What Mortgage Shoppers Need to Know
Getting approval on a mortgage is a process with no shortage of moving parts.
That’s why residential mortgage consumers need to leave no stone unturned in figuring out where tripwires lie on the mortgage-approval landscape.
No question, the stakes are high, particularly given the lackluster U.S. economy.
Before the Great Recession, mortgage approvals were like ice cream flavors at Baskin-Robbins—numerous and easy to get. But in the last five years mortgage lenders have significantly restricted their offerings, and borrowers need to be prepared for the tougher requirements or risk being turned down by banks and other lenders.
One area where home buyers run into problems is failing to make the proper distinction between being qualified for a mortgage and being approved for one.
In short, just because you are pre-qualified for a mortgage doesn’t mean you will get one. But when you are pre-approved your chances for a green light from a lender are greatly increased.
What’s the difference between the two and how will it affect your hunt for the perfect mortgage?
Realtor.com® reached out to several mortgage experts to clear the air:
“In general, a lender who prequalifies a buyer discusses a buyer’s credit, income and assets with them,” said Michael Minervini, a real estate agent for Re/Max in Red Bank, N.J. “A lender who preapproves a buyer runs their actual credit and verifies their income and assets. That’s a major difference since agents and sellers view a preapproval as a more firm start to the home-buying process.”
Cal Haupt, president and chief executive officer at Southeast Mortgage, explained what the preapproval process means to homebuyers once it starts rolling.
“Your loan would be submitted for preliminary underwriting, which normally takes no longer than 24 hours,” Haupt said. “Your mortgage consultant would then provide you with a preapproval letter that defines the loan amount you are approved to receive.”
“Preapprovals are normally good for a 120-day period, so it’s important to begin your home search with your real estate professional as soon as possible after receiving your preapproval letter,” he said.
According to David Hall, president of Michigan-based Shore Mortgage, a mortgage prequalification is an initial assessment of a potential buyer, and often it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.
But a preapproval goes deeper and involves a more thorough look into your income and expenses, including a look at your credit score.
“Let’s think in terms of the view from a plane,” Hall said. “The prequalification is a 250,000-foot view, and a preapproval is a closer-up, 30,000-foot assessment of the eligibility of a client to secure a loan.”
To help you land your dream home, try a pre-approval service like the one featured on the realtor.com® individual listings pages. By checking the box that says, “I want to get pre-approved by a lender”, you’ll be connected with up to three lenders right away.
The Driver for Mortgage Borrowers
There’s no harm in getting pre qualified – it’s a good gateway to buying a home. But to lock down that home, focus on getting preapproved, Minervini said.
“Buyers should always get preapproved only,” he said, “And here’s why: First, a buyer can confirm the sample monthly payment that they may own when they close, and they can get an idea of the home’s price range. Then, they can determine if there are any potential unknown credit issues that may need to be addressed prior to purchasing.”
The Domino Effect
Getting square on prequalified versus preapproved streamlines the entire home-purchase process.
“If all parties involved are aware of the distinction, it helps everyone play their role to the best of their ability,” said Ted Rood, a senior mortgage consultant with Wintrust Mortgageand a contributor to Mortgage News Daily. “The listing agent who calls the mortgage originator to ask if the buyer’s income and asset docs have been examined clearly understands the differences between prequalifications and preapprovals.”
On the other hand, the mortgage loan originator who deals with the real estate agent has a better grip on the entire process, by providing clarity on the firm’s prequalification or preapproval process, he said.
Even homebuyers can leverage the distinction between the two processes to help their own cause.
“Clients armed with this information can request a thorough preapproval rather than a cursory prequalification, and play a role in ensuring the best possible handling of their transaction,” Rood said.
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Nick Jewett is the proud owner of Pro-Tech Home Inspection LLC and is Wisconsin State licensed and Nationally certified. Pro-Tech offers quality and thorough inspection services as well as radon testing in the Greater Milwaukee area. Click here to view website.