What is "Pre-Approval?"
The Pre-Approval process is the first step every home buyer should take when considering buying a new home. This process is an important step that is often overlooked due to the excitement the home buying process can provide. It allows you to get an accurate determination of "how much house you can afford" prior to signing any purchase agreements on that new dream home. If you do not have a local bank you already do business with, a licensed Real Estate Agent can often times provide you with advice and direction helping you find someone in the lending industry that can assist you with this. REALTORS are not lenders themselves, but usually have experience dealing with lenders and can steer you in the best direction to meet your needs. It is important to remember that not all loans are created equal and the deal your uncle got may not be the best for you.
"Pre-Approval" means you have met with a lender and your credit files have been reviewed. If the loan officer believes you can readily qualify for a given loan amount with one or more specific mortgage programs, the lender will provide you with what is called a pre-approval letter, which proves your "borrowing power." It is completely up to you how many lenders you visit for pre-approval, but keep in mind each time you do your credit report will be pulled.
The concept of "borrowing power" is often times called "buying power" in the world of real estate. When you, as a buyer, submit an offer to a seller with proof of your "borrowing power" in the form of a pre-approval letter, it shows the seller of the property you are serious about purchasing their property. This may also give you a leg up in the negotiation process because the seller will realize you are in fact a serious buyer and not just some "Joe off the street" that likes their house. If your offer is slightly lower than the asking price, more than likely it will get more serious consideration because of your pre-approval letter displaying your "purchasing-power." Keep in mind however, a pre-approval letter is not a final loan approval, rather a valuable tool in the home buying process.
During this process, a lender will carefully review your financial situation, including your credit report and other information. The lender will then suggest programs which will meet your specific needs.