Don’t forget your Pre-Approval letter
1. A preapproval letter is more reliable than a prequalification letter.
Getting a prequalification letter is easy. You just call a mortgage broker or lender, provide some basic financial information, then wait a few minutes for the letter to come through your fax machine. Getting a "prequal" from a Web site is just easy. Enter some information, click "submit" and presto.
A preapproval letter, on the other hand, involves verification of the information. Rather than taking your word on faith, the lender will ask for documentation to confirm your employment, the source of your down payment and other aspects of your financial circumstances.
Granted, a preapproval is more time-consuming (and possibly more stressful) than a prequalification. The additional due diligence is exactly why the preapproval carries more weight.
2. You'll know how much money you can qualify to borrow.
Most home buyers have a rough idea of how much they would feel comfortable paying every month on their mortgage. However, there's no quick-and-dirty way to translate that monthly payment into a specific maximum mortgage amount because other factors - down payment percentage, mortgage insurance, property taxes, adjustable interest rates and so on - are part of the calculation. And, you might not be qualified to borrow as much as you think you should be able to borrow, depending on your income, your debts and your credit history.
3. You'll have more leverage in negotiations with the seller.
Sellers often prefer to negotiate with preapproved buyers because the sellers know such buyers are financially qualified to obtain the financing they need to close the transaction. A preapproval letter is an especially favorable point in a close multiple offer situation. And, you might feel more confident about making an offer with a preapproval letter in hand and the knowledge that you'll be able to obtain a mortgage.
4. A few stipulations:
Preapproval letters aren't binding on the lender, are subject to an appraisal of the home you want to purchase and are time-sensitive. If your financial situation changes (e.g., you lose your job, lease a car or run up credit-card bills), interest rates rise or a specified expiration date passes, the lender will review your situation and recalculate your maximum mortgage amount accordingly.