Diane Kelly - KELLER WILLIAMS REALTY / Metropolitan


If you’re a first-time homebuyer, odds are you’ve thrown the words “prequalified” and “preapproved” interchangeably. However, when it comes to home loans, there are some very important differences between the two.

For buyers hoping to purchase a home with a few missteps and misunderstandings as possible, it’s vital to understand the procedures involved in acquiring financing for a home.

Today, we’ll break down these two real estate jargon terms so that you can go into the mortgage approval process armed with the knowledge to help you succeed in securing a home loan.

Mortgage prequalification

Let’s start with the easy part--mortgage prequalification. Getting prequalified helps borrowers find out what kind and what size mortgage they can likely secure financing for. It also helps lenders establish a relationship with potential customers, which is why you will often see so many ads for mortgage prequalification around the web.

Prequalification is a relatively simple process. You’ll be asked to provide an overview of your finances, which your lender will plug into a formula and then report back to you whether or not you’re likely to get approved based on your current circumstances.

The lender will ask you for general information about your income, assets, debt, and credit. You won’t need to provide exact documents for these things at this phase in the process, since you have not yet technically applied for a mortgage.

Prequalification exists to give you a broad picture of what you can expect. You can use this information to plan for the future, or you can seek out other lenders for a second opinion. But, before you start shopping for homes, you’ll want to make sure you’re preapproved, not prequalified.

Mortgage preapproval

After you’ve prequalified, you can start thinking about preapproval. If you’re serious about buying a home in the near future, getting preapproved will simplify your buying process. It will also make sellers more likely to take you seriously, since you already have your financing partially secured.

Mortgage preapproval requires you to provide the lender with income documentation. They will also perform a credit inquiry to receive your FICO score.

Mortgage applications and credit scores

Before we talk about the rest of the preapproval process, we need to address one common issue that buyers face when applying for a mortgage. There are two types of credit inquiries that lenders can perform to view your credit history--hard inquiries and soft inquiries.

A soft inquiry won’t affect your credit score. But a hard inquiry can lower your score by a few points for a period of 1 to 2 months. So, when getting preapproved, you should expect your credit score to drop temporarily.

After preapproval

Once you’re preapproved for a mortgage, you can safely begin looking at homes. If you decide to make an offer on a home and your offer is accepted, your preapproval will make it easier to move forward in closing on the home.

Once the lender checks off on the house you’re making an offer on, they will send you a loan commitment letter, enabling you to move forward with closing on the home.


For those who want to acquire a house, it helps to get your finances in order. That way, you can quickly and effortlessly navigate the homebuying journey without having to worry about how you'll afford your dream house.

There are many quick, easy ways to straighten out your finances before you embark on the homebuying journey, such as:

1. Assess Your Credit Score

Your credit score ultimately can play a major role in your ability to secure a great mortgage. If you understand your credit score, you may be able to find ways to improve it prior to conducting a home search.

It is important to remember that you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Request a free copy of your credit report today, and you can take the first step to evaluate your credit score.

If you find that your credit score is low, there is no need to worry. You can always pay off outstanding debt to improve your credit score over time.

Also, if you identify any errors on your credit report, you'll want to address these mistakes immediately. In this scenario, you should contact the agency that provided the report to ensure any necessary corrections can be made.

2. Look Closely at Your Monthly Expenses

When it comes to buying a house, it generally helps to have sufficient funds for a down payment. The down payment on a house may fall between 5 and 20 percent of a home's sale price, so you'll want to have enough money available to cover this total for your dream residence.

If you evaluate your monthly expenses, you may be able to find ways to save money for a down payment on a house.

For example, it may be beneficial to cut out cable TV for the time being and use the money that you save toward a home down payment. Or, if your dine out frequently, cooking at home may prove to be a substantial money-saver that could help you speed up the process of saving for a down payment.

3. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

With pre-approval for a mortgage, you can enter the housing market with a budget in hand. Then, you'll be better equipped than ever before to narrow your search to houses that fall within your price range.

To get pre-approved for a mortgage, you'll want to meet with banks and credit unions. These financial institutions can teach you about different mortgage options and help you assess all of the options at your disposal.

Furthermore, don't hesitate to ask banks and credit unions about how different types of mortgages work. This will enable you to gain the insights that you need to make an informed decision about a mortgage based on your financial situation.

If you need extra help as you prepare to pursue a house, you may want to hire a real estate agent as well. In fact, a real estate agent can help you find a high-quality house at a budget-friendly price in no time at all.


Image by Charles 🇵🇭 from Unsplash

Part of buying a home is researching the market and your finances. Most lenders require you to put at least 20 percent down or pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). Since PMI is a cost that does not lower your interest rate or principal, it’s almost always better to save up that hefty down payment. Lenders charge PMI to cover some of their risk if you do not put the 20 percent down to create equity. Conventional loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac always require PMI if you do not put 20 percent down.

Avoiding PMI

In some cases, you could avoid PMI by taking out a special loan or a VA loan. VA loans are only available to veterans, but require very little down or even zero down. The VA doesn’t actually give you the loan—it insures your loan against default. Conventional loans not backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac often have higher interest rates. These two programs are also government-insured loans.

Other reasons to avoid paying PMI include:

  • Tax laws change every year. As of 2017, PMI was no longer deductible, which means that you lose that offset.

  • The lender is the only beneficiary. If you should die before your loan is paid off, it will pay only the lender and only for the balance on the home.

  • You pay PMI until the equity on your home reaches 20 percent. If the market was good when you bought the home, but it tanks a couple of years later, you could be stuck paying PMI for many years.

