Explore your mortgage options
House hunting can escalate quickly. From casually browsing online and falling in love with a property to seriously considering putting in an offer, it can be a shorter leap than people realize.
That said, it’s still a good idea to see a house in person before making any decisions. But what do you need to do beforehand? Can you see a house without being preapproved? The short answer is yes.
We’ll go into more detail below and explain why – in this case – just because you can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
What Does Preapproval Mean?
Getting preapproved for a mortgage means a lender has reviewed your finances to verify how much you qualify for and the type of loan. They’ll check things like your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, credit score and credit history.
You’ll also need to provide supporting documentation. This usually includes pay stubs, bank statements and tax returns. Once everything is in order, your lender will provide you with a preapproval letter.
Preapproval vs. prequalification
You can also get prequalified for a mortgage. To do this, you provide your lender with basic financial information, and they’ll give you a tentative loan estimate.
When considering getting preapproval versus prequalification, know that preapproval is stronger because a lender has looked more comprehensively at your financial situation and analyzed your supporting documentation.
Can You Look at Houses Before Getting Preapproved or Prequalified?
Yes. Nothing says you must speak with a lender before touring a home. You can go to an open house or set up a private viewing without going through the process. You can also submit an offer without getting preapproved.
That said, real estate agents tend to prefer showing homes to people who have been preapproved. In their eyes, going through the process proves you’re committed to finding a home and can pay for it.
Again, you can still look at homes and put in an offer without preapproval. But don’t be surprised if you meet resistance from listing agents – especially in highly competitive markets.
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Should You Get Preapproved?
Here are some pros and cons to weigh if you’re considering getting preapproved.
Lenders will comb through your finances to understand your current situation. Once you get your preapproval letter, you can be confident in the price range for your house hunt.
Sellers want to know that if they accept your offer, they won’t need to worry about the deal falling through because you couldn’t secure financing. A preapproval letter is proof a lender has reviewed your finances and thinks you can afford the loan. This can carry a lot of weight, especially compared to offers that don’t have one.
To get a preapproval, you’ll have to provide a lender with much of the information you need to secure a mortgage. Doing this ahead of time means you may be able to close faster, which can also make your offer more appealing.
The preapproval process involves a hard credit check. This will slightly lower your credit score, usually by less than five points.
There’s a chance your finances could change after you get preapproved. For that reason, mortgage preapprovals aren’t guaranteed.
Preapprovals don’t last forever. Typically, they expire after 60 – 90 days. If you haven’t found a home by the expiration date, you’ll likely need to reapply for another preapproval letter.
In most circumstances, the pros outweigh the cons.
Steps to getting preapproved
If you’re interested in getting preapproved, the process can usually be completed in a few business days. However, it can take longer depending on your financial situation. Here are the basic steps you’ll need to take.
- Choose a lender: Do your research and take your time when choosing a mortgage lender. Shopping around and comparing multiple lenders can help you find the best rates available. This can save you a significant amount of money over the life of the loan.
- Gather supporting documentation: You’ll need to provide your lender with a current and accurate view of your finances. This involves a lot of supporting documentation, including pay stubs, W-2s, bank statements and tax returns.
- Apply for preapproval: Once you’ve decided on a lender and gathered all of your documents, you’ll be ready to apply. Some lenders have online applications, while others require you to do it in person.
Preapprovals become relevant to sellers at the offer stage. So if you don’t have preapproval, many sellers won’t even consider your offer.
If a seller does accept your offer without preapproval, you’ll need to apply for the mortgage. If you’re denied, you’ll lose the due diligence you submitted with your offer.
If you go through the preapproval process before submitting an offer and get denied, ask your lender why. They can help guide you to the next steps you should take to make your financial situation more appealing, allowing you to eventually qualify.
It varies depending on your lender and their application process. Some lenders can give you a preapproval letter in 1 business day, while others may take a few weeks.
Preapproval provides real estate agents with peace of mind. It means you’ve gone through financial screening, so they can trust any offer you make is legitimate. Without a preapproval letter, they have to take you at your word and hope you can afford the offer you’re making.
Strengthen Your Hand
You don’t have to get preapproved to look at houses. But doing so strengthens your position when submitting offers, which ultimately means you’re more likely to land your dream property.
House hunting can be fun. But in the end, the goal is to get the house. Preapproval is one of the best cards available for prospective buyers, assuming you can’t buy a house with cash.
The Short Version
- You can view homes without being preapproved or prequalified, and you can submit offers that way as well
- Some reasons to consider getting preapproved first are because doing so will strengthen your offer in the eyes of the seller and you’ll know exactly what you can afford
- Usually, getting preapproved can take a few business days to a week. You’ll need to provide supporting documents, including pay stubs and bank statements