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Mortgage 101: The Difference Between Pre-Qualification and Preliminary Approval

Mortgage 101: The Difference Between Pre-Qualification and Preliminary Approval

By Tim Wilson, Chief Executive Officer, President, Prosperity Home Mortgage.

Depending on your market, multiple home offers are becoming more common. That’s why it’s important for you to be armed with all of the necessary tools before you find your dream home. Getting a letter from your mortgage lender before you start looking for your home is a great way to get an advantage over others in the bidding process. But with lenders offering both pre-qualification and pre-approvals, it can be tough to figure out exactly what you need. Understanding the difference between the two can be crucial to getting the home you want.

What is a lender pre-qualification?

This is the first step to getting a mortgage. In this process, the lender will ask you a few questions about your overall financial picture, including your debt, income and assets. After evaluating the information, the lender will provide an estimated mortgage amount based on the unverified information provided. This will give you an idea of how much home you can afford as you start your hunt. It’s important to realize that since this is based on unverified information and does not include a credit report, it does not carry the same weight as a mortgage preliminary approval.

What is a lender preliminary approval?

The next and more detailed step in the mortgage process is generally a preliminary approval. In this step, you’ll complete a mortgage application and provide the lender with all of the necessary documentation to evaluate your current financial picture. The lender will also check your credit rating. A preliminary approval estimates how much you may be able to borrow based on your verified income, assets and credit report scores. Having a preliminary approval letter makes you more competitive against other bidders but also increases the chance that the lender who offered the preliminary approval will provide your financing.

Are there other options?

Yes, depending on your lender, there may be a variety of additional options. With the FM Lending Services Buyer Advantage Program®, for example, you can complete much of the financing process (and qualified borrowers may receive a commitment letter) before you even begin searching for a home. Having that commitment letter along with your purchase offer can help further strengthen your position.

The bottom line is that when it comes to buying your dream home, having as much ready upfront as possible is key to putting in a successful purchase offer. Doing your research and securing a preliminary approval is the best way to make sure that your offer is accepted when the time comes, and you get to move into the perfect home for you.




A preliminary approval is based on our preliminary review of credit information only and is not a commitment to lend. We will be able to offer a loan commitment upon verification of application information, satisfying all underwriting requirements and conditions, and providing an acceptable property, appraisal, and title report. Preliminary approvals are subject to change or cancellation if a requested loan no longer meets applicable regulatory requirements. Preliminary approvals are not available on all products. See a mortgage consultant for details.

FM Lending Services Buyer Advantage® is not a final loan approval. A Commitment Letter is based on information and documentation provided by you and a review of your credit report. The interest rate and type of mortgage used to approve you for a specified loan amount is subject to change, which may also change the terms of approval. The interest rate cannot be locked until your offer to purchase a property has been accepted. If the interest rate used for credit approval has changed, you may need to re-qualify. Information provided by you is subject to review and all other loan conditions must be met. After you have chosen a home and your offer has been accepted, final loan approval will be contingent upon obtaining an acceptable appraisal and title commitment. Additional documentation may be required.

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