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3 Common Loan-Approval Mistakes Home Buyers Make

Are You Submitting the Right Information to Sellers?

A couple going over a contract with realtor
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Many real estate agents insist that every purchase offer is accompanied by a loan preapproval or prequalification letter. Unfortunately, these letters are virtually useless, because they carry very little weight. Generally, with these loan approval letters, the lender is saying that things look promising for offering a home loan, pending confirmation of the borrower's financial details.

So, what good are they? Simply put, a loan preapproval letter proves that the borrower is serious about buying a home and has a good enough credit score to qualify for a home loan, and that's about it.

You can make your loan preapproval letter mean more, though, and the letter can give the seller solid reasons to accept your offer. Your loan preapproval letter can give the seller reasons to reject your offer. Which kind of impression do you want to make?

Key Takeawys

  • A loan preapproval letter is meant to demonstrate that you are serious about buying a home and have the means to do it.
  • Preapproval letters can make a difference in getting your home purchase offer accepted, but you have to avoid key mistakes.
  • Be sure you submit a preapproval letter for the exact amount of your offer from a known lender, clearly demonstrating your qualifications.

Common Loan Preapproval Mistakes

The last thing you want to do is hand the seller ammunition to turn down your offer or encourage a counteroffer at a higher price. Here are common loan preapproval mistakes that might discourage your seller.

Submitting a Loan Approval Letter From an Unknown Lender

Listing agents feel more comfortable if they know the lender who has prepared the loan approval letter. They might get antsy if the lender isn't a known quantity because they don't know whether the lender will perform. There are some fly-by-night mortgage lenders in the business, and some make loans to borrowers that aren't in their best interests. They figure that by the time the borrower is ready to close, the borrower will have no option but to meet the new terms and conditions, but many borrowers instead walk away from closing.

Consider getting preapproved for a qualified mortgage, which is a mortgage with stable features that minimize risk.

Look for a lender that has experience making loans in your area. Your real estate agent can make recommendations for lenders they've worked with, and family and friends can be a good resource as well. Many national lenders offer online mortgages, but consider whether you're comfortable with that or whether you'd prefer a lender with local, in-person representatives.

One major problem when working with online, national lenders is choosing a knowledgeable appraiser. National lenders might have no personal experience with the appraiser they pick, and they might hire an incompetent appraiser who can mess up the appraisal and blow the deal. If they've completed home loans in your area, though, they might have reliable appraisers to call on.

Submitting a Weak Prequalification or Preapproval Letter

Prequalification letters vary in wording, but some of them say that the mortgage broker or loan officer has received a loan application from the borrower. Period. They may or may not have reviewed a credit report. The letters may also state that there is no guarantee that the lender will make the loan.

A preapproval letter, on the other hand, may indicate that the borrower's file has been submitted to underwriting and approved. It means that the borrower's credit has been reviewed and found to be acceptable, the borrower's employment has been verified, and the borrower's assets have been substantiated.

Lenders use the two terms somewhat interchangeably, so the most important thing is that the letter provides enough information for sellers to know that the home loan is likely to go through. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends talking with your real estate agent to determine whether your prequalification or preapproval letter is strong enough.

Submitting a Loan Preapproval Letter For More Than Your Offer Price

Work with your lender to ensure that your preapproval letter reflects the amount you're willing to offer. A good lender will work with you to tailor your letter to your offer. If the preapproval letter lets the seller know that you can pay more than the offer price, the seller will realize that you could pay more, and they may try to negotiate a higher price. The seller needs to know that a home buyer can afford the mortgage that the buyer is proposing in the purchase offer, and not a penny more.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you buy a house for more than your preapproval?

You can make an offer on a house that goes beyond what your preapproval letter will cover, but you will be expected to make up the difference out of pocket. If you can't increase the size of your down payment, then you can't make an offer that goes beyond your preapproval.

How long does it take to get a preapproval letter?

Preapprovals can happen fairly quickly. Complications can extend the timeline, but if you qualify for the loan, you can usually expect your preapproval letter within two weeks.

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