Getting “pre-qualified” today when preparing to buy a home is so 80’s. Getting pre-qualified then meant talking to a loan officer over the phone or in an office and having a conversation about various aspects of your financial life. The loan officer asks about your job, how long you’ve worked there and how much money you make. The loan officer asks about your general credit history, whether it’s excellent, good or maybe needs a little work.
What about other debt? What sort of monthly payments are you obligated to pay each month? The loan officer would then take that information, plug in current market rates (back in 1981 the average 30 year rate hovered around 17%. No, really) and give you an amount you can qualify for. Maybe even the loan officer typed up a prequalification letter you could carry around.
Not anymore. If all you have is a prequalification letter it’s possible your real estate agent will ask that you go back to your loan officer and get pre-approved. The terms do sound somewhat alike but sellers, lenders and real estate agents alike know the difference.
A pre-approval ups the qualification game by verifying the conversation you had with your loan officer. Instead of a conversation over the phone, you’ll be asked to submit a completed loan application. The key word here is “complete.” Well, almost. You don’t have a property picked out yet so you’ll leave that part blank. What you can expect to provide is proof of your income instead of a conversation. This means the most recent copies of your pay check stubs. To make sure you’ve been working for at least two years, your W2 statements for the last two years will also be reviewed.
If you’re self-employed, you may not have pay check stubs. Regardless, you’ll need to provide your last two years of income tax returns, both personal and business.
In addition, a year-to-date profit and loss statement should also be prepared. This P&L doesn’t necessarily have to be completed by an accountant or otherwise certified, you can put one together on your own if you want.
Regarding your credit history, you’ll also be asked to sign a Borrower’s Authorization form which allows the lender to pull your credit report and credit scores. You’ll need funds for a down payment and closing costs so copies of recent bank statements must be at the ready.
In short, you need to get your pre-approval application to the point where all you need is a property to buy along with a signed sales contract. Now, not only can you shop in confidence, but the sellers and the seller’s real estate agent can put you at the top of the list when considering your offer.
Today, absolutely everyone should be shopping for a home with a solid pre-approval letter in hand. There’s no question about it.