As you prepare to apply for a mortgage, you’ll come across terms like “prequalification” and “preapproval.” It’s essential to understand what these terms mean – they’ll guide your home search and help you focus on homes you can afford. When the time comes, they can also help decide how much to offer and show the seller that you’re a serious buyer.
At the most basic level, prequalification and preapproval are types of mortgage approvals, and they refer to the steps a lender takes to verify that a client can afford a mortgage. In this article, we’ll review some common ways lenders use prequalification and preapproval. But first, a couple points to remember:
- Every lender handles mortgage approvals differently. The steps and words involved change from lender to lender. Many lenders use prequalification and preapproval interchangeably.
- No matter what type of mortgage approval you get, it's not a guarantee that you’ll close the loan. Prequalification or preapproval is a way for a lender to help you and a seller estimate what you can afford. After you find a house and make an offer, the home will still need to be appraised by a third party and inspected for potential repairs before you can close the loan and buy the home.
We’ll also explain how Rocket Mortgage® by Quicken Loans® handles approvals so you can know what to expect when you apply for a mortgage.
What Is Mortgage Prequalification?
A prequalification generally means that a lender collects some basic financial information from you to estimate how much house you can afford.
It’s common for a prequalification to rely on self-reported information, instead of verifying by pulling your credit report or reviewing financial documents. This means a prequalification is typically a ballpark estimate. It also means it’s less reliable than a preapproval, which usually involves your lender checking your credit score and reviewing bank statements and other documents.
As you begin searching for a home, real estate agents and sellers want to see you’ve been working with a mortgage lender so they know you can afford to buy a home. After you’ve been prequalified, you’ll usually receive a “prequalification letter” you can show to an agent or seller as proof you’re working with a lender. This is a good first step, but it typically won’t carry as much weight as a preapproval because a lender hasn’t yet verified your information. Going beyond a prequalification and getting preapproved is a critical step to showing you’re serious about buying a home.
Prequalification Vs. Preapproval: What’s The Difference?
Both prequalification and preapproval provide borrowers with an estimation of how much home they can afford. However, preapproval is a more official step that requires the lender to verify your financial information and credit history.
This means a preapproval is a stronger sign of what you can afford and adds more credibility to your offer than a prequalification. However, check with your lender to be sure.
Why Is Getting Approved For A Mortgage Important?
Getting approval for your mortgage means that a lender has reviewed your financial situation and confirmed your ability to take on mortgage payments.
When you get a mortgage approval, your lender estimates how much you can afford to borrow, what your interest rate could be, and how much your mortgage payments could be. You and your real estate agent can use this information to focus on homes you can afford.
A mortgage approval also proves to sellers that you can afford the home they are selling. Without first securing approval from a lender, the seller might not trust your offer is genuine. Your offer might not be accepted – and even if it is, offering to buy a home without lender approval can slow down your mortgage application.
Getting Approved With Rocket Mortgage®
Rocket Mortgage® offers a few levels of approval designed to give you a clearer picture of what you can afford:
With a Prequalified Approval, we’ll pull your credit and ask you some questions about your income and assets. Then, we’ll estimate what you can afford. By checking your credit score, our Prequalified Approval can be more accurate than a standard prequalification that doesn’t involve this step.
If you’re eligible for a mortgage, we’ll issue you a Prequalified Approval Letter.
After you’ve been Prequalified Approved, you can level-up to a Verified ApprovalSM.1 You’ll speak to a Home Loans Expert and provide some documentation so we can verify your income and assets.
Because we’re verifying your income and assets along with your credit history, a Verified ApprovalSM is a more accurate estimate of what you can afford. It also carries more weight with a real estate agent and the seller, because they’ll know we verified that you can afford the home you wish to buy.
Once you get Verified ApprovalSM, we’ll give you a Verified ApprovalSM Letter. You can show this to your real estate agent and the sellers as proof that you can obtain a large enough mortgage to purchase the home.
Remember, both Prequalified Approval and Verified ApprovalSM are estimates to help guide your home search. After you make an offer on a house, your full mortgage approval will depend on the home being appraised by a third party and passing any required inspections.
The most advanced level of approval that Rocket Mortgage® offers is RateShieldSM Approval.2 This type of approval not only verifies your financial information but also enables you to lock in your interest rate for up to 90 days.
With RateShieldSM Approval, you can search for a new home confidently, knowing that your interest rate will remain the same, even if rates increase. And, if rates drop during that time, the option still allows you to secure a lower rate, so you can’t lose. Therefore, RateShieldSM Approval arms you with the most preparation when it comes to purchasing a house.
A prequalification is a good way to get an estimate of how much home you can afford, and a preapproval takes it one step further by verifying the financial information you submit to get a more accurate amount. Getting approved early in your home search is a great way to know what you can afford, so you can narrow in on your dream house. To get started, apply online with Rocket Mortgage® by Quicken Loans®.
1Participation in the Verified Approval program is based on an underwriter’s comprehensive analysis of your credit, income, employment status, debt, property, insurance, appraisal and a satisfactory title report/search. If new information materially changes the underwriting decision resulting in a denial of your credit request, if the loan fails to close for a reason outside of Quicken Loans’ control, or if you no longer want to proceed with the loan, your participation in the program will be discontinued. If your eligibility in the program does not change and your mortgage loan does not close, you will receive $1,000. This offer does not apply to new purchase loans submitted to Quicken Loans through a mortgage broker. Additional conditions or exclusions may apply.
2RateShield Approval locks your initial interest rate for up to 90 days on 30-year conventional, FHA and VA fixed-rate purchase loan products. Your exact interest rate will depend on the date you lock your rate. Once you submit your signed purchase agreement, we’ll compare your rate to our published rates for that date and re-lock your interest rate at the lower of the two rates for an additional 40 to 60 days. Quicken Loans reserves the right to cancel this offer at any time. Acceptance of this offer constitutes the acceptance of these terms and conditions, which are subject to change at the sole discretion of Quicken Loans. This is not a commitment to lend. Additional conditions or exclusions may apply.
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