  • Some lenders require you to pay PMI even after the equity in your home reaches 20 percent. If you do have to take PMI, always read the fine print.

  • Finally, PMI is difficult to cancel. You will need to write a letter to your lender to cancel the PMI. Until you hear from the lender, you will be stuck paying those premiums every month.

  • PMI ranges from .5 percent to 1 percent of the amount you borrowed paid out in equal monthly payments every year. Thus, a loan amount of $200,000 could have a $2,000 per year PMI premium, which is about $167 per month added to your mortgage payment until the lender agrees to cancel the premiums.

Saving the Down Payment

In addition to saving for a down payment, you may qualify for some down payment assistance programs such as the first-time home buyer’s program. These programs help you get that 20 percent so that you do not have to pay PMI. If you have a retirement account, you may be able to use money from that account to help with a down payment.

Though it may seem painful to pay such a large chunk of money, it saves you from paying insurance premiums and it lowers the cost of the loan since you don’t pay interest on the down payment and it is applied to the principal.


When dealing with mortgages, people erroneously believe that the smaller the mortgage taken out, the better for them. This article will clarify the reasons why even as daunting as it sounds, the larger and more prolonged the loan, the better.

People who apply for mortgages are those who want to own a house but don't have sufficient cash to buy one or those who need a large sum of money from a lender and use their house as collateral. These borrowers have an extended period to pay it back, and the length of time varies up to 30 years depending on the agreement between the two parties and the size of mortgage money-wise. 

If the mortgage borrower is unable to pay after the stipulated time, the property is foreclosed and most probably sold so that the lender, which is usually the bank, is paid back for the loan. For this fear of not being able to pay back, borrowers tend to get smaller mortgages, but below are reasons why getting bigger mortgages may be better in the long run;

1. It gets easier 

Over time, payment gets more manageable because the property value appreciates, and the borrower's income rises steadily while monthly mortgage payment remains the same especially if choosing a fixed-rate loan. Thus, as time goes on, the money to be paid gets less daunting and less significant in comparison to the borrower's inevitable financial growth over the years. In the beginning, it may be a struggle to make the payments. But, over time it gets easier.

2. Mortgage accords you the ability to invest more and quicker 

Many people prefer long mortgages because that means that the monthly payment will be smaller and spread out over a longer time as opposed to short-term loans. It may be better to invest a more significant amount now to reap more productive rewards in the future as one can use the proceeds from the investment to pay up. This seemingly huge risk only encourages more and faster investments too. In the long run, bigger mortgages result in bigger monthly payments, but it may also result in greater wealth.

3. Mortgage: liquidity and flexibility 

It is best not to listen to people who say that all that matters in mortgage loans is paying it off. Or, that it is a risky thing to do. Applying for a small mortgage loan with this mentality will not grant you flexibility. People who get small mortgage loans do not put into consideration all the other necessities toward which the money should go. Hence, one loses liquidity and control over access to one's money. Even though it would most likely appreciate in the long term, you are going to be handicapped in the short-term.

No matter what you decide, it is essential to understand that you must do what works the best for you both long term and short. Discuss with your personal financial consultant and real estate agent.


Many first-time home buyers are worried about all of the documents and information they’ll have to gather when applying for a mortgage. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably dreading having to dig through the five places that these documents might be. Fortunately, the process is now somewhat streamlined thanks to lenders being able to collect most of your information digitally.

In today’s article, we’ll talk about the documents you’ll need to collect when you apply for a home loan so that you feel prepared and confident reaching out to lenders.

Documents needed to pre-qualify

Before going into applying for a mortgage, let’s talk about pre-qualification. There are three types, or in some cases steps, of approval with most mortgage lenders: pre-qualification, pre-approval, and approval.

Pre-qualification is one of the earliest and simplest steps to getting pre-approved. It gives you a snapshot of the types and amount of loans you can receive. Pre-qualification typically doesn’t include a detailed credit analysis, nor do you need to provide many specific details or documents.

Typically, you’ll fill out a questionnaire describing your debts, income, and assets, and they will give you an estimate of the loan you might qualify for. Might is the key word here. Your pre-qualification amount is not guaranteed as you haven’t yet provided official proof of your information.

Documents needed for pre-approval

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage entails significantly more work on the part of you and your lender than pre-qualification. First, the lender will run a credit analysis. You won’t need to provide them with any information for this step, as they’ll be able to automatically receive the report from the major credit reporting bureaus. However, it’s a good idea to check your report before applying to make sure there aren’t any errors that could damage your credit.

Now is where the legwork comes in.

You’ll need to gather the following documents to get officially pre-approved or approved for a mortgage:

  • W-2 forms from the previous two years. If you are self-employed, you’ll still need to provide income verification, usually as a Form 1040, or “Individual income tax return.”

  • Two forms of identification. A driver’s license, passport, and social security card are three commonly accepted forms of identification.

  • Pay stubs or detailed income information for the past two or three months. This ensures lenders that you are currently financially stable.

  • Federal and State income tax returns from the past two years. If you file your taxes online, you can often download a PDF version that includes your W-2 or 1040 forms, making the process of submitting tax and income verification much easier.

  • Personal contact information. Name, address, phone number, email address, and any former addresses which you’ve lived in the past two years.

  • Bank statements from the previous two months. Also, if you have any assets, such as a 401K, stocks, or mutual fund,  you’ll be asked to include those as well.

  • A complete list of your debts. Though these will likely be on your credit report, lenders want to ensure they have the full picture when it comes to how much you owe other creditors and lenders.





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