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Preapproval Vs. Prequalification: Which Should You Get?

5-minute read

As you prepare to apply for a mortgage, you’ll come across terms like “prequalification” and “preapproval”.

It’s important 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 will close the loan. A prequalification or a 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.

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 is 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.

What Is Mortgage Preapproval?

Preapproval generally includes some steps to verify the information you provided to get prequalified. Along with pulling your credit report, the lender will likely collect some financial documents from you, like your W-2s, pay stubs, tax returns and bank statements.

Just like with a prequalification, the lender uses this information to see if you're eligible to get a mortgage. However, since the lender is now working with verified information, they can provide a more accurate picture of what type of a loan you can get and how much house you can afford.

After getting preapproved, it’s common for lenders to give you a “preapproval letter” you can present to real estate agents and sellers showing you can afford to buy a house. Different lenders will have different types of preapproval letters, but it’s common to list how much you’ll be able to borrow and what kind of loan you can get.

Get approved to buy a home – right here, right now.

Rocket Mortgage® lets you get to house hunting sooner.

Prequalification Vs. Preapproval: What’s The Difference?

Both prequalification and preapproval are early steps you can take toward getting a mortgage. They both estimate how much home you can afford, which is a great step to take before you look at houses.

The difference is typically how much of your information the lender verifies:

  • Preapproval generally involves the lender verifying your information by reviewing financial documents and your credit history.
  • Prequalification relies on information you provide verbally.

This means a preapproval is typically 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 – many lenders use prequalification and preapproval interchangeably, and the process varies from lender to lender.

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 couple levels of approval designed to give you a clearer picture of what you can afford:

Prequalified Approval

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 checking your credit.

If you are eligible for a mortgage, we’ll issue you a Prequalified Approval Letter you can share with your real estate agent that shows you’re ready to begin your house search.

Verified ApprovalSM

After you’ve been Prequalifed Approved, you can level-up to a Verifed ApprovalSM. This involves speaking a Home Loans Expert and providing 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.1 It also carries more weight with a real estate agent and the seller, because they’ll know we verified 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 we have verified how much you can afford.

Remember: both Prequalfied 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.

Summary

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 hone in on your dream home. To get started, apply online with Rocket Mortgage® by Quicken Loans®.

Get approved to buy a home – right here, right now.

Rocket Mortgage® lets you get to house hunting sooner.

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.

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