PRE-APPROVAL VS PRE-QUALIFICATION: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
You're thinking about purchasing a home. You've been secretly looking at houses online while you're at work, checking out open houses on the weekend, and may have even checked out a few homes with your real estate agent. Before you are able to purchase a home however (unless you are paying cash), you will need to speak with a lender to truly know what you can qualify for. There are two different levels of qualification, one being very top line estimate and the other being a solid number.
SPEAKING WITH YOUR LENDER
The first step you should take actually even before you begin searching for a home, is speaking with a lender to learn about your options and how much you can actually comfortably afford. A lender will be able to sit down with you and go through the different types of loans and assistance options that may be available to you. You may have heard that you have to put down 20% of the purchase price as a down payment - this is simply untrue. There are loan programs that will allow you put down 10% or even less! The Los Angeles market is extremely hot right now with the most desirable homes flying off the market in a few days or less in some cases! The last situation you'd want to find yourself in is finding the perfect house, and having to wait a few days to get pre-approved for a loan, when there are multiple other offers coming in. The sellers will NOT wait for you to get your paperwork inline, and will move forward with another buyer who has already taken the necessary steps to prove to the sellers that they are a serious buyer, by providing a pre-approval letter along with their offer.
BREAKING IT DOWN
A pre-qualification is a lender's rough estimation of what you can afford based on your current income, debt, and credit. This is only an estimate however.
A pre-approval is a firmer number, because the lender has taken the additional necessary steps in pulling your credit, checking your debt-to-income ratio, analyzing your tax returns, and other components of your financial big-picture. It is a bit more work but in competitive markets, where homes are receiving multiple offers and are selling very quickly, it will give you the advantage in standing out as a serious buyer because you’ve taken the extra steps necessary.
It’s never too early to go through the pre-approval process for your loan. Additionally, it’s important to not only focus on rates when choosing a lender. Many reputable lenders will be competitive on rates, and the things you should be focusing on are the loan officer’s experience, knowledge, communication, and speed (response times). It’s also key to find someone that you trust and have good rapport with because you will be working with them for some time and they are also handling one of the most important transactions in your life.
READY TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP?