Getting preapproved takes on new importance

If you're getting ready to buy a home, you probably already know that lower home prices and interest rates have made homes much more affordable. But did you also know that getting preapproved for a mortgage can help you shop for and find a home that's right for you? Here's why:

Find out how much you can afford to spend
It's no secret that lenders have tightened their standards or that loan qualifications now tend to be stricter than they were a few years ago. Lenders today will want to review your income, debts and credit score, and they'll expect documentation that shows your income and assets.

By getting preapproved for a loan, you'll be able to find out whether you'll be able to qualify and how much you'll be able to borrow. Since you'll know how much you can afford to spend before you start shopping for a home, you won't get your heart set on a home that's too pricey or miss out on a home you thought you couldn't afford. Instead, you'll be able to limit your search to homes that meet your needs and budget. By getting preapproved, you'll also get a good-faith estimate of your closing costs, so you won't be surprised by those expenses later on.

Find out your interest rate and monthly payment
Getting preapproved for a loan will also introduce you to the loan application and approval process. You'll find out the types of loans, interest rates and monthly payments that may be offered to you, depending on your income, credit score and other aspects of your personal situation. And when you find a home you want to buy, you'll be ready to make an offer without delay. A preapproval letter from a lender will help make a good impression on home sellers. Home sellers will know that you’re serious about buying a home and that you won’t have to struggle to get financing. That might even improve the odds that the seller will accept your offer.

How to get prequalified and preapproved
To get "prequalified" for a home loan, you'll need to answer some basic questions about your financial situation. After that, the lender will review your paycheck stubs, bank statements and other documents, and then you'll be "preapproved" for your loan. Be aware that prequalified and preapproved are preliminary; your loan will still need to receive final approval before you can buy your new home.

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