment funds, in which case you may also need a down payment gift letter to prove the funds were not a loan from someone who has a stake in the home purchase
Other information to have handy
Estimated price of the property. You’ll want to know an estimate of how much you can afford. Be sure to ask your lender what the minimum down payment required is.
Type and purpose of the property — i.e., whether this will be your primary residence, a secondary home, or an investment property. Lenders will have different rates and requirements for different property types.
Your debt level. A lender will check that your debt (mortgage payment, car or student loans, etc) makes up no more than 36% of your total pre-tax income.
2. Choose a mortgage lender that's fast
Lenders that can easily upload documents, accept e-signatures, and other technology to cut down on time may be faster. They may also be able to improve their customer service and be more readily accessible for support throughout the process.
Ask mortgage lenders directly about how long it takes for them to grant pre-approval.
If you're trying to find a good lender online, check reviews and ratings from past customers on Google, Facebook, Better Business Bureau. Good lenders should have visible proof (such as a decent amount of positive ratings). Look specifically for comments about speed and customer service.
Asking someone you trust — such as friends, family, or realtor — for lender recommendations can lead you to a quality lender.
Why you need a mortgage pre-approval
Getting pre-approved establishes financial certainty for both you and home sellers. We highly recommend getting a mortgage pre-approval to help set a realistic budget and show sellers that you’re serious about buying.
Pre-approval involves setting a specific budget for your home purchase, which makes shopping and comparing potential homes with realtors easier. Some sellers may even ask for pre-approval before agreeing to show their home.
Pre-approval increases credibility with the seller because it indicates you'll qualify to buy property (pending an appraisal, contingencies, and final underwriting).
Don’t panic if your credit score drops during a mortgage pre-approval check!
Ultimately, the impact of checking your credit will be minimal, compared with how much you save by getting the best deal from a lender.
When lenders check your credit — often called a "hard credit inquiry" — you can expect your credit score to drop by up to five points.
However, lenders can see the credit checks run by other lenders, so any additional checks that fall within the pre-approval window will still count as a single inquiry.
Unlike pre-qualification, pre-approval is a deep dive into your finances BEFORE you put an offer on a home. And although getting a pre-approval doesn’t guarantee you'll immediately make an offer, it gives a clear indication that you are ready to buy.