Your lender has told you that you are pre-approved for your mortgage. Congratulations! Now you need to ask them, what does pre-approval actually mean? And, how long does a pre-approval for a mortgage last?
What is Pre-Approval for a Mortgage?
A mortgage pre-approval is one step in the mortgage process. To receive a pre-approval you need to submit W-2s, tax forms and other documentation to your lender. Your lender will also pull your credit report and review it as part of the process.
After reviewing your documents, your lender calculates what the maximum loan amount you qualify for is. You’ll receive this in multiple forms to be able to provide it sellers’ agents.
Having a pre-approval letter from your lender makes it easier for sellers as well. Since they know you have financing options in place, your offer will be taken more seriously.
Pre-Approval vs Pre-Qualification
It's common to hear the terms pre-approval as well as pre-qualification when buying a house. Both lenders and real estate agents might use either or both of them.
But what is the difference and which do you need?
Being pre-qualified for a loan means the lender has decided you meet certain criteria to qualify for a loan. However, this doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get the loan. You still need to provide necessary documents and undergo a credit check actually gain approval. The pre-qualification is more of a “guess” in the lender’s eyes, of what you can afford for a mortgage.
With a pre-approval, you are one step further along in the mortgage process. Not only will you provide documents to your lender, but they will also pull your credit report. Your lender will have your credit report and complete an analysis of your finances. They will use the information you provide as well as the credit report to better determine a loan amount.
You want as few "hard pulls" of your credit report done as possible. Each one has a negative impact and lowers your credit score a few points.
Speak with your real estate agent about which type of approval you need. Different markets and regions of the country vary.
How Long is a Pre-Approval Valid?
A pre-approval has a set date when it becomes no longer valid. There are several reasons for that. To start with, your financial information or credit report can change. New jobs or more loans also impact your potential loan amount. You might have had an emergency that required using some of your cash reserves. Each of these is a factor that your lender took into consideration.
For most lenders, pre-approvals are good for up to 90 days. In fact, in your letter that the lender provides, there's likely to be an expiration date stated. That ensures that all parties understand how long the pre-approval is good for.
If you find that your pre-approval has expired or is about to expire, speak with your lender. By providing updated documents, you are likely to get a new letter with another 90-day term.
If you want to buy a new home, but don’t know how to begin, talk to an experienced real estate agent as a first step! A good agent can help you better understand the mortgage process and help you find the best home for your needs.
You’ll be guided through the entire process, all the way from house hunting to closing. Your agent will do their best to ensure you get the right home for you after your pre-approval.