Make House Hunting Easier with the Power of Pre-approval

It pays to get pre-approved before home shopping begins. Take the right steps on the journey to your new home.

By: Navy Federal on Mar. 2, 2015

"The future belongs to those who prepare for it," Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist and poet, once said. That's wise advice for those dreaming about buying a home. If you're in dreamland, make it reality. But first, you have some easy prep work to do. With the housing market warming up in many areas and multiple offers becoming more commonplace, buyers who want an advantage in the bidding process will need more than a mortgage pre-qualification they'll need pre-approval.

What's the difference?

Before you start shopping, it's important to know the difference between pre-qualification and pre-approval:

Pre-qualification: You provide basic info to the lender and get a general idea of what you qualify for. Carries less clout. Realtors and sellers suspect you're just "window shopping."

Pre-approval: You provide information on income, assets and employment history to the lender to get a specific amount for which you've been approved. Carries more clout, and Realtors and sellers suspect you're "serious."

Why should I get pre-approved?

Here are seven key advantages:

  1. You'll discover how much you can confidently offer when you find the right home.
  2. It may open doors to homes and neighborhoods you didn't realize you could afford.
  3. It will also save you time and effort by eliminating properties beyond your price range.
  4. You can shop for a home with confidence, knowing you won't be turned down for a loan.
  5. It could help you win a bidding war against others who may not qualify.
  6. You'll be considered a more serious homebuyer than someone who is "just looking."
  7. Once you find a home, the mortgage process can proceed more quickly.

When should I get pre-approved?

Before you begin shopping. Despite the fact that it's wise to get pre-approved, research shows the majority of house hunters don't. Real estate and loan professionals say it's common to come across potential buyers who skip the pre-approval process, which can result in a weak negotiating position.

Is there any reason to wait to get pre-approved?

Yes, if you're not serious about making an offer on a home or think you'll spend significant time shopping. Most lender pre-approvals are good for only 60 to 90 days. Another reason to wait may be if you don't want a ding or inquiry on your credit report.

How do I get pre-approved?

Get pre-approved online or talk to a home mortgage expert and be prepared to share your personal finance picture. Learn More.

What info do I need to start digging for?

The documents to get pre-approved are the same as those you'd need to get a mortgage.

  • W2 forms from past two years for all borrowers
  • Pay stubs from past one to three months for all borrowers
  • Personal tax returns from past two years for all borrowers
  • Social Security Number
  • Monthly debt and living expenses

Once you get pre-approved, the number may exceed the amount you feel you can comfortably afford, so it pays to borrow cautiously.

Turn your pre-approval questions into action with Navy Federal's simple tools, to-dos and personal guidance to help you feel at home before you buy one.


This article is intended to provide general information and should not be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.