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.
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.
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.