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Does Getting Preapproved Hurt Your Credit?

Dan Rafter4-minute read

October 25, 2022

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There’s one key step you should take to boost your odds of landing your dream home: getting preapproved for a mortgage loan with a lender.

If you do this, sellers will view you as a more attractive buyer. If they receive multiple offers, sellers are more likely to choose buyers who are preapproved for a mortgage than they are those who have not yet obtained financing.

But does getting preapproved for a mortgage hurt your three-digit FICO credit score? Slightly, but the dip in your credit score will be temporary. And the advantages of getting preapproved far outweigh the small hit to your score.

How Does Mortgage Preapproval Work?

When you’re shopping for a home, it’s useful to know how much real estate you can afford. A mortgage preapproval helps you determine this.

During the preapproval process, you’ll send copies of your most important financial documents so that your lender can verify your income. These are typically documents like your last 2 months of bank account statements, two most recent paycheck stubs, your last two tax returns and your W-2 forms from the last 2 years. You’ll also give your lender permission to check your credit reports and credit score.

Once your lender has this information, it will determine how much mortgage money it is willing to lend you. Your lender will provide this information to you in a written preapproval letter.

This letter is important. First, you’ll know exactly how large of a mortgage you can qualify for. This will prevent you from wasting your time looking at homes you can’t afford. If your lender preapproves you for a mortgage of $250,000, you won’t bother looking at homes costing $300,000 or more.

Secondly, sellers consider buyers who have preapproval letters to be more attractive than those who don’t. Sellers know that the odds of their home sale falling through are far lower if buyers have already been approved for a loan. If you get into a bidding war for a home and your offer is roughly equal to other buyers who haven’t been preapproved, the seller is more likely to choose your bid.

It costs nothing to get preapproved for a mortgage, and you can get preapproved with more than one lender.

Don’t confuse preapproval with getting prequalified for a mortgage. When you get prequalified, you are only telling lenders what you earn each month. Lenders then estimate how much of a loan you can get from your information, but they don’t check your credit or verify your income. Sellers don’t consider prequalified buyers to be as reliable as preapproved ones.

Get approved to buy a home.

Rocket Mortgage® lets you get to house hunting sooner.

Does Preapproval Affect My Credit Score?

A mortgage preapproval can have a hard inquiry on your credit score if you end up applying for the credit. Although a preapproval may affect your credit score, it plays an important step in the home buying process and is recommended to have.

The good news is that this ding on your credit score is only temporary. If you keep paying your monthly bills on time and keep your credit card debt low, your score will recover quickly from whatever small drop it suffers.

You don’t have to worry about shopping around for a mortgage, either. If you apply for a mortgage loan with several lenders in a short period, your score won’t drop every time these lenders check your credit. Because you are searching for just one loan, each of the credit pulls from different lenders will count as just one hard inquiry. So even if you get preapproved with, say, three lenders, your credit score will drop by just a small number of points.

Just make sure to apply for all your preapprovals within a few days of each other. That way, each hard inquiry will be counted as a single inquiry for credit-scoring purposes.

And don’t let that small credit drop prevent you from getting preapproved. The benefits of getting preapproved, such as knowing how much home you can afford, far outweigh the tiny drop your credit score will take.

Types Of Credit Inquiries

There are two types of credit inquiries when it comes to your credit score: hard and soft. Here’s the details on both.

Hard Inquiries

When you apply for a mortgage, car loan, student loan, credit card or personal loan, lenders will check your credit. This is a hard inquiry and will cause your score to drop slightly, but only temporarily.

If you apply for the same type of credit for big ticket items several times in a short period of time – such as shopping around for a car loan or mortgage over a week – each lender’s hard inquiry will be counted as one, minimizing the damage to your credit score.

Soft Inquiries

A soft inquiry happens when someone checks your credit when you don’t submit an application for a new credit card or loan. These inquiries don’t cause your credit score to rise or fall. When you check your own credit, for instance, this is a soft inquiry, and doesn’t impact your credit score.

If someone else checks your credit, that is also a soft inquiry that won’t hurt your credit score. A few examples of this could are a utility company looking at your payment history, an employer running a background check or a creditor considering upping your credit limit.

Should You Get Preapproved?

Getting preapproved for a mortgage loan is one of the most important steps in the home buying process. It’s not required, but it does show home sellers that you are serious about buying and will tell you how much home you can afford. Don’t skip this step, even if a hard inquiry could cause your credit score to dip slightly.

The Bottom Line: Getting Preapproved Is The Smart Move

If you’re ready to buy a home, it makes sense to get preapproved with a mortgage lender today. Sellers will be more receptive to your offers, and having a preapproval letter means you won’t waste your time looking at homes that are outside your price range.

If you’re ready to start the homebuying process, be sure to get approved with Rocket Mortgage® today.

Get approved to buy a home.

Rocket Mortgage® lets you get to house hunting sooner.

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Dan Rafter

Dan Rafter has been writing about personal finance for more than 15 years. He's written for publications ranging from the Chicago Tribune and Washington Post to Wise Bread, RocketMortgage.com and RocketHQ.com.