Pre-Qualification vs. Pre-Approval: What’s the Difference?
If you are starting the home buying process, you may have heard that you need to get pre-qualified or pre-approved. Although many people use these terms interchangeably, there are very important differences between the two terms that every homebuyer should understand.
Pre-qualification is seen as the first step in the mortgage process, and is usually done over the phone or online with a Loan Originator. You provide the lender with an overall financial picture, including your debt, income, and assets. The lender reviews everything and gives you an estimate of how much you can expect to borrow. Pre-qualification is based solely on the information you provide to the lender and can give you a starting point for your homebuying search.
A pre-approval can be done first or as a next step after pre-qualification. It requires the borrower to complete an official mortgage application and supply all the necessary documentation to perform an extensive check on your financial history and current credit rating. During the pre-approval process, you will discuss product and rate options because this is often based, in part, on your credit score. You may even lock in an interest rate. You will receive a conditional commitment in writing for an exact loan amount, allowing you to look for a home at or below that price level. Pre-approval puts you at advantage when you are negotiating with a seller because they know you are one step closer to being able to afford their home.
The advantage of completing both steps before you begin house hunting is that you will have a good idea in advance of how much you can afford. You won’t waste time with guessing or looking at properties that are beyond you means. The pre-approval also enables you to move quickly when you find the perfect home, because the seller knows that your offer is serious, especially in a competitive market.