A mortgage preapproval letter is usually good for 30 to 90 days, and some lenders will lock the rate for that time.
Having a letter of preapproval from a financial institution can help ensure that you’re ready to snap up a home you love.
What Is Mortgage Preapproval?
Mortgage preapproval has become an essential part of the home-buying process. Real estate agents often want to see a preapproval letter before showing houses.
And a letter shows sellers that you are serious about buying their home — even if you’re a first-time homebuyer — and that a mortgage lender is likely to give you a home loan of a specific amount quickly.
The lender will review your credit history, credit score, income, debts, and assets to determine the amount you tentatively qualify for.
Preapproval will help you focus on homes that are in your price range. Knowing how much of a mortgage you can afford is important when you can’t afford to waste time reviewing homes outside your range.
Mortgage Preapproval Process
The mortgage process starts informally for many would-be homebuyers.
Some buy into the 28% rule — spend no more than 28% of gross monthly income on a mortgage payment — and play with calculators like this home affordability calculator or the one later in this article.
Seeking mortgage preapproval means you’re getting serious. First, you’ll need to understand the different types of mortgage loans — fixed rate, adjustable rate, conventional, government insured (FHA, VA, USDA), jumbo — and what you can qualify for.
Then you’ll need to apply for a loan from one to several lenders and provide a good deal of documentation. Each lender will perform a hard credit inquiry, and you’ll receive a loan estimate within three business days.
If you’re shopping for a home loan, allowing multiple mortgage companies to check your credit within 14 or 45 days, depending on the credit scoring model being used, will minimize the hit to your credit scores.
How Long Does It Take to Get Preapproved?
It usually takes seven to 10 business days to receive a preapproval letter after submitting all the requested information.
Mortgage Preapproval Letter
Other than stating the specific amount you’re preapproved for, a mortgage preapproval letter may outline stipulations to gain the loan, such as maintaining your employment or not taking on any additional debt.
How Long Does Mortgage Preapproval Last?
Some lenders will make a commitment of 60 or 90 days. That time frame tends to work, since homebuyers typically shop for a home for eight weeks, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
Other lenders will issue preapproval for only 30 or 45 days.
Recommended: How Mortgage APR Works
Mortgage Prequalification vs. Mortgage Preapproval
Since they sound similar, it’s worth mapping out the difference between prequalification and preapproval.
Prequalification is a key first step, when borrowers tell lenders about their income, assets, and debts. Lenders use that unverified information, and usually a soft credit inquiry, to give a ballpark estimate of how much they might be willing to lend.
The response is quick: You can often get prequalified immediately or within a day or two. Just realize that prequalification does not mean that a lender is guaranteeing a loan.
The mortgage preapproval process is a deeper dive and requires documentation.
To gauge whether you qualify for a mortgage, lenders will scrutinize:
• Income: Employees will need to provide pay stubs, W-2s, and tax returns from the past two years, as well as documentation of any additional income, such as work bonuses. Self-employed workers often need two years’ worth of records and a year-to-date profit and loss statement, although many lenders and loan programs are flexible.
• Assets and liabilities: You’ll need to provide proof of savings, investment accounts, and any properties. Lenders view assets as proof that you can afford your down payment and closing costs and still have cash reserves.
Lenders also look at monthly debt obligations to calculate your debt-to-income ratio.
• Credit score: Your credit score is a three-digit representation of your credit history.
Recommended: What Is Considered a Bad Credit Score?
Once your lender has reviewed the information, it may offer a preapproval letter. Importantly, receiving preapproval from a lender does not obligate you to use them.
First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.
Estimate Your Mortgage Payment
Before you seek prequalification or preapproval, you might want to get an idea of how much your monthly mortgage payment could be. Use the mortgage calculator below to quickly see the difference in mortgage payments based on down payment, interest rate, and a 15- or 30-year term.
What Should I Do If My Mortgage Preapproval Expires?
Lenders put an expiration date on preapproval letters because they need to have your most up-to-date financial information on hand. The credit, income, debt, and asset items they reviewed for your preapproval typically need to be updated after the letter expires, and your credit may be checked again.
You can minimize the effect of “hard pulls” on your credit score by avoiding seeking a renewal when you’re not actively shopping for a home.
If your finances have mostly stayed the same, your lender is likely to renew your preapproval.
Finalizing Your Mortgage
If you find a house while your mortgage preapproval is still valid, you can choose a lender and move on to finalizing your mortgage application. At this point, in many cases, the lender will check again to see if there have been any changes in your financial situation.
The mortgage underwriter will review all the information, order an appraisal of the chosen property and a title report, and consider your down payment. Then comes the verdict: approved, suspended (more documentation is needed), or denied.
Your mortgage is officially approved when you receive a final commitment letter. A closing date can be scheduled. It generally takes 48 days to close on a house, but it could happen in as little as 20 days.
Buyers may want to minimize changes, like applying for other loans or credit, when a home loan is in underwriting.
How long is mortgage preapproval good for? Often 30 to 90 days. Getting prequalified is a good precursor to getting preapproved for a mortgage.
If you’re ready to start house hunting, check out the fixed-rate mortgages SoFi offers and the current deals.
Get prequalified for a SoFi Mortgage in minutes.
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