Thinking of Buying a New Home? Get Pre-Approved Now!
Buying a new home is largely contingent upon securing financing. Whether you’re a first time homebuyer or you’ve been through the process before, I believe the single best step you can take toward obtaining a home mortgage loan is to seek a loan pre-approval letter from your lender before even starting your home search.
“Why?” you might ask, particularly if you are currently paying on a mortgage loan. Well, the answer is very simple. Having a pre-approval letter in hand when searching for a new home can not only give you a clearer picture of how much home you can afford, but it can strengthen any offer you make on a home because you won’t be seen as a wild card when it comes to obtaining financing.
Here’s a checklist I’ve put together to take you through the steps of obtaining that all-important loan pre-approval.
- Start with the Internet. Request a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. Your credit score and helpful credit tips are also available – visit www.MyFico.com. If you have any blemishes on your report, you’ll want to try to address these before approaching a lender. It’s important to start the entire process armed with knowledge about your credit situation.
- Put together a folder of financial information. Your lender will want to see copies of recent paycheck stubs, bank statements, and copies of at least the most recent two years of your income tax returns. Make lists of your debt (auto and student loans, credit cards, and other lines of credit or accounts you pay on monthly) and your assets, like retirement savings and investment accounts.
- Calculate how much money you can comfortably put toward a down payment. While traditional thinking would suggest that a down payment of 20% is necessary for a home purchase, certain types of loans require a much smaller amount of money down (FHA loans require as little as 3.5%) while other types of mortgages (like VA loans) may require no money down. Your lender can help you determine whether you qualify for these types of loans.
- If you are using a cash gift from a family member toward your down payments, find out from your lender what necessary documentation you will need to provide.
- Ask your real estate agent about a reputable lender in the area. Local mortgage experts can provide you with proper financial guidance while retaining a personal touch.
- Begin the pre-approval process with your chosen lender. Your loan officer will take into account your credit history, income, employment records, and current assets and debt. Be prepared to supply your lender with any additional documentation as requested.
- Your lender will examine your documentation, determine how large a loan you qualify for, and inform you of any stipulations. You’ll receive a pre-approval letter – a document of utmost importance when you make an offer on a new home.
- Your job now is to keep things steady. You shouldn’t change your employment, make any substantial purchases (such as a car), close lines of credit, or make any large payoffs. Lenders like to see consistency.
- Double-check with your lender to find out how long your pre-approval will hold (generally 30 to 45 days). Make sure you renew your pre-approval as necessary!
Obtaining loan pre-approval is pretty straightforward, particularly if you have favorable credit standing and can prove steady income and employment. And as I said, it’s a vital first step in the home buying process, so if you’re thinking of purchasing a new home, make sure to get started on that pre-approval process right away!