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Ask Our Home Buying Expert

Have a question? Ask our Home Buying expert.

Have questions? Email Send your question to mlerner@smartasset.com

Ask Our Home Buying Expert

Have a question? Ask our Home Buying expert.

Have questions? Email Send your question to mlerner@smartasset.com

3 Ways to Get Preapproved for a Mortgage

When you’re trying to get a mortgage to buy a home, it’s important to make yourself as attractive and appealing to lenders as possible. If you’ve already found a property you like, getting preapproved for a mortgage loan may be just the thing you need to seal the deal. And it’s one good way to avoid getting beat out by other buyers looking at the house you eventually want to call your own.

Find out now: How much house can I afford?

Preapproval means that the lender has taken a close look at your income, assets, liabilities and credit score to determine whether you qualify for a loan and how much you can afford to borrow. Taking a look at your overall financial picture can give you an idea of whether you’ll be able to get preapproved for a mortgage.

1. Check Your Credit

If you apply for preapproval, the lender is going to look at your credit so it’s to your advantage to know what they’re going to be seeing. Pulling your report won’t hurt your credit score.

The main things you want to look for are late payments, delinquent accounts and collections since these tend to carry the most weight when calculating your credit score. The age of your accounts, the number of inquiries you have for new credit and the total amount of debt you owe also factor in.

If you’ve got a lot of debt it’s a good idea to work on paying it down before trying to get preapproved for a mortgage. Ideally, you should shoot to have a debt-to-income ratio of about a third or less. It’s also a good idea to be proactive about disputing errors or inaccuracies that could be pulling your score down.

Related Article: 6 Things That Can Tank Your Mortgage Preapproval

2. Get Your Paperwork in Order

3 Tips to Getting Preapproved for a Mortgage

The preapproval process is fairly extensive and the lender will want to see written proof of how much money you make, what kind of cash you’ve got saved in the bank and what you owe to your creditors. Organizing some key financial documents can streamline the process a bit so you’re not wasting time chasing paper.

Depending on the lender, you may need to supply your prior year’s tax return or pay stubs as proof of income. If you’re self-employed, you may need to provide a profit and loss statement for your business. You should also be prepared to pull out your bank statements for the last 30 to 60 days, along with any recent loan or credit card statements.

As a general rule, you should avoid making any major moves when it comes to your assets or debts just before you try to get preapproved. Transferring large sums of money in or out of your bank account or applying for a bunch of new credit cards over a short span of time could cause the lender to doubt your financial stability.

Check out our credit card calculator.

3. Pump Up Your Down Payment

3 Tips to Getting Preapproved for a Mortgage

Putting 20% down on a home has long been the industry standard and if you’re not quite there yet, adding to your savings can be a big help when you’re seeking preapproval. If you already have 20% saved, you may consider bumping that amount up to 25% or even 30%, especially if you’re thinking of taking on a large mortgage.

Bringing a substantial amount of money to the table shows that you’re serious about buying and it can save you money in the long run in terms of the interest you’ll pay on the mortgage. It’s a good idea if someone is gifting money to you for a down payment you’re documenting it properly in case the lender has a question about it.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/AlexRaths, ©iStock.com/Jacob Ammentorp Lund, ©iStock.com/Peter Zelei

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake has been writing about the nuts and bolts of personal finance for nearly a decade. She is an expert in investing, retirement and home buying topics. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, Business Insider, CBS News, U.S. News & World Report and Investopedia. As a homeschooling mom of two, she's always looking for ways to make the most of every dollar.
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